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10 Healthy Ways To Get Through Difficult Times (Insights From Stoic Philosophy)

Get Through Difficult Times

Difficult times and tough situations can never be avoided, but they can definitely be handled. Stoic philosophy can tremendously help you by providing you with healthy ways to get through difficult times. It might seem hard at first, but it will help you overcome every hurdle in life with a lot of dignity and strength.

To build emotional resilience and to reduce the risk of developing serious emotional problems in the future requires learning how to face everyday problems, such as worry, loss, and self-control.

The ancient Greek philosophy of Stoic focuses on cultivating virtue and strength of character to handle obstacles in life. The fruits of Stoic philosophy are tranquility, courage, and freedom.

The followings provide examples of Stoic strategies that often resemble modern cognitive behavior therapy (Pigliucci, 2017; Robertson, 2019).

Here Are 10 Healthy Ways to Get Through Difficult Times

1. Value clarification. 

Clarifying our core values and trying to live consistently with them can help us gain a greater sense of direction and meaning in life. To live a full meaningful life and flourish is to discover our unique and authentic calling. As Nietzsche remarked, “He who has a why to live can bear almost anyhow.”

2. Nothing is entirely under our control, except our own voluntary actions and thoughts. 

The foundation of Stoic philosophy begins by focusing our attention and efforts on those things that we can control, and ignoring those that we cannot. Knowing that we have done our best given the circumstances leads to the calm acceptance of whatever happens. Stoic acceptance is similar to Nietzsche’s idea of Amor Fati (love one’s fate). This means accepting life in its entirety.

Related: 8 Ways To Cultivate Resilience In Yourself During Tough Times

3. Attitude. 

As the Stoics like to put it, “It is not things that upset us but our judgment about them.” Our emotional lives are shaped by our values and judgments. We can liberate ourselves from negative emotions such as anger and hatred by developing a capacity to choose how to interpret the situation.

4. Pause and take a deep breath.  

Strong feelings make us forget that there are different ways of viewing a situation. For example, anger is nothing but temporary madness with potentially lasting consequences. The mere passage of time can lower the intensity of emotion. By delaying we won’t fall prey to basing decisions entirely on what happens to be in our mind in the immediate moment.

5. Cognitive distancing. 

Cognitive distancing refers to the ability to separate our value judgments from facts. Describing events in objective form is the basis of ancient Stoic therapy. For example, when someone becomes ill, we should avoid adding value judgment like: “Why me? This is awful.” Viewing events objectively helps us prevent being overwhelmed by our emotions.

6. Blowing things out of proportion. 

When we are anxious, we tend to overestimate both the likelihood and the intensity of threat and danger. When people are really struggling, they focus on their inability to cope and the feeling that the problem is spiraling out of control.

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Shahram Heshmat Ph.D.

Shahram Heshmat is an associate professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Springfield with a Ph.D. in Managerial Economics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He specializes in the Health Economics of addiction and obesity, applying the insights and findings that emerge from behavioral economics research to the decision processes underlying addictive behavior, obesity, and weight loss management. His most recent book is Eating Behavior and Obesity: Behavioral Economics Strategies for Health Professionals. He is currently working on a new book, Addiction: A Behavioral Economics Perspective, to be published by Routledge/Psychology Press.View Author posts