Conquer Anxiety With Lessons From the Tao Te Ching

tao te ching

This is a guest post by Regan from

The Tao Te Ching is a little book full of enormous amounts of wisdom.

Written roughly 2500 years ago, the wisdom within is still shockingly relevant today. In fact, one could argue that the “go slow” philosophy of the Tao is more relevant than ever.

Today we live in a fast paced world. We work demanding jobs with long hours, we have families that need nurturing, and we have hopes and dreams that we are still eager to pursue on the side.

Is it any wonder that anxiety disorders are becoming more relevant than ever?

I personally struggled with general anxiety disorder for roughly 10 years. It left me completely drained – physically and emotionally.

One day I stumbled upon the Tao Te Ching. Within weeks I found myself calmer, more present, and more energetic. The psychological baggage I had been carrying around with me for almost half my life was disappearing faster than I could have ever imagined.

As I began to spend time cultivating the completely ignored spiritual part of my being, I found myself more alive than ever.

If you study and apply the Taoist concepts we are about to discuss, I am thoroughly convinced that your anxiety can become all but a memory as well.

Here are three simple lessons that will relinquish anxiety of its power and have you experiencing the present moment and all of its beauty:

1) Release Control

“When we try to control the future, we are like an inexperienced child trying to take the place of a master carpenter.” – Verse 74, Tao Te Ching

How many times have you spent priceless time and energy worrying about something that never came to pass? If you are anything like me, you couldn’t answer this question with any existing numerical value.

We do this because there is some part of us that believes that, by worrying, we can change the outcome of a situation.

Throughout the Tao te Ching, the author, Lao Tzu, regularly speaks of the eternal and infinite Tao.

Lao Tzu says the Tao is the source of our creation. The Tao is said to guide us through life, ensure we get to our destination, and protect us along the way like our cosmic parent.

The problem is that we like to take the pen out of its hand and do things our way. We try to play the position of the Tao and we find ourselves drowning in worry and uncertainty as we try to control events beyond our power.

Try to control nothing for a single day. Do what you can with what is right in front of you and nothing more.

Trust the Tao like you trusted your parents as a child and you will find freedom from your mind-generated suffering.

2) The Law of Paradoxical Unity

“Difficult and easy complement each other,
Long and short define each other,
High and low depend on each other,
Before and after follow each other.”
– Verse 2, Tao Te Ching

The Universe appears to exist in a dual unity. Night and day, man and woman, hot and cold.

This is the basis behind the famous Tao symbol. We cannot compartmentalize something as good or bad because they are as inextricably connected as the molecules that make up the computer you are reading this on.

Paradoxical unity reminds us that we cannot have good without bad or bad without good. Therefore, the bad times, the problems and worries we experience, can almost certainly yield benefit if we would only look for the good that is undoubtedly within.

Like a coin, everything in life has another side to it…For every bad situation we encounter in our life we can expect to find an equal positive to it.

If you begin diligently searching for the good within the bad parts of your life, every problem becomes an opportunity. We no longer need to worry that the problem of the day is the end of the world. Instead, perhaps it is the opportunity of the day…

So remember: When life knocks you down, it will pick you back up. When life takes from you, know that it will give back to you. When life seems to hurt you, it is also trying to help you grow. This isn’t theory, it is the law of paradoxical unity.

3) Slow Down

“It is easier to carry and empty cup than one that is filled to the brim.” – Verse 9, Tao Te Ching

In today’s busy world, we often think more is always better.

Work more, do more, be more and naturally we will have more…right?


Our energy and mental stability will inevitably suffer as we continue to participate in the race for “more.”

Our emotions are finite resources. Unfortunately, we abuse them and trade them for money and accolades which ultimately mean nothing to our long-term wellness.

To maintain a calm center, imagine your center is the resting state of a pendulum. If you don’t stop moving, working, thinking, you never reach your peaceful center. And when we lose our balanced center for extended periods of time, we experience unbalanced emotions like depression and anxiety.

The Art of Not Doing

I’d like to propose an activity if you live an overly active life or have an overly active mind:

Take a day to practice “the art of not doing”.

On this day, you intentionally do as little as possible…and you’re okay with it.

Take the time to leave your phone unanswered. Leave the work on your desk until tomorrow. Take a nap. Empty your mind as best as possible and be in the moment.

And, if you can’t calm your mind, don’t spend too much time trying for that is still doing something.

Just be.

As a Type-A personality, this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to learn to do. By forcing myself to do it once per week, I experience more energy and my mind is far more peaceful than ever before.

The result is six days operating at 100% versus a previous seven days operating at 50%…You do the math.

Sometimes taking a small step back is necessary for us to take huge steps forward.

“Not doing” once in awhile is the recharge our bodies and mind so desperately need.

“For those who practice not doing, everything will come into order.” – Verse 3, Tao Te Ching

(PS – All quotes were taken from the Tao Te Ching with Commentary by Rory Mackay. Other translations may vary.)

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