The Silver Lining To Anxiety
Today I want to introduce you to one my favorite concepts. I call it the Silver Lining Principle.
Several years ago, when I was still having trouble with anxiety, paranoia and overwhelming stress, this concept helped me muster my strength and carry on even in the darkest of times. It also helped me to be proud of myself and see a silver lining in my situation, no matter how grim.
The Silver Lining Principle
The silver lining principle works best when you feel that you've hit rock bottom. The more stressed out and anxious you feel, the more you'll get out of the silver lining principle.
So let me remember what anxiety used to be like, at its worst...
I remember that there were times when I would go through several episodes of anxiety attacks in just a few days. It drained me of my energy and made me extremely depressed afterwards.
Back then my days were spent in fear and nauseating fatigue. People would think that I was shy, that I was still living inside of my shell. But I was just waiting for that special moment when I'd find the right people, the right circumstances or the right environment to become a better version of myself.
It's interesting how that moment NEVER happened. Yeah... waiting never brings about the change that we want.
For most of my life, I found it incredibly hard to be at peace with... anything. Especially myself. Just the THOUGHT of things like talking to strangers or walking into a room full of people could trigger my anxiety. I would always think that I was bothering people. That they hated me or that I was disappointing them in some way. In the back of my mind I was frequently looking for signs that would validate my suspicion... that they just couldn't stand to be around me.
My past "mistakes" haunted me in the evenings. I just couldn't stop thinking about a mean comment I had made to someone or a fight I had had with some random kid in high school. My mind would replay the memory of every conversation I had that day and point out any awkward or weird thing that I might have said. It was like I was forced to watch a movie of my past mistakes.
Not a good thing to be thinking about right before you fall asleep.
The next day, if I was lucky, these anxious thoughts would be gone. If I wasn't so lucky, then they would spin around in my head for a few more days.
Thanks to my embarrassing social awkwardness, I had few friends. And with the few that I did have, I felt like I they had to put up with me in a way, like they had to tolerate me. But then again looking back now, I don't even know if I would call them friends... We barely even met because whenever they wanted to meet up, I was full of excuses why I couldn't show up.
Of course in reality, I was just afraid of social interactions... and looking like an idiot in front of them.
When they sent me an email or a text message, I would spend hours, sometimes an entire day typing up a reply. After typing a couple of sentences I would read my reply again and change stuff just to make sure I didn't sound weird.
I mean looking back at the way my life looked a couple of years ago, I have to admit that I had some seemingly insurmountable challenges in front of me.
The Silver Lining to Anxiety
So what I want to share with you today, the silver lining principle, is one single train of thought that helped me whenever I felt like I had hit rock bottom. This one shift in my thinking energized me and made me - despite all the evidence of the contrary - proud of myself.
Whenever I felt bummed out, depressed, exhausted and scared - in other words, I was deep in my "negative zone," feeling numb with shame and powerlessness, I would start thinking thoughts like these...
"I'm not giving up. I could. I feel like I'm really close to, actually... and it would be easier for sure. But I'm not giving up."
"I feel like I could collapse under the burden of anxiety but I'm standing tall on my own two feet."
"I feel like I'm going crazy... and yet I refuse to succumb to the tempting onslaught of irrational thoughts. I'm perfectly sane and no amount of fear or emotional upheaval is going to waver my sanity."
"I persevere. Every day is a battle and getting out of bed in the morning is a war. And I've done it today and I'm going to do it tomorrow."
"You need a special kind of strength and willpower to live through anxiety."
"And you have that power. You know you do. You're demonstrating it every day to yourself."
"The fact that you are alive and sane is proof that you are an extraordinary human being. Battle-hardened, tenacious and tough. You've proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have a reservoir of infinite mental resources that even this crippling anxiety can't suck dry."
"You've managed to not only live through all this and survive each day but to function in the face of overwhelming emotional stress."
"Think of all the people you know and show me one person who, if they were put in your shoes tomorrow, would be able to perform as well as you are now. You won't find one person that could handle the relentless waves of nagging worries and the endless spiral of anxious thoughts with the grace and the silent resolve that you do."
There's a famous quote from Friedrich Nietzsche that says
"that which does not kill us makes us stronger."
I always thought that there were a couple of things missing from that sentence. This way of putting it rings more true to me:
That which does not kill us makes us...
And then, finally, stronger.
But it takes a while to get there.... for most people.
For you, though, you're already getting stronger from all of what you've been through.
"The struggle you're in today is developing the strength that you need for tomorrow."
I hope you found today's blog post valuable. If there's anything you'd like to add or you have a related question, feel free to type it in the comment section below. I'll get back to you as soon as possible.