As the coronavirus crisis continues, we are facing a lot of bad leadership. From politicians, public role models and from people with whom I am in intense exchange: the CEOs, executives, decision-makers, the so-called business leaders. Because they largely fail to be confident and instead sometimes take drastic emergency measures in a hurry without acute need, this leads us straight into a collective depression that we all are feeling already and into a completely excessive panic. Everything will be ten times worse than it should be. I’m seeing most parts of the leadership elite in companies resigning and accepting that everything is over now, rather than giving us hope and providing positive guidance. Where are the leaders, the board members, the CEOs, the executives, where are the successful ones when you need them most? From my view 95% of them have joined the negativism. Thank you very much!
What worries me the most are not just the health aspects of COVID-19, but that a lot of those people who I would have expected to maintain attitude and confidence in a situation like this are now completely falling in collective depression, be it in terms of health issues or – and this is more my playing field – in relation to business and economic issues. In some cases, drastic emergency measures are taken hastily without acute need, in other cases, panic is the order of the day. But in times like now business leaders are needed who observe the corona situation with stoic calm and then act deliberately and in a rational way.
It is not without reason that the immunologist Prof. Dr. Stefan Hockertz says: “It is not the virus that makes us sick, it is the fear of it that makes us sick! ”. I would like to add: It is the fear that is setting the global economy back by years. With unforeseeable consequences.
Therefore it I want to make clear some important points and counteract against the mass hysteria a little bit within my humble abilities. I would be glad if the following article helps you as a manager, a leader, as a person with responsibility for others, to better deal with the corona crisis. It is an attempt to put into words a few things that I have learned over the last 10 years, when I myself, as an entrepreneur and human being, had to deal with other problematic situations.
I sincerely wish, that you can adapt some of these things and that you can refine them for you so that you are able to better deal with your personal corona challenges.
What is happening at the moment with regard to COVID-19 are on the one hand totally reasonable actions that are taken by politicians and companies and on the other hand never known fears, panic and a mass hysteria that is shocking for me and that I would not have thought possible. A very dangerous mass depression:
- Retail shop closings: appropriate
- Extended opening hours of grocery stores: appropriate
- Through this: Supply with toilet paper: very very very appropriate!
- Curfews: appropriate
- Home office: appropriate
- No handshake policy: appropriate
- reading all kinds of news and pseudo-news about corona all day long and going crazy, so that you don’t have the time for really meaningful activities: not appropriate
- (toilet paper) panic buying: not appropriate, because the supply is guaranteed
- no conversation without talking about corona all the time: not appropriate
- worry insanely, get into depressions, be enormously stressed by the current situation, suffer mentally from it: not appropriate
- stop well-running campaigns by pure emotion, without first looking at the current (still good) sales figures: not appropriate
- acting hastily without acute need: not appropriate
So how can you mentally cope better with the situation? Here are a few suggestions:
1. classify COVID-19 with stoic serenity
“We suffer more from our imagination than from reality”Seneca
Let’s be honest with ourselves: That’s absolutely right!
Therefore my aim is generally putting things into the right perspective through rational thinking and to live a good life despite the many adversities that life simply brings with it all the time. Let’s take a look at a fact about COVID-19 that is important to me. According to the WHO, about 23,500 people worldwide have died of corona so far (as of 28.3.2020). In the second last, quite violent flu season, more than 25,000 people died only in Germany. That puts some things in a different light for me. Feel free to think about this thing by yourself…
Ist the fear of dying of COVID-19 reasonable? No! As of today (28.3.2020), more than 130,000 people infected with corona are already considered healthy again. They have survived the virus.
When we read or see news about someone who has a serious corona course of disease, when we read that there are not enough ventilators in Italy or when we are shocked that someone we know personally is in quarantine, then our situation feels very bad and the virus seems to be omnipresent. We suffer from the idea of getting sick too. Of getting very sick. But very few of us are sick and most of the sick are not very ill and survive the virus without any problems.
Reflect things with number-based rational thoughts. Consume as little news, pseudo news, talk shows or even corona virus entertainment shows as possible. I promise you, that alone will make you feel a little bit better.
