Stress Management

Stress, Leadership and Uncertainty

By March 16, 2020May 28th, 2020No Comments

We are in unprecedented times at the moment, and it is only natural we look to our leaders to make crucial decisions that will hopefully lessen the impact of what is already becoming a global tragedy. I cannot, for one minute, understand the pressure that the government and medical experts are under at the moment, but it seems clear to me that there is a crucial element missing of their leadership.

Dr Steve Peters writes about The Chimp Paradox in which he explains about the impact of the 3 main areas of the brain. The Human, The Chimp and The Computer. In a very basic explanation, The Chimp is the most primitive part of our brain, it’s emotional, has been around the longest, and deals in survival and irrational thought. The Human deals in fact and helps us make rational decisions. And finally, The Computer processes what happens between the Human and The Chimp and makes a decision according to the situation.

The most interesting thing here though is that the Chimp is 5 times more powerful than the Human side of our brain. Thankfully, when we are crossing the road and a car appears unexpectedly, our default reaction is to jump out of the way to keep us alive. It’s a good job!

However, this primitive response also occurs in most daily situations we come across; presentations, speeches, disagreements, even curve balls in meetings. We are not under threat as such, but we face pressure, and uncertainty. It is this uncertainty that causes our chimp to take control, and it is this uncertainty that causes us to look for survival.

This uncertainty causes us to look for survival

The current pandemic represents one of the most uncertain times for us all, but it seems to be heightened by the fact that, other than been told to clean our hands and stay out of the way of high risk individuals, we are told little else. I understand people in leadership positions undoubtedly have to filter information; it’s simply not feasible to expect every decision to explained. However, why is our approach so different to other countries? Why do we not have a daily update from the PM or one of the main Dr’s in charge? Is ‘herd immunity’ really the right answer? Why are we relying on the media to give us the answers we require, knowing that each outlet has a slightly different take? These are only a few questions that I have, and no doubt you will have more. But, lack of enough information leads to speculation; it leads to a lack of trust, it leads to stress and it leads to people making irrational decisions. Whilst I completely disagree with people emptying the supermarkets at a rate of knots, I can understand why they are there.

So, what is missing?

Communication is, of course, a key ingredient to leadership. In fact, it’s a no brainer. However, I really feel that there is absolutely no clarity to what is being delivered to us. I have to keep telling myself that the powers that be have a concrete plan, but this lack of clear information makes me question what I should really believe.


So, what can we do personally? Here are a just a couple of things

Control the controllables.

We often feel anxious and worried when things seem out of control, but at the end of the day, we can only control what we can control. This virus is a prime example of being in a situation where we have to accept that there will be many things out of our control. Whilst we can limit our travel and take care of our personal hygiene, we cannot account for what it does to each person, or even for what our neighbours decide to do on a daily basis. You cannot ask for any more of yourself if you feel you have done everything in your power to be in control.


Whenever you find yourself worrying about the current situation, take a minute to focus on your breathing. Not only will it settle your stress response, it will give you some time to think about whether buying a year’s supply of hand sanitiser is really the right thing to do!


Look at how you sleep, what you eat and drink, and what exercise you can do to keep your immune systems high. The stronger we feel, the more able we are to counter whatever is thrown at us.

And finally, WASH YOUR HANDS!

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