Deepak Chopra
6 min readMay 20, 2024


Photo by Ethan Hu on Unsplash

How to Feel Safe in Troubled Times

By Deepak Chopra, MD, FACP, FRCP

There are times when a wave of anxiety sweeps over people, sometimes because the world seems more unsafe than usual, at other times because of a personal situation. Yet ultimately the ability to feel safe and secure is always personal. The issue crosses the line between psychological and spiritual, so we need to consider both aspects.

As a psychological issue, anxiety hasn’t yielded a medical solution, which is why millions of people are prescribed a tranquilizer to subdue the symptoms of free-floating anxiety instead of being offered a cure. Free-floating anxiety is defined as “a chronic, general feeling of unease or apprehension that doesn’t relate to any specific situation or object.” Unlike a fear rooted in a specific situation, such as losing a job or running out of money, people who suffer from free-floating anxiety feel unsafe.

Whether or not the world is unsafe doesn’t really cause you to feel unsafe — this is more like feeling unsafe in your skin. It is a pervasive sensation that crosses over into the physical as literally trembling, hyperventilating, feeling cold and faint, etc. Fear has a certain weightless quality, which offers a clue. The opposite of weightlessness is grounded, and if you feel grounded, it naturally follows that you will feel safe and unthreatened.

Grounding has more than one meaning. You can be physically grounded, with the implication that you are calm, stable, and secure, with both feet on the ground. You can have a personality that exhibits the same traits. Your behavior is grounded if you are reasonable, not easily shaken, reliable, and down to earth.

I’ve described a constellation of qualities that belong together, but they also exist on a spectrum. There are milder words for feeling anxious (jumpy, nervous, worried) and stronger words (dread, fearful, terrifying). Not everyone is gifted with a lifelong sense of being rounded, secure, and safe. Everyone else falls along the spectrum of anxiety by way of memory and past experience. Today’s anxious feelings were born in the past and keep repeating themselves.

This pattern of repetition continues and even grows worse if healing isn’t introduced. Starting in childhood, we all learn behaviors that reinforce feeling safe or not.

You will feel safe today if you learned in the past how to

· Love and be loved

· Trust in yourself and others

· Take responsibility for your life

· Be self-reliant

· Develop courage and confidence

· Handle crises well

· Believe in positive solutions

· Value yourself, have good self-esteem

· Call on help and support when you need it

· Accept negative emotions as passing events

· Value calmness and stability

Looking back, everyone has mixed experiences of these qualities, which are enmeshed in everyday life and jumbled together with their opposite. Yet none is merely a lucky gift. These are learned behaviors and attitudes. You can consciously promote them as an adult.

At the same time, it is necessary to confront the qualities that give rise to anxiety. These are the opposite of the list above. You will feel unsafe today if you learned in the past that you are

Unloved and unlovable

Not safe trusting in yourself or others

Not responsibility for your life but blame others instead

Unable to stand on your own

Not likely to be courageous in difficult situations

Very likely to be overwhelmed in a crisis

Fated to fall into worst-case scenarios

Prone to low self-esteem

Alone without support from others

Threatened by negative emotions in yourself or directed from others

Rarely calm and relaxed

Because everything on both lists is interconnected, it only makes sense that overcoming free-floating anxiety is so difficult therapeutically. How can there be enough time to unravel such a tangled web? With enough effort and vigilance, it is possible to address these issues one by one. You can develop a support network around yourself, undertake challenges that raise your self-esteem, and find someone who truly loves you for who you are.

Yet as a solution, this sounds half-hearted and piecemeal. The point of listing the qualities that make a person safe, secure, and grounded isn’t to discourage you but to bring to light the elements of the problem. Finding a better solution is a pressing need and for many people an urgent one — as time passes, their anxiety will only grow worse.

This is where the crossover to spirituality occurs, if we understand spirituality not as religion but as a path to the true self. The anxiety experienced in everyday life is innate in the ego, which feels alone and insecure by its very construction. The “me” you identify with is a jumbled construct of memory amassed from experiences going back to early childhood. The ego pretends to be a stable, reliable self, but in reality, it is subject to outside forces as well as inner demons, old conditioning, false beliefs, denial, wishful thinking, and the shifting sand of circumstances.

Yet underlying this fragile construct is the sense of “I am,” which is constant and unchanging. Your true self is grounded in “I am” as a permanent aspect of itself. Being here now is the basis of its existence, undisturbed by the incessant activity of the active mind. In the tradition of Yoga, there is even a fundamental source of safety, security, and stability in the so-called first chakra.

There are seven chakras or energy centers distributed from the base of the spine (first chakra) to the crown of the head (seventh chakra), but it isn’t necessary to accept or even understand how this map of subtle physiology works. The point is that feeling grounded is a state of balanced awareness. From this state spreads all the physical, emotional, and psychological qualities we’ve been discussing. (For much more detail, you might look at my book, Living in the Light, which fully explores Yoga and the chakra system.)

It is also part of the chakra system to place the first chakra as the most basic — you have to be grounded before the pursuit of higher consciousness is made possible. Any practice that settles your awareness into the simple state of being here now will make you more grounded, including yoga, meditation, and self-reflection practices. Just as effective is to value the feeling of simple awareness, when you are centered and relaxed.

Returning to the state of simple awareness should be done anytime during the day when you feel distracted or disturbed. This is a simple matter of being alone, taking a few deep breaths, sitting with your eyes closed, your attention on your heart, and letting relaxation come naturally. Anxiety needs a trigger, and small, everyday stressors are the general culprit. Catch this early, and simple awareness will bring you closer to your true self. Maintain the practice, and day by day your nervous system will recognize that its default state is balanced and quiet.

In short, your focus should be on learning that the grounded state is natural and innate. Anxiety is a deviation from this natural state, and just as you learned to identify with the agitation of anxiety, you can unlearn it by acting as your own healer. Severe states of chronic anxiety require medical attention, but the path out of mild to moderate anxiety is yours to pursue here and now.

DEEPAK CHOPRA MD, FACP, FRCP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a whole health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego, and serves as a senior scientist with Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution for the last thirty years. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Digital Dharma: How to Use AI to Raise Your Spiritual Intelligence and Personal Well-Being. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.”