Living in the modern world can be stressful. It’s your choice. A choice you make many times each day when you choose how to react to things that happen. There’s no shortage of research proving that it’s HOW we REACT to life’s events that determines whether we experience stress and how much stress. Two people experiencing an identical set of life circumstances but making very different choices about how to react will experience different degrees of stress. One may experience extreme stress; the other may experience no stress at all. A few of the stress determinants are whether you feel a lack of control or victimized, whether you feel your survival or identity are threatened, and whether you choose to be affected by the circumstances or their outcome. We’ve heard the expressions “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” and “like water off a duck’s back”; both of these directives yield a no-stress outcome.

In Chinese, the word for stress is made up of 2 characters: danger and opportunity. I love this. Seeing opportunity in any event or set of circumstances is KEY to responding proactively rather than reacting in such a way that creates stress in the body-mind-spirit. We can take a huge lesson from this. In fact, I have. I’ve long made a practice of looking for the learning or growth opportunities in difficult, challenging, and undesirable circumstances and events. This has transmuted the feeling of no control in these situations. It’s also led to a lot of growth and learning. I can’t say that I’ve been as successful in not personalizing. SIGH. Perhaps someday.

I recently heard a story about some Tibetan monks who had been imprisoned and tortured by the Chinese for a long period of time. Now free, these men are happy and show absolutely no indications of the sort of PTSD one might expect to find in such survivors. No PTSD whatsoever. In fact, they are sweet, kind, gentle, loving, happy, fully-functioning people. This is so exceedingly rare in P.O.Ws. How can they be so unscathed? They responded to the torture not by feeling victimized, nor by feeling a complete an utter lack of control; they responded by having immense compassion for their torturers who they perceived as deeply troubled souls; and they did not personalize the experience- they did not believe the torture was in any way a reflection on them personally. They did not agonize about whether they deserved it or not. They did not ponder what they might have done to deserve this kind of treatment. They did not resist the reality of the situation either; they accepted the fact that it was happening. They did not attempt to minimize it nor did they become stoic. They did not experience the intense stress of hating their captors night and day. They suffered, but they didn’t suffer in the same ways and to the degree that you or I might because of their attitude and response.

The next time you find yourself in a challenging circumstance, I hope you’ll remember that you have a choice about how to respond and a choice to look for the learning and growth opportunity in the experience. Please let me know how it goes for you.

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Kamila Harkavy, founder of Money Mastery, works with spiritually-oriented entrepreneurs to earn what they're worth doing work they love that fulfills their purpose, to have a healthy, mature, responsible, abundant relationship with money, increase their income, joy and savings and to decrease their debt and stress.

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