1. Helpful vs. Harmful
2. Responsive vs. Reactive
To determine whether your actions are helpful versus harmful is one of the cornerstones of human interactions I learned while teaching preschool, and it can be applied to situations, no matter one's age. The second lesson to be responsive versus reactive to events came to me from my mentor, Lauren Walker; the creator of Energy Medicine Yoga, which as you all may know, has changed my life.
When you put these two lessons together, you have a game changer for how to manage stress in life.
When conflicts arise either personally, professionally, or just through your existence in the world - what is the initial thought that pops into your head? For me, I have been faced with more conflicts working in the yoga community than ever before in my professional career. It surprised me at first, because I thought it would be sunshine and roses. However, the yoga community/industry/business, whatever you want to name it, functions exactly like any other community/industry/business. However, I persevere because for me to help other people feel renewed, in touch with their highest self, and supported on their healing journey is the absolute best way I can spend my time and give back to the world. And, like any other job, it has its ups and downs.
To guide me through life's trials and tribulations, I constantly check my actions and ask: "Is this helpful or harmful?" and, am I being "responsive or reactive?" Both of these pausing questions go hand-in-hand while dealing with any conflict, interaction, or general communication with another person. We cannot always control the circumstances we are presented with, but we can certainly attempt to control our emotions. If we become hurt by someone's actions, that's a choice (whether you are conscious of it or not), and how we respond is critical to diffusing or managing situations. Let me provide a hypothetical situation: Someone posts something on social media that you don't like. It may bring up feelings of anger because you believe this person is wrong. Do you ignore this? Do you lash out? Do you leave a nasty comment, or message them privately? How can you respond, versus react? To be reactionary, would be to lash out and leave a nasty comment. Being responsive in this situation could mean messaging them privately to express your feelings, or simply choosing to unfollow their posts. It should be clear which of these choices is helpful, versus harmful. Perhaps the person posting does not realize that their post may be hurtful to others, or maybe they don't care. Regardless of how they choose to respond or react to you, it is necessary to self-reflect and check our own actions. Remember, Svadhaya - your study of self.
I truthfully feel silly using social media as an example, but I witness (and have experienced) versions of Facebook bullying, so it's an easy example to dissect. Social media has made it so easy for people to express their opinions without looking anyone in the eye or recognizing the human heart behind the screen. Even after my own experience with a FB bully, I do not use their name here or use specifics of our interaction because I do not want to hurt or shame this person. We must learn to keep our emotions in check and when we are faced with adversity - pause, take a deep breath, and then respond. These two great lessons can be applied to literally every aspect of our lives and help us to transform how we handle stress. Choosing to respond with grace, while actively reflecting on being helpful towards others, with kindness, will help to make the world (virtual and real) a much better place.