Imagine how you would feel if a loved one died. It would feel terrible, of course. It may even be the most terrible thing you’ve ever experienced up until now.
Okay, enough of that. Clear your mind.
Now imagine how you would feel if a loved one went missing. Let’s also say this loved one went missing in a distant country, one you had little or no personal access to for lifestyle or logistical reasons. He/she could be alive or dead, happy or in horrible pain, perfectly safe or in terrible danger…and you have no idea. Now how would you feel? Again, you would feel terrible.
Here’s the question: Which of those two circumstances would cause you more stress?
Really think about it.
If you’re giving this some real critical thought, and being very honest with yourself, you would probably say your loved one going missing would cause you more actual stress than if the person died. Certainly if the person died you would feel more sadness and loss, perhaps even anger. But most likely you wouldn’t feel stress. However, if that person went missing and you had no idea what his/her status was, you would be stressed out of your mind.
Worse, the stress would never really end. If a loved one dies, eventually you come to closure. If someone went missing, there would be no closure. You would stress forever…until you found out what happened.
Until you knew.
Then, as soon as you found out, even if the news was bad, your stress would end. True, if you found out that person had died, the stress would be replaced by other negative emotions, but in all likelihood the actual stress would be gone (or at least seriously reduced).
That is the ultimate stress management technique. KNOWING. Usually when you’re stressing, it’s because you don’t know something. As soon as you find out that thing, even if it’s bad news, the stress either vanishes or diminishes greatly.
Years ago as a younger man, when I was having financial problems, I would get big, scary letters in the mail from bill collectors. Because of my fear, I left the letters unopened on my desk or kitchen counter. Just those letters being there stressed me out. Finally, when I got the courage to open the letters and read them, I was surprised to find that the stress usually went away, even if the letters contained upsetting news. The act of knowing reduced my stress, often to nothing.
I see people in business stress out about things like this all the time. They stress about things they don’t know. They don’t realize that if they just took ten minutes to find out, even if doing so is scary, their stress would likely vanish instantly.
This also happens in interpersonal relationships. People (women especially) are always hand-wringing about “What does he/she think about me???” When she conclusively finds out, even if the news is bad, her stress ends.
One of the greatest and most powerful stress management techniques is to get into the habit of always knowing. Over the years I have trained myself, as soon as I start feeling stressed, to immediately get all the information so I know exactly what’s going on, even if what’s going on is bad news. Then I don’t stress any more. It almost always works.
Think about something you’re stressing about right now. I would bet there’s at least a 70% chance the reason you’re stressed is because you don’t know something. Well dammit, go find out! Even if you receive some bad news, you’ll be surprised at how fast that stress you’re feeling goes away.
Give it a shot. I think you’ll be surprised.