One of the core tasks of leadership is to manage paradoxes. In this series of articles, I present an approach on holistic paradox management.


Paradoxes manifest themselves as tensions in our bodies. Our stress system is activated, and we find ourselves in our fight or flight mode. If this stress is not reduced, it is extremely unhealthy and may lead to stress-related diseases, such as burnout. In the acute situation, stress causes us to switch on our autopilot, which consists of our learned cognitive, emotional, and behavioral patterns. This makes it difficult or even impossible to manage a paradox successfully. Emotional paradox management has two goals: (1) reduction of stress and (2) integration of the paradoxical contradiction. To achieve both, I present the bodyhacks below. Bodyhacks are short physical exercises that support us in our holistic self-management.


Bodyhack 1: Integration

Effect: Why am I doing this?

If your mind is racing and you need to distance yourself from your various obligations, then you can perform this bodyhack to interrupt the stress cycle.

Method: How do I do it?

Stand upright in the room and focus on your body movements:

  • Lift your heels off the floor a little and then let them fall back down to the floor.
  • When your heels strike, there is a slight vibration that goes through the whole body, which allows your muscles to thoroughly relax.
  • Be sure to keep your knees relaxed when your heels hit the ground.
  • Do this exercise for five to ten minutes, always trying to keep the same pace, the same rhythm.

Through the monotony and the repetition of the movement, your head will be clear, and you can let go of mental and physical tension and stress. Now, reflect how feel, and how your stress levels have changed.



In addition to reducing stress, the paradoxical experience itself should be resolved. We encounter paradoxes repeatedly in our development, e.g., in the form of conflict between autonomy and dependence. We can successfully manage these conflicts by moving from an either/or mode to a both-and mode, in which both sides of the paradox have ample room to unfold. If we do not succeed in this, we will cling desperately to our autonomy, for example, and avoid or fight situations in which we could become dependent.


Bodyhack 2: Synchronization

Effect: Why am I doing this?

The bodyhack helps you to get into the both-and mode described above. Switching back and forth between the emotional state of both sides of the paradox promotes acceptance to both points of view. In addition, you will develop the competence to switch from one state to the other more quickly.

Method: How do I do it?

For the success of the exercise, it is helpful to be in a relaxed mental state. For this purpose, it is a good idea, for example, to carry out the first body hack “Integration”, and then return to a basic posture as a starting point for the second body hack:

  • Both feet are parallel and hip-width apart,
  • The knees are relaxed and minimally bent,
  • The pelvis is relaxed, and you breathe into your belly,
  • Your shoulders are loose (feel free to pull them up, back and then drop them down 2-3 times),
  • Your head is relaxed in the middle of your shoulders and an invisible thread gently pulls the crown of your head upwards so that your body straightens up,
  • You feel your body without judging possible tensions and let thoughts that arise also move on without evaluation.


From this state you now continue with the bodyhack:

Step 1:

Go into the state of the side of the paradox that feels unfamiliar or even alien to you. In the example from parts 1 and 2 of this series, for example, this would be quick decision-making. Adjust your body position to match your experience of this state:

  • What is your posture (legs, arms, shoulders, head, etc.)?
  • What is your breathing like (e.g., fast / slow, in the chest or in the belly)?
  • What emotions do you feel (e.g., joy, excitement, tension, fear)?

Try as much as you can to not evaluate your experience, i.e., to assess it as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but rather simply perceive it without prejudice. Stay here for a moment.

Step 2:

Now detach yourself from the state you were in and switch to the state of the other side of the paradox. Again, adjust your body position:

  • What is your posture (legs, arms, shoulders, head, etc.)?
  • What is your breathing like (e.g., fast / slow, in the chest or in the abdomen)?
  • What emotions do you feel (e.g., joy, excitement, tension, fear)?

Here, too, take a moment in this state.

Step 3:

Now switch back and forth between the two states 3-5 times. Take your time and keep feeling the experience of both states. Make sure to return to a relaxed basic state throughout. If you experience excessive tension, return to the starting position described above and stay there for a moment.

Step 4:

Now come back to the starting position, close your eyes, and take time for a short reflection:

  • How does my body feel now?
  • What thoughts are going through my head?
  • What impulses (action) do I feel within me?

If you do the exercise regularly and combine it with rational (head, part 2 of the series) and operational (hand, part 4 of the series) paradox management, you will notice that you can manage your paradox with more ease, allowing the inner state of tension to decrease.



In the fourth and final part of this series, I describe how paradox management is handled in everyday life.