They are also working on a vaccine against corona. We will get that!
One day, all corona related Problems will be over. We’ll have the virus under control and live well in a world with corona. This is guaranteed 100%.
“Some things are under our control and some are not”Epictetus
Or asked in other words: what is your area of control in relation to COVID-19?
For example, what is not under your control is that the virus exists. To get upset about it would be a senseless waste of time and energy. Likewise, it is not under your control whether corona-related financial problems of your company or employer affect your (working) life. Or whether you suffer from a curfew in whatever form.
What you can do, however, is to strengthen your immune system, to reduce your social contacts. Or, if you are forced to work less due to financial problems of your employer, you can use the newly gained time, for example for further education and learning, or to finally relax and reduce stress. So what is your area of control? What can you do?
In other words:
“The obstacle encourages action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”Marcus Aurelius
Corona (the obstacle) puts us a spoke in the wheel. It’s a really tough challenge. Regarding to health, economic, finances (for the companies and therefore possibly sooner or later for each one individual), emotions, humanity.
However, such a great challenge is also a great opportunity for personal growth. A chance to do the right things. To practice serenity, despite the stress that seems to overwhelm you.
Maybe the vision motivates you, that you can now do everything that’s needed in order to stay healthy. How can you avoid contact with the virus? How can you strengthen your immune system? How can you commit yourself physically and mentally to it? And then, when everything is over, you can look back with pride and say: “Yes, I did everything disciplined every single day and stayed healthy!” Then you can be proud of yourself.
You are facing a mental challenges with regard to the corona crisis? Maybe you don’t know whether your customers will continue to pay? Maybe even have an order to temporarily close your local store and don’t know when you will generate income again? But of course you still must pay the costs. Maybe you invested money in the financial markets and now stock prices have fallen? Money that you might need in the short term? In other words: pure stress!
Please watch the following short video of Navy Seals and leadership expert Jocko Willink, who had to cope with immense stress and overwhelming problems in Iraq:
So what’s good about corona?
Corona crisis? Good! It is THE opportunity for me to share a few things I have learned over the past 10 years as an entrepreneur and to inspire you.
Other examples (imaginary, not related to me):
Corona crisis, good…
- you now have the opportunity for a healthier lifestyle to strengthen your immune system. Maybe you should have addressed this a long time ago to yourself. Now you must!
- You may be facing financial problems. Now you have a reason to question all unnecessary costs and subscriptions and to cancel them. If everything is over, you will have far more financial resources for meaningful things.
- you might have some cash on your accounts. So now you can buy shares as cheap as you haven’t been able to for years. You can thus profit relatively strongly from future price increases because the stock markets have collapsed.
- corona challenges you mentally? You can now finally try to become more stress resistant and thus be more relaxed when facing problems in the future.
To think ahead: Why is the corona crisis good for you? How can you use the current situation to your advantage?
2. Use positive psychology
In order to be happy despite problems and stress, it is important to prevent you from suffering, when negative emotions take control over your mind.
The findings from the research field of positive psychology can help you in this. It is scientifically proven that negative emotions have a much stronger effect on the mind than positive ones. Which is of course a big problem especially in the current corona situation, because there are a lots of bad news. The headline that another person has died from it weighs a hundred times more heavily than the realization that so many people are healthy again.
So if there are too few positive feelings, they cannot compensate the even fewer strong negative feelings. You get caught in an emotional downward spiral. If you actively try to perceive a much greater number of positive feelings, you can get out of this spiral.
From the results of a study, psychologists have concluded the ideal mix of positive and negative feelings. It is 3:1. Thad means you need three times as many positive feelings as negative ones. (Source and highly recommended reading “Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive” by Barbara Lee Fredrickson)
Therefore, avoid reading, watching or listening to coronavirus related news and pseudo-news that drag you down and instead, for example, check every day how many people have survived the corona virus and are healthy again: The number will increase every day! When you feel the need, to inform you about Covid-19, THIS is the information you should look for.
You can find this number daily updated on https://www.bing.com/covid
To “keep up” with positivity you could also write down some positive things every day, for which you are grateful, which you were happy about or which are good news for you. This has proved to be a simple technique for me, not only in times of corona, to maintain a rather balanced and positive mindset, even if things go badly.
