September 2022 will be remembered as a difficult time for many. As the country mourns the passing of the Queen, the ongoing cost of living crisis has merely been put on the back burner.

On top of these concerns, I seem to know an unusually large number of adults who are going through really tragic experiences. Two of them are facing up to terminal illnesses and several others have recently lost parents, partners, or – the ultimate nightmare – a child.

It's hard to know what to say, or how to comfort, when life-changing events, like these, affect those we care about. And it’s even harder to be a person to whom the worst is happening.

When dealing with episodes which have felt catastrophic to me, I’ve usually tried to link myself mentally with the whole love and loss cycle that’s part of being human, and which has presented challenges since our ancestors first walked the planet.

I find by acknowledging that man and womankind have always had to deal with these reverses lends perspective – especially when I factor in how much more drastic things must have been before the arrival of antibiotics, other advanced drugs and the complicated medical interventions we’ve come to rely on today.

A friend who had a brush with death – but fortunately lived to tell the tale – described how his illness “gave me a much-heightened consciousness of the preciousness of the present”. I think many people reading this will know exactly how that felt.

Personally, I’ve found all sorts of disasters easier to cope with since I learned a little

about the Stoic philosophers, whom I’ve come to believe were some of the wisest and sanest individuals who ever lived. I’m certainly not an academic or an expert but let me share with you what I understand about them.

Stoicism emerged around 300 BC as a life-enhancing philosophy focusing on courage, wisdom, self-control and justice, and continued till about 200 AD. It aimed to strengthen people against all the things that can wrong in life and taught that suffering was complicated and compounded by the thoughts people held about it.

The movement was unusual in that it drew followers from every walk of life, and included soldiers, slaves, a playwright and an emperor. I hope this doesn’t sound patronising, but I’ve always been stunned by the fact that people so long ago had such energetically agile minds and that their thinking feels so relevant today.

One of their basic beliefs was that life and love were not entitlements, but loans. I find that strangely comforting.

And it makes sense to me in a way that my own wonderful husband was loaned to me for several decades, which hugely benefited and cheered me, but that then the loan expired as it were. I’d like to think that when I face my own death, I might be able to deal with it by regarding my existence as a loan which is coming to a natural end.

So, might this help you?

One of the most notable Stoic philosophers was Epictetus. And it was his pronouncements that caught the attention of Aaron Beck, the founder of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy which began to emerge in the late 1950 s and has since become widely accepted as one of the most effective forms of mental health treatment.

Epictetus claimed: “It’s not things that upset us, it’s our view of things," and really, the whole of CBT stems from that belief, and is all about learning to think logically and rationally, and checking that there is evidence for our thoughts. Once you adopt that way of thinking, you acquire a very useful “toolbox” for life. Frankly, I think the principles of CBT should be taught in schools.

Epictetus also said: “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak."

I think many of us would do well to remember that. Me included.

To come back to dire events in our own lives, I would always recommend that when the going gets impossibly tough you should do all you can to share what’s happening, and your feelings about it, to friends and family.

Also, there are amazing support groups for most conditions including mental ill health, cancer, skin complaints, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease. All of them have websites, so check them out and access as much help as you can.

Above all, remember what a powerful organ the mind is and how what we think can so strongly affect how well, or otherwise, we deal with bad times.

Let me end then with a saying by another Stoic philosopher, the Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius.

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realise this and you will find strength.”