June 12, 2020

Stoicism in Practice: How I Fight Anxiety amidst a Pandemic.

“Fear is a normal reaction in situations of uncertainty.”

Remarked by the World Health Organization on their guidelines regarding mental health and the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the lot of us who live in a community without competent figureheads, it is a struggle to find our expectations fulfilled. On top of a health crisis, we may also find ourselves subject to a flawed and prejudiced society. While we expect reliability from the ones granted with power, as a people, we are instead trapped in constant servitude of them. And while the global disease limits the opposition’s movement, taking action might prove discouraging in these trying times.

It is normal to experience anxiety these days, even for those who did not have the tendency of being anxious before the pandemic. One of the reasons why we might feel this way is because some of us, including myself, fear our own powerlessness. We think that while the world crumbles around us, we cannot do anything in our position to influence significant change. As a result, we experience fear in levels unforeseen.

When we are in a state of despair, as human beings, our instinct would be to find ourselves something reliable to cling to. For some, it is their respective religion and spiritual practices, belief in an idea or a philosophy, faith in other human beings, or simply a glimmer of hope that we will get through this someday. For me, it is the practice of Stoicism.

Stoicism, as I would put it in my own words, is the philosophy of attaining inner peace, regardless of your life circumstances. Similar to a certain Buddhist practice when applied, inner peace is achieved when a person grants himself/herself control over his/her own mental faculty. The Roman Emperor and Stoic Philosopher Marcus Aurelius believed this, going as far as saying, “You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

In order to combat anxiety with the philosophy of Stoicism, a person should first accept the reality that they live in. Right now, all the signs point out that the former “normal” is no longer attainable, not imminently at least. And while most of us are informed of this, not all of us accept it.

To free ourselves from the burden of disappointment, we should no longer dwell on the past. It is important that we remember it, but we cannot live there while we face pressing issues today.

We continue to live with shattered hopes. And it seems that when we try to believe that things will get better, another problem arises just to disappoint us once more. To be honest, it gets tiring and frustrating to the point that it’s hard to hope for something favorable.

The thing that I feared the most was that I wasn’t powerful enough to be in control of the developments around me and that the world is too complex to listen to my concerns. There seemed like nothing I can do to change the place that we live in, and I felt like I was sentenced to endure it for life. Only to be proven wrong by none other than myself.

If you experience anxiety, and no one else has ever told you this, to be anxious does not mean that you are weak. If anything, recognize your strength for being able to withstand it. And recognize your intuition because the world that we live in today is certainly something to be feared. It is not your fault that you are afraid.

The world is cruel and life is unfair. In this, the Stoics and I believe. But it should not mean that because iniquity is on the offensive, we will allow the beasts of this jungle to prey on us. And although it is an option to wait for a rescue team, we can also practice productive habits to adjust to our circumstances.

To better respond to our current world situation, there are matters that we need to take into our own hands. And before we can influence change in our surroundings, we must first possess the power to change ourselves.

Everyone has a way of dealing with their own problems, and I respect this. But I found the practice of Stoicism to be effective for me, which is why I chose to share this with others.

My advice to people who are in the same place as me: focus on the things that you can control. And do not worry about how small you think your action is. When you are consistent and you act under sincere intentions, even the smallest of actions will create a ripple that will, little by little, influence the world around you.

You do not need to rush in influencing change. Influence your internal world first. The external will follow.


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