Coping with anxiety and hardship has always been a central struggle in my life. I tended to catastrophize setbacks and ruminate endlessly over things beyond my control. But when a friend suggested exploring Stoic philosophy, I decided to try it. I committed to practicing basic Stoic principles and habits for one week to see if shifting my mindsets and reactions could impact my happiness and resilience. What unfolded over those seven days profoundly changed my outlook and equipped me with the skills to tackle life’s inevitable frustrations gracefully.
I slowly replaced reflexive emotions like panic and helplessness with empowered equanimity by incorporating small exercises aimed at objectivity, logic, and self-improvement into each day. Visualizing future obstacles as a Stoic helped transform worry into proactive responsibility. Focusing more on developing wisdom and character versus chasing esteem enabled me to find fulfillment as I gained confidence in handling roadblocks. Throughout a short yet transformative journey, I discovered firsthand how adopting Stoic ideals offered me a roadmap to overcoming destructive thought patterns. With simple reflections and habit adjustments, I moved closer to the calm I had always sought.
What is Stoicism and Why Follow its Principles?
Stoicism began in the 3rd century BCE Greece with founders like Zeno and Chrysippus before being adopted by the famous Roman statesman Seneca. Stoics grounded their ideology in reason and logic, unlike faith-based schools of thought. The goal was to promote virtue and happiness through stability in the face of hardship.
Stoics could overcome destructive emotions and act with wisdom, justice, courage, and restraint by controlling their perceptions and judgments rather than futilely trying to control external events. With peacefulness coming from within, happiness didn’t depend on actual circumstances.
As someone prone to irrational anxiety when plans get disrupted or goals unattained, I hoped adopting Stoic practices could help me stop catastrophizing. By improving my ability to endure challenges calmly and objectively, I also aimed to become a steadier friend and family member during conflicts or crises.
The Key Mindsets to Adopt Upfront
Attempting something as ambitious as a total shift in perspective requires getting into the right headspace. I focused first on cultivating an objective outlook based more on facts and logic than fleeting emotions. Rio de Janeiro floods? A Stoic examines real risks logically before reacting, preventing exaggerated panic.
Secondly, I embraced the Stoic view of struggles as opportunities to practice virtues like perseverance, creativity, and level-headedness. Missing a flight means showing integrity by calmly assessing options rather than having a tantrum.
Most importantly, I armed myself with mental preparation. Stoics expect disruption and discomfort instead of assuming smooth sailing. Whether illness, traffic jams, or arguments with partners, practicing equanimity helps me endure life’s inevitabilities.
Pay Attention to Your Impressions
Impressions are the initial thoughts or reactions we experience instinctively in response to some person, event, or situation. As I learned, scrutinizing impressions was critical for early Stoics.
Say I apply unsuccessfully for a hoped-for promotion at work. I might immediately feel devastated and worthless. However, these impressions may exaggeratedly cast the situation as a catastrophe instead of just a disappointment.
Stoics aim to notice impressions as they form while deferring, judging whether they seem accurate or valuable. This pause untangles emotions from facts so I can respond calmly instead of impulsively snapping.
When I passed up on that promotion, I felt gutted initially. But I soon realized rationally that it said nothing definitive about my value. I waited patiently to request feedback from my boss on areas needing improvement.
Differentiate Between What You Can and Can’t Control
Stoics speak of the “dichotomy of control,” whereby some aspects of life can be directly influenced while others cannot. Health? I can eat nutritiously, exercise, and get checkups even if flu season hits. Other people’s opinions of me? Uncontrollable.
Getting snubbed by friends I counted on left me quite miffed. Instead of venting about their thoughtlessness, I redirected my energy toward nurturing new connections. And I modeled integrity by politely confirming plans so people know I respect their time.
What felt empowering was realizing I had far more control than I imagined. I can manage time better, self-reflect before speaking, or find solutions versus stewing. Outcomes may not always be commendable, but efforts, integrity, and mental composure generally are.