Get rid of corona depression and corona stress
Among friends, some employees and in the business world, I noticed many people who are very negative now because of the Corona crisis.
All those who are mentally troubled by this topic should think about possibilities of how they can immediately relax and reduce stress with simple methods. In the following I will explain some of my best practices that might also help you.
3. break the sleep vicious circle
“Sleep is the best meditation”Dalai Lama
Sleep deprivation is one of the main causes of a stress downward spiral and therefore it is more likely that we get into a corona-induced depressive mood, which does not improve anything, but only fuels the overall negative situation.
What scientists know for a long time: too much stress leads to poor / less sleep. Bad / less sleep leads to more stress. Leads to even less sleep. Leads to even more stress, etc.
If you suffer from sleep deprivation, your body also produces more stress hormones during the day, such as cortisol (click here for the study). And therefore you are more vulnerable to negative thoughts and emotions. Bad corona news then are a greater problem for you than for mentally balanced people.
If you sleep less than 6-8 hours a day on average, you should definitely work on sleeping longer and better. There are many things you can do to achieve this goal. Some of the most obvious things could be:
- Physically exhausting during the day: work out, physical work, going for a walk
- do not eat too much in the evening, not too heavy / not too fatty
- go to bed at the same time every evening and get up at the same time every morning
- Room temperature not too warm
- Read before going to bed, do not watch TV or play with your smartphone (the blue wavelengths of the light are a turn-on for your mind)
- Lights off, shutters closed
- and so on (with a simple Google search you will find countless other tips)
4. Stop your thoughts with Mindfulness
For years I have been practicing meditating on a nearly daily basis. With short guided meditations I find peace very easily, completely undogmatically without esoteric hocus-pocus. For this I use an app with guided meditations. Personally, I like headspace, but in the last few years I have also tried other apps that also worked very well for me, such as 7Mind or Calm. The underlying principle is the same for all of them. Someone tells you what to do. Usually this doing consists of simply doing nothing, except of observing your thoughts and of concentrating more and more on your breath. So little by little you stop your thoughts and come to rest. Just within a few minutes.
Meditating brings calmness. This is not only my personal experience, but also proven by scientific studies. For example, a 10-day training with short guided meditations leads to a 14% reduction in stress. (Source) Headspace even offers free meditations on a specially created site because of the fears associated with corona.
5. No mercy mindfulness: super hard and super effective
If you are not comfortable with meditation and you are more interested in physical experiences or if you simply find it difficult to calm your mind in meditation, the Wim Hof method might be just right for you. I recently discovered it myself and have been practicing it daily since then, with remarkable results.
In my opinion, the breathing exercise and the cold exposure are remarkable. With the Wim Hof breathing method you charge your body with a maximum of oxygen through a certain breathing method, in order to then not breathe at all for a very long time.
In addition, you expose yourself to cold temperatures, e.g. through ice-cold showers.
Both things bring you relatively quickly and easily to a physical limit where it is almost impossible to think any more negative thoughts. The adrenaline rushes and the body has other things to worry about than getting upset about trivial things or being afraid of anything. You practice mindfulness without mercy. In the moment of cold exposure or in a ice cold shower you are, and must be, completely in the present moment. No chance to ponder over the past, no chance to worry about the future. Just stop your thoughts and be happy afterwards!
Wim Hof, aka “the Iceman”, the man behind this method, is a Dutch extreme sportsman and mental guru who has set various (cold) world records thanks to these techniques and has proven the enormous effects on the mind and immune system through various scientific studies.
Why don’t you try it yourself? There is also a free app for this, with which you can start very easily.
Be confident, be mentally strong for yourself and your fellow people
I hope, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, that you can adapt some of these things for yourself and that you can roll them our in your own way. Maybe I could inspire you a little bit, maybe encourage you, maybe show you some new ways.
“Everything is going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine it’s not the end.”Oscar Wilde
Or in other words: In the end everything will be fine, only before that it really sucks.
Let’s endure this sucking times with stoic calm and live a good life.
And one last tip: buy enough toilet paper 😉