“I am Stressed.” How often do we hear this sentence as a response to how a person is doing? Many times, that’s the answer. There’s stress everywhere: at work, home, and even on vacations- it seems like people can’t catch a break from the constant tension in their lives.
When we look at what defines “stress” we find that it is “undue, inappropriate or exaggerated response to a situation.” Not only does stress have negative effects on the mind, but it also impacts our physical health and could lead to “decreased productivity, disease and sometimes death” (British Medical Association, author. Work related stress among senior doctors- review of research.London: BMA; 2000.)
With the knowledge that potential health issues exist and can be caused by stress, it is important that we start to evaluate our lives to see where we stand. Are we overdue on certain payments? Are our current relationships affecting our clarity of mind? Are our excessive commitments wearing us out?
Assessing our current situation using the following questionnaire is where we would start to see the level of stress we lead in our lives:
- How is our physical health? Do we use any substances to cope with difficult situations?
- Are we easily angered or tend to snap at someone quickly?
- Do we sleep well or toss and turn around in bed?
- Do we find moments of enjoyment in our day or are we consistently in a bad mood?
- Are our relationships with the people around us constructive or destructive and negative?
These questions give us an idea of our level of stress. If multiple questions describe our life situation then we probably have some level of unnecessary stress in our life.
Now, the solution. The reason as to why stoicism is a great reference in terms of dealing with stress is because it’s a theory, developed by Marcus Aurelius, that deals with the thoughts and beliefs of each individual. It teaches us how to cope with the outside world through dealing what’s within us.
Ways to deal with stress through Stoicism
1. Creating a gratitude list
Gratitude is known to boost our “feel-good” hormones in the body. Not only does our whole day change when we write what we’re grateful for, but we are able to better appreciate the people and things around us by seeing the blessings in our life. This trains the mind to constantly seek what’s positive and thus reducing stress levels.
2. Following a guided meditation or simply meditating in silence
Listening to our thoughts without judgement and looking into the reasons as to why we are stressed helps us better manage stress. Meditation allows the body and mind to relax- as the observatory state comes into place, the mind shifts to a more peaceful place where an individual is able to see their thoughts and remain unresponsive to them. This helps with stress management because we are able to think more clearly and make better decisions.
You can refer to the video section of our blog to listen to some guided meditation published there.
3. Visualizing the best version of yourself
Visualising the best person we want to be helps in training our subconscious mind to become and attract the different people and circumstances that push us towards becoming better individuals. This creates momentum and with that we’re able to change our life to the better. A question to be asked would be, “what would the better version of me do?”
4. Asking: “Which part of this can I control?”
Realizing what can be controlled and what cannot is a big part of Stoicism. The idea behind this technique is to realize where to draw the line. Some things are simply out of our control while others are fully controllable- such as our reaction to a bad cold: instead of complaining and feeling worse about our lack of health we can instantly start taking more vitamins and taking more care of our body to help boost the immune system and fight the cold.
5. Reflecting on current relationships
Our relationships with others comprises a big part of our life and for that reason maintaining a healthy relationship with family and friends is a big factor in stress management. Keep positive and supportive people around, get rid of any unnecessary toxicity from others. Reflection for this process means to look around our circle and see who allows us to be more of the person we aim to be and who brings us down- simply get rid of those who no longer serve a purpose.
6. Night reflection
Night reflection involves celebrating our day’s victories, whether it is by taking a note of what accomplishments were made that day or what riches the world sent us- such as having a really good conversation with an old friend or having the courage to compliment someone on their good looks. No matter how small these victories are, write them down and acknowledge them.
7. Creating thicker skin
This part of Stoicism always amazes me because it’s all about purposely making life difficult for ourselves, contrary to what everyone else does these days. For example, wearing a thin layer of clothes on a cold winter night instead of a heavy jacket or taking a very cold shower early in the morning, once a month. These things teach us how to become stronger as individuals and we get a taste of how others, who are less fortunate, live, and we learn to appreciate more of what we have.
Finally, stress is only a reflection of what’s happening within. If we’re in an abrupt state on the inside, our stress levels will rise. However, if we’re able to control our thoughts and feelings towards external factors we can better manage our life and stress.