Focus not on the fog, but the vision to get through it

A Fog of Pandemic

There is a similarity between the chaos of Coronavirus and the “fog of war,” paraphrased from the book On War by Carl Von Clausewitz—“war is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty.”  War is inherently volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, leading to the U.S. military’s acronym VUCA. Like the VUCA of war, this worldwide pandemic and its hourly, if not instantaneous, stream of COVID-19 information can lead to hysteria, overwhelming stress, depression and an absence of hope and sleep in our now remote worlds.

We’ve been instructed to stay home and social distance ourselves, forcing a societal inactivity that most have never seen in their lifetime. Even though the pandemic has caused a reduction in the physical hustle and bustle, there’s still much mental churn from TV, social media and other media outlets. The “fog” of distractions, headlines and threats are still too dense to see through and can be amplified when working remotely.

Experts are calling it an infodemic, referring to the bogus claims, the horrible hoaxes and the conspiracy theories around this virus. Do your research to find fact-checking information to cut down the misinformation which leads to VUCA. Find other sources and don’t limit yourself to one source of news or one source of information. Don’t be led into a conspiracy, find trusted resources, check your sources and use common sense. Common sense would naturally rule out microwaving your mail, hair drying your face, 5G Networks transmitting the virus, and of course drinking Lysol—however the fear of the unknown or the fear of missing out drives individuals to abandon common sense.

Fight Back the Fight

To understand what COVID-19, VUCA and the associated stress and anxiety does to keep us in a fog, it is good to first know what our mind and body’s response to stress and anxiety looks like.

Our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is our body’s control system that automates bodily functions, and has two divisions to it, both critical to our well being. The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS), is associated with the “fight or flight” responses that keep us alive in the face of danger. The biological opposite,the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS),makes up the “rest & digest” responses which aids in healing, serenity, digestion and resiliency. Research shows that when one system is dominant and activated it steps in front of the other system. 

Something originally meant to protect us against a short-term threat is now constantly activated by the threats of our manic lifestyles.

The SNS prepares our bodies for action or defends the body against attack in an urgent situation, critical for short-term survival. Its job is to activate glands and organs to kick in by producing adrenaline, epinephrine and cortisol. Adrenaline always trumps the chemistry of serenity because we are programmed to produce it instantaneously for survival. Something originally meant to protect us against a short-term threat is now constantly activated by the threats of our manic lifestyles. 

The PSNS helps produce a state of equilibrium in our bodies, critical to long-term survival. Its job is to activate healing, conserve energy, relax muscles and build tissue. This makes up the  “rest & digest” function, that again can not happen if the SNS is dominant. This system stimulates those activities that occur when the body is at rest or directly after eating by producing acetylcholine to slow heart rate and cholecystokinin to digest fat and protein. We are so busy fighting against our feelings of being attacked that we neglect to acknowledge the importance of getting to a state of calm. To lessen the domination of the SNS system and focus on the healthy building benefits of the PSNS, we need to convince our bodies that they are not under attack. 

  • Yoga/Exercise
  • Massages/Meditation
  • Calming Music
  • Hobbies that calm or put you at ease
  • Enjoy the outdoors, take in nature
  • Envision yourself in a calm and happy place

Dissipating the Fog

We can’t have solutions without problems. Just like we need “fight or flight” to survive, we need “rest and digest” to thrive. Our life before this virus was a modern lifestyle of chronic stress which perpetuated a constant state of “fight or flight.” The forced inactivity for some, has created the counter equivalent of “rest and digest.” Our isolation and social distancing can be just the opportunity we need to learn how to spend more time in the parasympathetic mode. To calm down, de-emphasize the threats that have created this fog, focus on what we can control, and learn to work within the new norm, even though it may be outside our comfort zone. What will emerge will lead to new thoughts, new direction, new innovations, and new technology. We have to trust that the curve will flatten, businesses will thrive again and when that wind clears the fog, and it will, we will all be better because of it—ready for unique ideas, innovative products and services and new perspectives. Futures, whether under the COVID-19 fog or not, have always been unknown. A calm and collective response to this crisis will define yours. 

Companies can also benefit from addressing the VUCA in the business world and use it to their advantage following these four steps:

  1. Counter volatility with vision. Have you created a compelling vision for your company?
  2. Meet uncertainty with understanding. What are your competitors doing?
  3. React to complexity with clarity. Are you clearly communicating your direction?
  4. Fight ambiguity with agility. How nimble, flexible, and adaptable is your company?

Read more about VUCA here: