Relief for Anxiety, without pills

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Anxiety, that dreaded feeling. It feels like having to climb a mountain with a bag of rocks on your back. It feels heavy and what is worst, unnecessary. It’s funny to think, retrospectively, how you act when you are anxious. At a party, for example, standing there, awkwardly, believing that you need to be having fun, or at least appearing to be having fun. 

I feel it a lot especially when I’m in social situations and I’m standing alone with no one to talk to. Funny how you go all over your head, thinking that all the people around are totally thinking that you are a friendless weirdo and should not come near you. Which makes you think about you being alone, taking you even more into your head, making you more and more anxious. I believe you have an idea of what I’m talking about. 

“To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one’s self…. And to venture in the highest is precisely to be conscious of one’s self.”
Søren Kierkegaard

My simple, stoic backed solution for anxiety is the phrase: No big deal, I’ve got this and act or if not possible, as Epictetus said, bear and forbear. 

Living fully

Living without anxiety feels like a dream. The type of dream you enjoy, maybe walking on the clouds in the sky, or flying, or kissing someone you like. 

Remember when you were a kid? How did it feel to go to a party? How did it feel to go to Disneyland? Compare it to your today. Is it too different?

I remember that when I was a kid, going to a party caused genuine excitement in me. I was excited to see friends and girls and play around. But now, whenever I’m invited to a party, I get anxious. Anxious about not knowing anyone, about the people that are going to be there, you know the drill. 

It’s as if adulthood comes with anxiety. And it does. You have bills to pay, you want a nice partner, you want to fit in and so on and so on. Plus, not knowing what truly matters, like a coherent and robust philosophy of life (thanks stoicism), makes up for a society filled with anxious people that’s anxious for not being able to keep up with the Joneses. 

Barnes and Noble reported an increase in self-help anxiety books of 26% compared to last year and 83% in finding happiness. Why would that be?

We are hungry for that feeling of excitement and peace. You cannot be excited about life if you are thinking all the time about the terrible ways that you are either going to die, be judged by other people or not being able to keep up with the “dreams” we are constantly being sold on Instagram, Facebook, and TV.

I know, I know all of this, you might find yourself saying and you know what? But how can I end this bloody anxiety of mine?

You are right. It’s not as if I can just turn off, like a light switch, anxiety. I understand it’s impossible. But one thing that can help is to understand it. 

No big deal 

Let’s talk about what anxiety is. 

Another way you can call anxiety is fear. Fear of being judged or being run over by a car. Fear is not bad, of course. It is due to fear that you are standing here, right now, alive.

You need fear to survive. 

Now, general anxiety, the kind that leaves you speechless at a party and doesn’t let you have any fun, is most certainly not ok. Still, hardly you are going to be able to get rid of it just like that. So what you want to do is to silence it down, gradually. 

How do you do this? 

With philosophy, and practicing courage. 

With the use of reason and the relief that understanding gives you. 

Understanding gives you peace. For example, understanding that we are all going through something similar to you, in higher or lower degrees, already calms you down, you are not alone, trust me. 

Now, to better understand anxiety, we need to see it for what it is, fear. We can now say that anxiety is a problem of courage. It is not wanting to face life and all its components, it is not wanting to face anxiety itself. 

Life can be dangerous, in fact it is dangerous. Anxiety wants to deal with face of life by stopping you from doing what you think is dangerous. 

Fear is always saying NO. Always stopping you. Don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t talk to that girl, don’t talk about how you really feel. Don’t take the trip, don’t, don’t. 

It basically wants you to live a fucking boring life. 

The way you fight this is by saying more yes, regardless of how you feel. Anxiety is not going to go anywhere, but, if you say to yourself: no worries, no big deal, I’ve got this, enough times, and take action on what you are afraid of, you are going to start to quench it down. 

“Caretake this moment. Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person or that person, this challenge, this deed. Quit the evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble. It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in right now. You are not some disinterested bystander. Participate. Exert yourself.” — Epictetus

Presence and courage

This works because it gives you presence.

It takes you away from the terrible monsters of your mind to the not so terrible monsters of actual reality. It gives you back to the excitement of living. It makes life more fun and engaging. It fills you with meaning and desire to know more and do more. Courage and action are addictive, difficult at first, but addictive later. 

Now, this does not mean you have to say yes to everything. Look at a drunkard, for example, a drunkard is courageous, no doubt about that, but he lacks prudence. The prudence that a healthy dose of fear gives you. You need to know how to balance your courage with your fear to achieve prudence. 

But most of the time, you will want to say yes to whatever, even if just a little, for it will train you to better deal with reality. Don’t ever say no to reality, say yes, deal with it and it will work with you instead of against you. 

You’ve got this. 

“True happiness is to enjoy the present without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied, for he that is wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not” — Seneca

Thanks for reading,

Ricardo Guaderrama

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I’m always open to suggestions and am happy to answer any questions. stoicanswers@gmail.com


What to do when people look down on you?


It’s no fun to feel you’re not enough, to feel you don’t belong, to feel as if you need to constantly compensate by acting nice or being whatever for whomever because who you are, is just not enough. Now, it’s a whole different thing when on top of having normal inferiority feelings as everyone else has, you have to deal as well with being discriminated against because of the color of your skin or your socioeconomic status. How would a Stoic act in any of these situations?

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will. ”

The Stoic answer to this problem remains coldly equal: Seize worrying about what is not under your control and concentrate on what is, that’s where you power lies and the only true possibility of change for the better.

A story

I’m a mountain guide in Mexico City. I take people to the mountains and back. It’s a really fun job. I get to know people from all over the world and make new friends.

One time, I took a group of Norwegians to the mountains and had a driver to take us there and back. The driver was a regular Mexican guy, a fun fellow, had a good chat with him about his adventures as a chauffeur in Acapulco.

The interaction between this guy and the Norwegians was… weird. The Norwegians couldn’t care less about the driver. Similar to when you get on an Uber with a bad mood and careless about the Uber driver trying to talk to you about his entire life, you just put your earphones on and switch off. But the driver was deeply affected by them, he looked a bit intimidated. He was being extremely nice and of service, but it was just too much, to the point of being weird, like Dobby from Harry Potter. I mean, it’s fine for an elf to do that, but definitely not for a person. It feels false.

It wasn’t good for him either, because although his goal was obviously to be liked and appreciated for his work, he was being looked down on. It’s funny because, paradoxically, he put himself in that position. The problem was not the Norwegians judging him bad or good, but his predicament, his petty want of approval. Not doing things right for the sake of his principles and respect for himself, but ought of want of approval and appreciation. Similar to a dog asking for a bone. It’s impossible to interact with people on grounds of equality and as adults, if you don’t judge yourself worthy in the first place.

Think about this for a minute. Judging yourself worthy is not something others will do for you, or something you can get from other people,(as my driver expected to get out of being nice) but something that you need to do by and for yourself.

“Never depend on the admiration of others. There is no strength in it. Personal merit cannot be derived from an external source. It is not to be found in your personal associations, nor can it be found in the regard of other people. It is a fact of life that other people, even people who love you, will not necessarily agree with your ideas, understand you, or share your enthusiasms. Grow up! Who cares what other people think about you!”
Epictetus, The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness

Caring about people looking down on you, or even up, is utterly useless. If people look down or up on you, it is nothing to you, for you do not care about that which is outside your control. If people talk or admire, that’s their problem, your problem is to be a good friend, a good wife, husband or whatever role you are playing while being alive.

And pay attention now for this is essential. Be good and act good for the reward of acting good and following your principles and will alone. Do not act expecting the world to go your way. The triumph of principle is enough.

When you act with strings attached, with expectations, you are still not getting it, for you are acting looking for things externally. You will be forever disappointed if you continue living this way.

However, if you focus on the internal, on your will, and rest satisfied knowing that you’ve got all you need. You’ll become cheerful, free from perturbation and, paradoxically, things outside tend to go so much better.

“The secret of fortune is joy in our hands. Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man. For him all doors are flung wide. Him all tongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow with desire. Our love goes out to him and embraces him because he did not need it.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance and Other Essays

Focus on being a great man or woman, learning, and growing, and all shall go well.

Thanks for reading,

Ricardo Guaderrama

Become a Patreon

subscribe and receive the Askesis ebook to further develop your practice of stoicism.
Subscribe here

I’m always open to suggestions and am happy to answer any questions. stoicanswers@gmail.com