Daily life can be both hectic and overwhelming.
It turns out life was pretty stressful a few thousand years ago too, and the ancient Greeks– specifically the ones who embraced Stoicism, a school of Greek philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium– had timeless wisdom to offer on coping with stress.
Stoicism’s incredible level of practicality has sometimes been misunderstood as dry pessimism. However, it offers a vast amount of unconventional wisdom for navigating the challenges we face — and it’s as relevant today as it was in ancient Greece.
You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.
Here are three ancient philosophy tips to help you cope with the stress of everyday life.
Premeditation is one of the most powerful of the Stoic tools for coping with stress.
It is the practice of visualizing the future– typically, the day ahead– and imagining all the bad things that could happen.
This is powerful because it puts things in perspective. We tend to blow things up in our mind and make them appear much larger than they really are.
By imagining all of the worst things that could happen, you come back down to earth and realize the present isn’t so bad.
2. Practice self-denial
Here’s another unique practice: purposely deny yourself basic modern privileges.
For example, Stoics would skip meals.
This not only helps you build up self-control, a critical ability for virtually anything you’d want to do in your life, but also reminds you to appreciate what you have, which helps put the things you’re anxious about in perspective.
Both gratitude and self-control are required to manage stress at its root instead as of just dealing with it as it comes up.
So, do without dinner one day this week, your Starbucks on Monday, or your favorite treat on the weekend to build up your willpower and remind yourself that you don’t really have it so bad.
3. Shift your state (act like you’re not stressed)
As simple as this sounds, it’s deceptively smart, especially considering this advice came long before scientific evidence would show that things like body language and forcing a smile can actually change our mental state, making us happier, less stressed, and more confident.
Stoics understood that, when experiencing a heavy emotion or mental state such as anger or stress, adopting the behavior of someone who feels the opposite way can actually help us alter our state.
For example, when you’re stressed, relax your facial muscles, take a few deep breaths, slow down, and do something you enjoy to place your mind and body in a state that signals you’re not panicking anymore.