Anxiety can often feel like an unwelcome guest that overstays its welcome. If you're struggling with this, know that you're not alone. While modern psychology offers various ways to treat anxiety, the ancient philosophy of Stoicism also provides practical solutions. Here's how to manage your anxiety the Stoic way.
A cornerstone of Stoic philosophy is differentiating between what's within your control and what's not. Most of our anxiety arises from stressing about the latter. Make a list of your worries and categorize them into these two buckets. You'll often find that what is genuinely under your control is far less than you thought.
Epictetus once said, "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak." Practice being present. Listen to your thoughts but don't judge them. Mindfulness meditation is a way to get better at this. Spend a few minutes each day sitting in a quiet space, focusing on your breathing and the present moment.
Although it might seem counterintuitive, Stoicism teaches us to occasionally contemplate the worst-case scenarios. This practice makes you realize that even the 'worst' is bearable and often not as bad as the anxious mind makes it seem.
Stoicism is very much about living a virtuous life. When you act according to virtues like wisdom, courage, justice, and self-control, you're less likely to feel the emotional turmoil that often accompanies anxiety. Ask yourself: "Is my anxiety based on a lack of virtue or the desire for external validation?"
Writing down your thoughts, worries, and reflections can provide immense relief. Journaling helps you organize your thoughts and often makes the problems seem more manageable. It’s a private space where you can be both the therapist and the patient.
This Stoic exercise involves imagining yourself from a third-person perspective or even a 'bird's-eye view.' This helps you understand the insignificance of your worries in the grand scheme of things, providing a calming effect.
While Stoicism offers valuable insights, it’s crucial to remember that severe anxiety might require professional help. There's no shame in seeking therapy or medication when needed.
Stoicism offers more than just coping mechanisms; it offers a way of life that leads to greater peace and less anxiety. By practicing these Stoic principles, you can gain a new perspective on your worries and a more tranquil mind. Remember, it's not events themselves that disturb people, but their judgments concerning them, as the Stoic philosopher Epictetus reminds us.