The term VUCA stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. First introduced by the U.S. Army War College after the Cold War, it’s now used broadly and even in the business world. A VUCA business environment is not conducive to creativity and innovation, but leaders can make changes to ensure that they are protected from the dog-eat-dog world.
Living in nature to reconnect with your true self
While filming the documentary, I had the pleasure of meeting with neuroscientist, author, and speaker Dr. Kaushik Ram. During our discussion, he spoke about how he felt the most alive while living in a cave to write his book. This time in nature gave him a real perspective on how disconnected we’ve become from our bodies and the world around us.
When we walk and commune with nature, we listen to our bodies and pay more attention to our surroundings, which helps to integrate our sensory-motor systems (movement) and our cognitive systems (how we think). He pointed out that we often miss out on this integration when working in a tiny cubicle in a high-rise in a huge city.
Vagal tone and the link with the VUCA
Your vagus nerve (also called the pneumogastric nerve for the science gurus), controls your autonomic nervous system. It keeps your body regulated when at rest, and you don’t have conscious control over it. The vagus nerve is in charge of functions such as heart rate, sweating, swallowing, and muscle movements in the mouth.
Vagal tone can provide a way to measure the effects of stress. Low vagal tone has been linked to mental, physical, and physiological diseases. When you have high vagal tone, you have strong communication between your brain & body. Fortunately, we can increase our vagal tone and decrease the risks of illnesses associated with poor tone.
Increasing your vagal tone, improving your leadership skills, and seeing positive effects
in your personal life
We can increase our vagal tone and reap the benefits across the spectrum of our lives. You should see improvements not only at work but in your personal life and at play. The link between a calm, relaxed mind and your body is more profound than you probably know, and it’s never too late to start making changes that will positively impact your life.
Play is interesting because it does not provide the endpoint. We play for the pleasure of playing, and that is the benefit.
Dr. Kaushik Ram
To increase your vagal tone, consider taking some time for yourself and put your body and mind into a parasympathetic state. This is when your body is calm and relaxed, ready for rest and restoration. In contrast, the sympathetic state is associated with the highly-charged fight or flight mode.
- Go outside. Even if you live in a city, you can find some green space. You may not have the access or resources to live in a cave for a month, but you can definitely find some trees and grass and let yourself relax in nature. Even better, plan a short getaway and spend some time far away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
- Slow down. We live in such an active era, and the demands of work and home and personal time seem to pull us in every direction. But when you slow down, your thought processes change, and you are open to creativity and possibility. You’ll have thoughts and ideas that you wouldn’t typically.
- Get moving and play. While time to rest outside is essential, you also need to move your body. Humans aren’t meant to sit idly for hours on end at a desk. Add exercise, walks, and time to just goof off into your schedule. And then stick to it! It’s important for your mental and physical health.
You can also increase your vagal tone by having a cold shower in the morning, breathing deeply, practising meditation, connecting with others, singing or having massage sessions or acupuncture.
Leaders who are focused only on the bottom line will experience a constant level of stress, and this stress will go down the chain to other employees. Your thoughts become linear when you are stressed and you’ll have low vagal tone, making it difficult to be creative or innovative. Break out of this VUCA world and create an environment that nurtures and encourages you and your employees.