Stoicism: be the stronghold people need in times of crisis

Since the quarantine began, I’ve received several calls and messages from people who have been experiencing anxiety, depression, and stress. Furthermore, I’ve seen people in social media sharing their preoccupations regarding the inevitable economic crisis that is ahead, and how their families are struggling to earn money, without exposing themselves to the virus.

Indeed, some might see the lockdown as a necessary evil: by sacrificing our lifestyle, we’ve lost jobs, friends, money, and for some, even happiness.
I’d be lying if I tell you I’ve not experienced hardships during this crisis; will we have enough food a week from today? Will we have enough money to pay our debts? Will I find a job after all of this happens? These questions have haunted me since I came home. However, through rational, constructive thoughts, I realized that even though it seems I’ve lost my physical liberty, my mind and the behavior I assume before this situation are entirely free and depend on me only.

If you are stressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.—Marcus Aurelius.

There’s a cruel reality we should face: this situation is beyond our control. There’s nothing more we can do than staying at home, and follow the guidelines of the scientific community. There’s too little we can do for the outside, but so much we can do for ourselves. When a difficulty becomes our enemy, it is up to us how strong it appears. Our mind could be our ally, but also our most destructive foe. Thus, we should learn how to control our emotions and act with rationality before we lose our minds.

In these times, we must recognize our problems as trivial, for whatever is happening now has happened before. Marcus Aurelius believed history is our best resource to understand how to overcome a catastrophe. We have to accept what is happening as a path to become virtuous, without yielding to negative emotions.

On the other hand, people have had difficulties keeping themselves positives during the lockdown. I don’t blame them: when everything seems dangerous, when all we see are deaths and suffering, how can someone smile and keep being optimistic? Well, the short answer is that we should always remember our blessings, but we shall not forget the world is a changing ecosystem, and at any time, it could turn against us.

Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.— Marcus Aurelius

Lewis said that “the future is of all things, the least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time—for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.” We can keep ourselves thinking about it and trying to materialize what we think is going to happen. However, this study will lead us to nowhere; it will drive us to insanity and will perturb our present being.

The more distressed we are about the situation, the worst our behavior will be. The worst approach to a problem is to handle it with pessimistic emotions. It will cause you more problems, which will lead you to think there are no solutions to it. Be rational before emotional, and don’t torment yourself with times that are yet to pass. As Seneca once thought “the whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.”

It’s courtesy and kindness that define an human being — and a man. — Marcus Aurelius.

During this epidemic, be patient, courteous, and don’t forget others have same or worst problems than you. Be strong, not only for yourself, but also for your family, friends, and neighbors. More than ever in our lifetime, we are asked to help others, to respect one another, and to be a light for those who are in darkness. Before letting your emotions control you, think that with your calm and strength, you can help someone else to overpower their anguish.

We are fighting against two enemies now: the virus and mental conditions. Let the doctors fight the disease, supporting them by staying at home. Let ourselves fight against anxiety by giving our friends the aid they need. Let ourselves be the stronghold people desperately need in this crisis.

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