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Using chess to fight anxiety disorder

by Vishal Chowhan - 01/04/2021

Anxiety disorder has become very common in the present day. With high level of stress around us and the constant pressure to excel and outpace others, you are involved in a rat race which has no end. Vishal Chowhan, a regular follower of ChessBase India, also suffered from the same issues. Medication didn't ease his problems, meditation is something he didn't want to indulge in. But Vishal found a unique solution to his anxiety disorder. He used the game of chess in a wonderful way to calm himself down before important meetings and events. In this article Vishal tells you more about his situation and how he solved his predicament.

Fighting Anxiety Disorder

By Vishal Chowhan

 

It started in 2017 when I first suffered from anxiety disorder. It was a very tough phase in my life and I felt helpless. I went through medication and it helped me a bit. When it seemed I was recovering, I stopped the medication. The symptoms for the anxiety disorder returned again in 2019 and I had to repeat the whole pattern again. Everything else in my life was going fine.

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental disorders characterized by significant feelings of anxiety and fear. Anxiety is a worry about future events, while fear is a reaction to current events. These feelings may cause physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate and shakiness. There are several anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobia, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, panic disorder, and selective mutism. (From Wikipidea)

I never really tried to find a real solution to my anxiety disorder. Some experts suggested me to practice meditation. I clearly did not wish to do that. I felt meditation was for the old! I decided to ignore my problem and I got myself a busy schedule and made sure I moved from strength to strength in my professional life. I ran behind materialistic things because I felt that's what would provide me stability in life. And I was not disappointed. I was growing in my professional life and to tell you the truth, that's the only thing that I cared for!

Can't money buy you happiness?

Just to tell you a bit about myself, I am one of those people who never opens up with friends, rather, I don't have any friends to share my emotions with. I am one of those individuals who receives more than 100 birthday wishes on LinkedIn but the count remains 0 on Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook. And I am writing this article on my birthday today! As a very reserved individual I don’t let my emotions come out easily and I had many experiences where I should have allowed myself more freedom to express but I didn’t. I am an entrepreneur by profession and I love hustling but when the Covid19 pandemic struck my business suffered. I was stressed. I was broken both personally and professionally. I lost my Dad last year but even then I could not cry. I could feel the loss and grief but the emotions just didn't come out. I do not know why, perhaps it was because of my habit or certain responsibilities I had to fulfill.

Work and professional success were my safe havens

The last year was spent in fighting the pandemic and trying to resurrect my professional career. Come 2021 and things did start looking brighter when my anxiety issues resurfaced. I started getting irritated with almost everything around me. All those who have experienced anxiety in their lives, know that the threat of an anxiety attack is stronger than execution. I was worried whether I was sliding down to what began four years ago. Would I once again fall prey to this dangerous monster?

 

During the pandemic I had begun following chess. I created a fanpage on instagram named Beastchess where I would post memes to help me express myself. I also became a moderator on some of the well known chess YouTube channels like Adhiban Baskaran, Anish Giri, Srinath Narayanan, Soumya Swaminathan and this would help me to keep myself diverted from the anxiety issues. While the chess community was very kind and beautiful, not everyone in the chat were responsible. Negativity in the chat would trigger my irritation and I would ban or timeout people without much reason or warning. People started getting upset and I started distancing myself from everything. The symptoms were very noticeable by everyone and I was unable to do anything perfectly.

There were people around me, but I felt very lonely

Before a zoom call or a meeting or during any project I would panic. My limbs would start shaking, my palms would sweat, I would fear about everything and I would stammer during a call. I was tired of medication and meditation was not something that would give me immediate results. Was a going to remain a victim of anxiety disorder forever? Not really! I found a very unique solution. I started playing chess before every event. Whenever something was scheduled and I started panicking, say 20-30 minutes before the meet, I would just start a game of chess. I would play a game and be lost in calculations and tactics. It diverted my mind and helped me calm myself down before anything important. I developed patience and calmness in the process. I used to smoke but I have reduced that habit as well. Now whenever I am stressed or waiting I just start a game and be lost in its beauty.

Chess serves as a distraction, a form of meditation, a source for me to release my emotions and keeps me competitive. Chess is like my partner, a friend, a companion to pull me out from every situation. The reason I narrate this story today is because I feel there would be many people fighting with multiple issues in their lives and I believe this game can act as a medicine for them. And yes it’s my birthday, I still have 112 unread birthday wishes on LinkedIn and nothing on any other social media. But I am playing chess and I have muted notifications on my phone!

About the author

Vishal Chowhan is an entrepreneur and chess lover. He is the creator of the Beastchess Instagram page. He celebrates his birthday on 28th of March 2021.