Last time out, I introduced this (hopefully) continuing opinion series where I share my own personal experiences with coping with anxiety. I truly believe that the first step towards managing an anxiety disorder is self-awareness.

Self-awareness may be defined as “conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings.” This self-awareness may take two forms viz. internal and external. Internal self-awareness is – as the name suggests – inwards looking. It is knowledge of our own personality and emotions. For external self-awareness, therefore, it is outwards looking i.e. understanding other’s feelings and thought process. Both are vital in order to manage anxiety.

I will be honest. It took me a long time to grasp this concept of self-awareness in my own life – possibly over 40 years! I simply responded to my anxieties in the worse possible way – usually in unrestrained emotions. This might result in losing my temper, self-harm, low self-esteem, sulking, depression and the like.

Then, after each anxious episode, I would experience tremendous guilt and an irresistible need to get things right. And when usually such desperate attempts to right my behavioural ‘wrongs’ were unsuccessful, that would lead to another spiralling into anxiety and guilt, in repetitive cycles.

But then, in my forties, I was able to come across information relating to my personality disorders that helped me to understand not only myself but others as well. I cannot pinpoint the when or how but I do know that it happened.

Simply put, my problem was with over-thinking. I allowed my anxieties – which only existed in my mind – to completely rule my emotions, my decisions and my behaviour. I gave in to the bad thoughts and feelings without any understanding that it was all only in my head. It was not real, only a perception of reality.

Two major factors allowed me to break free from this negative fear mindset which had ruined my life. First, I left the rat race. I resigned from my full-time occupation in 2009, despite my fear of poverty, of lack. Secondly, my marriage broke down and that experience taught me that I could survive this ultimate rejection. I did not need a full-time job or a wife to be content, contrary to what my anxieties constantly told me.

In the decade since, I have learned how to stop over-thinking, thereby reducing my anxieties and perceiving life as it should be perceived. This has allowed me to live in the moment and not bother about the past or the future. Sure, the journey is still tough and I occasionally lapse into my former self BUT most of the time, I am happier than I have ever been in my entire life!

Alright, that’s all I want to say about self-awareness for this time. Public comments can be made at our Facebook page. You can message me privately on Messenger if you want to find out more. Take care and stay safe.

still there’s more