HOW TO COPE WITH STRESS

We all go through different problems. Some of us cope well and others not so well. Some ancient Greek philosophers called the stoics can teach us how to deal with difficulty. The stoic philosophy is premised on three core areas.

The first area of stoic philosophy is all about “rightful perception.” Generally we need to focus on things within our control. There are many things outside our control which we should not generally stress so much about. Generally the actions of other people are not within our control. So is life and death. And indeed riches and poverty. Whatever station in life we find ourselves we should always focus on things within our control. The stoics also practiced some daily exercises to prepare themselves for adversity. For example some rich stoics would live in poverty for a selected number of days every year. Some would meditate on death to remind themselves of their mortality. Some practiced inversion which generally means trying to anticipate all possible problems in a given path.

The second area is “unselfish action.” The stoics believed that everyone has a role to play in this world. Stoicism was embraced by slaves and kings alike. Whatever difficulty one find themselves in there is always a right way to act. The stoics encouraged pursuit of knowledge and acting in a just way towards fellow man. They believed that one should act in a way to benefit the whole of humanity. They constantly reminded themselves of the urgency of life by meditating on their mortality. As the great Stoic, Marcus Aurelius, wrote: “Our actions may be impeded, but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action.”

The third area is all about “willing acceptance.” Whatever situation life throws at us we can choose to willingly accept it. Many famous stoics were jailed and sent to exile. While in exile some of these stoics wrote their best works which still influence modern thought to this day. The stoics believed that each cloud had a silver lining and that everything happens for a reason. In accepting our circumstances we can get to practice other virtues like resilience and keeping a positive attitude. Zeno, a prominent Greek philosopher, founded the philosophy of Stoicism after losing his entire possessions in a shipwreck. 

We all face challenges. Stoic philosophy is one of the tools anyone can use to cope with life’s multitude of stresses.

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