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Stress Is a Fact Of Life, Being Stressed Is Not

Daily Stoic Emails

You think the Stoics didn’t experience stress? 

Of course they did. Zeno lost everything in a shipwreck. Cleanthes arrived in Athens with empty pockets. Panaetius was the right hand man of Scipio, one of the most powerful and busy leaders in ancient Rome. Seneca had health problems, was exiled, and then had to show up to work for years in Nero’s court—walking on eggshells around an unstable man with a penchant for bloodlust. Epictetus survived thirty years of exile. Marcus Aurelius’s reign included a plague, health problems, wars, flooding, bankruptcy, and family issues. 

That’s the definition of stress. The friction of conflicting obligations. Hardship. Uncertainty. Pain. Failure. They say hell is other people—well who isn’t surrounded by a lot of those?

These were all inevitable parts of life, according to the Stoics. But suffering because of it? Actually being stressed because there was stress? No. Those are not the same things. One does not have to follow the other. 

When Marcus Aurelius said that he could choose not to feel harmed and then he wouldn’t be? That’s what he meant. When he talked about discarding his anxiety, that’s what he meant. Stress was a fact of life. Being stressed, feeling stressed, that was a choice.

It was up to him; as it is up to us. We don’t have to worry. We don’t have to dread. We don’t have to be overwhelmed. 

Indeed, you might argue that all of the Stoics’ teachings revolve around the idea of combating and avoiding the unnecessary pain of stress and anxiety and worry and frustration. The philosophy demanded the active life—it demanded that we participate in politics, be social, contribute to the common good, fight for what’s right—and so it was critical that Stoicism also teach us how to resist the temptation to succumb to the stresses that follow that activity. 

That’s why the pages of Marcus Aurelius’s private journal are filled with notes to himself on how to “escape anxiety” and to not be controlled by his temper. That’s why Epictetus talked to his students over and over again about focusing on what was in their control and nothing else.  Seneca’s letters are constant reminders to not suffer before it is necessary. Not just reminders, but practical, actionable steps to overcoming both.

Inspired by that, we have assembled the best Stoic wisdom into an actionable new course—Daily Stoic’s Slay Your Stress. A 14-day challenge designed to reclaim your life from the negative effects of stress and anxiety.

How much more enjoyable would your days be without the constant dread of stress looming over you? How much more productive would you be without spending hours per day indulging imagined troubles? How much better would your relationships be?

Stoics have been trying to domesticate feelings of anxiety and stress for two millennia. They didn’t always win, but they managed to make progress, the same kind of progress you want to make. We’ve designed this course to help you reclaim your life from stress and anxiety. In this 14-day challenge, we will lay out the most actionable ways to manage your stress and anxiety, backed by thousands of years of research and practice. 

You’ll learn to: 

  • Name and slay your stress. Putting it in its rightful place.
  • How to seize what is in your control and ignore the rest. Every day.
  • How to be easier on yourself to get more done.
  • Make your to-do list more manageable
  • Stop sweating the small stuff
  • Get historical perspective 
  • Much, much more…

How many hours per day do you lose to stress and anxiety? That’s what the Stoics wanted to ask. Now multiply that by 365. Now multiply that by your lifetime. Don’t you think it’s time you did something about it?

Check out Slay Your Stress here.

P.S. This was originally sent on May 27, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.