The word alarm comes from French, A l’arme which meant “to the arms.” This was a call asking soldiers to get their weapons in preparation of combat since an attack by the enemy was imminent. In modern English too, this word generally signifies a need for quick action under a threat. Synonyms for the word include appall, dismay, horrify, scandalize, alert etc.

Common phrases like “no cause for alarm” or “no need to be alarmed” show (though we all know it already) that alarm is not a very pleasant state. It is a state of panic caused by the presence or the perceived presence of a serious threat that makes humans act quickly, without wasting any time in thinking or analyzing. The only decision to be made in such a state is fight or flight.

Now look at our lives. We, of our own accord, start our day with the ringing of an alarm. An ‘Alarm’ clock is a necessity. Hence, we start the day in a state of panic, rushing through our morning rituals under the clouds of anxiety, in a state of fear of getting late or something else of the sort. We spend our whole day in this manner. So much so that we have gotten used to living in panic, anxiety and ‘alarm.’ Right until the time when we go to bed, still under threat from some unknown enemy, we live under the impression that we have to act, without having any time at all for thinking or analyzing.

Is it surprising then, that complaints like anxiety, depression, midlife crisis and other mental illnesses and sentences like “I feel afraid for no reason”, “I am always anxious”, “I yearn for a moment of peace and calm” and the like are so common?

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