Camille Brayshaw/Fourth Estate

Do you ever feel as though the pressures of the world are too much to bear? You may be stressed from election season or concerned about how many more may die from COVID-19. I often hear my classmates worry that they will enter the workforce with no jobs available or if they will ever be able to pay off their student loans.

All of the stress and anxiety from such worries can take a toll. So how do people cope with it? Some turn to drugs, booze, partying and other materialistic pleasures to drown out the worries. Some people just let their anxieties consume them. I, on the other hand, choose stoicism. 

Before I explain what that is, I must note, by no means am I attempting to diminish or dismiss anyone’s struggle with depression or anxiety — they are serious problems. If you suffer from panic attacks or chronic anxiety, please seek help. I am no medical professional, but I know stoicism has helped me greatly in my times of distress. 

So what is stoicism? It is the belief you should work as hard as you can to achieve your goals, but accept whatever hand you have been dealt in life. Some mistakenly believe it means to be unemotional, aloof or uncaring about what happens in the world. Far from it! A true stoic is usually quite passionate, and cares about a great many things. However, stoics understand one should only care about the things which one can control, which isn’t very much. 

Stoicism has been a central asset to many successful people from many different backgrounds. One stoic whose writings I find to be of immeasurable help are that of Seneca, the Roman statesman. He wrote in “Letters from a Stoic”: “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” Perhaps the most famous of stoics was Marcus Aurelius, an emperor of Rome. Many of his writings bless me to this day. One quote from his “Meditations” astutely points out: “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” 

But not all stoics were people of noble birth — some came from humble origins. Epictetus was a revered stoic philosopher, but was a slave. Nevertheless, he is said to have remarked, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” Many don’t realize it, but Jesus Christ also taught many ideas which are close to stoicism. In a part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

It takes a lifetime to learn how to live, so become a student of stoicism now. Learn to be at peace, no matter the chaos of the world. You have much to gain and nothing to lose but your anxieties. Life can be very disruptive — plans fall apart, and people are unpredictable — but you can control your attitude and outlook on life. Focus on making yourself a better person rather than fixing the world and other people’s problems.