Before we dive into what Stoics had to say about stress, let us first understand a little about the school.
Stoicism was a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium, in Athens, in the early 3rd century BC. The Hellenistic school supported a philosophy of personal ethics informed by its system of logic and views on the natural world. According to Stoicism’s teachings, as social beings, the path to eudaimonia i.e. happiness for humans is found in accepting the present as it is, by not allowing oneself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or fear of pain, by using one’s mind’s abilities to understand the world and to do one’s part in nature’s plan, and by working together and treating others fairly and justly.
The Stoics are especially known for propagating that “virtue is the only good” for human beings, and that external things such as health, wealth, and pleasure are not good or bad in themselves, but have value as “material for virtue to act upon“. Alongside Aristotelian ethics, the Stoic tradition forms one of the major founding approaches to Western virtue ethics.The Stoics also held that certain destructive emotions could be born from errors of judgment, and they believed people should aim to maintain a will that is “in accordance with nature”. Because of this, the Stoics thought the best indication of an individual’s philosophy was not what a person said, but what a person did. To live a good life, one had to understand the rules of the natural order since they thought everything was rooted in nature.
Here’s what the Stoicism, a highly practical yet insightful philosophy from Ancient Greece, has to say about dealing with stress:
Premeditation involves imagining the future and thinking about all the bad things that can happen. This technique helps put things into perspective, prepares you for the worst, come back to earth and realise the importance of being in the present.
2. Self – Denial
Intentionally deny yourself modern basics like a Starbucks Mocha or television time or an expensive watch. The Stoics, back in the time, would resort to skipping meals. This not only helps you build self-control but also helps you to develop the critical ability to achieve almost anything in life. It also makes you experience a deeper sense of gratitude towards what you already have and feel less driven or anxious towards what you do not have.
Both gratitude and self-control are important tools that are needed to start coping with stress.
3. Act Like You Are Not Stressed
This advice from the Stoics is far ahead of its time. Scientific research shows that altering your body language and putting up a smile actually changes our mental state, making us feel happier and less stressed.
Stoics understood that adopting the body language of someone not stressed helps us overcome a lot of obstacles organically, obstacles we otherwise might not have jumped over.
So the next time you are stressed, relax your facial muscles, take a few deep breaths and do something you enjoy which seems to take away the stress!