Overcome Negative Visualization
Visualization involves imagining scenarios to anticipate potential hardships. But while often anxious people like myself use visualization negatively by playing out catastrophic what-ifs, Stoics turn a threat into an opportunity.
Contemplating occasionally losing my income makes budgeting carefully feel essential instead of tedious. Imagining serious illness in old age motivates me to pursue health now when I have agency. Periodically facing feared scenarios in my mind breeds readiness to act wisely.
Practice Voluntary Discomfort
Seeking discomfort purposefully helps Stoics increase their threshold for coping when real challenges arise organically. An easy example I tried was briefly turning off fans and air conditioning on a hot day to prepare for electricity blackouts or broken appliances.
Saving money by avoiding Uber as transportation also forced me to walk places more often while practicing patience and planning. Though minor, choosing regularly to eschew comforts prevents me from feeling victimized when forced to go without conveniences unexpectedly.
Reflect on Your Interconnectedness
Modern culture fixates on individualism – how isolated actions impact oneself. But Stoics recognize that web of humanity whereby each person’s moral character ripples outward, contributing incrementally toward justice or harm.
When I snap unfairly at someone nearby because of unrelated stress, they may bark at another, continuing the chain reaction of negativity. But I can spark the opposite effect by acting with radical kindness when wronged, not retaliation.
Remembering my actions intertwine me with strangers makes upholding virtue feel meaningful, not feeble. Kindness is never wasted if each act plants seeds of peace or restraint in others touched by my life.
Focus on Virtue and Character
Stoics measure wisdom not by how accomplished or esteemed someone becomes but rather by the consistency of their character. Chasing fame or achievement for their own sake often breeds short-term thinking and vice.
I stopped berating myself for having fewer Instagram followers or degrees than some peers. Neither guarantees acting kindly or courageously when life gets complicated. I focused instead on self-improvement goals grounded in practicing patience, honesty, and generosity.
Maintain an Objective Perspective
The final Stoic habit involves retaining an objective perspective on yourself and events unaffected by self-pity or vanity. I found meditation or journaling helped me consistently analyze circumstances logically before reacting.
When overwhelmed, I regain balanced thinking by asking what advice I would give a friend struggling similarly. Viewing my life as an impartial outsider strips away skewed emotion to uncover reasonable solutions I’d likely offer others.
How to Keep Practicing Stoicism
Embracing Stoicism as an engrained approach will take more than one week, especially given the intensity of modern anxieties and stimuli competing for attention. Still, I discovered even basic practices substantially improved my mindset, relationships, and resilience.
Waking up, taking 5-10 minutes for impartial self-reflection, visualization of challenges, and focus on rationality helps the rest of my day unfold far more calmly and productively. Using apps to trigger occasional Stoic inspiration also helps overcome habitual emotional reactions.
Above all, be patient with yourself. Progress feels gradual, then suddenly exponentially rewarding. Stay persistent and expect setbacks but with stability. Ultimately, the payoff for sustained effort is monumental.
Over only seven days, truly taking Stoic teachings to heart Made me unrecognizable to myself in the best possible sense. I encourage even the most skeptical to give it an honest try using an incremental start like mine. You have nothing to lose but plenty to gain.
- Observe initial reactions non-judgmentally before acting
- Differentiate controllable factors from uncontrollable circumstances
- Envision adversity as preparation, not a catastrophe
- Build resilience by voluntarily preceding conveniences
- Consider how personal virtue impacts humanity’s welfare
- Prioritize integrity over accolades or impressions
- Cultivate an emotionally detached perspective of oneself
Attempting to integrate Stoic philosophical principles into my thought patterns and behaviors for one week provided surprising and manifold benefits. Focusing mental energy on virtue, reason, and stability instead of external validation or events beyond my control gave me an empowered calm and contentment that had previously eluded me. Redirecting my outlook toward self-improvement rather than self-judgment was both humbling and freeing. My experiment with Stoicism taught me that life’s beauty abounds whenever we dare to view things through rational optimism rather than anxiety or lack. I emerged ready to handle difficulties with poise and humanity with compassion.