April 15, 2019

Adrenaline: friend or foe

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Adrenaline: the friend

Adrenaline is a hormone that our body produces in response to stress. In a moment of danger, it kicks in to help us navigate to a place of safety. In this way it is a very helpful friend.

Yesterday, I saw my cat playing with a meter (three foot) brown snake—one of the most poisonous types in the world. Instantly, my heart rate elevated as I sprang into motion, thoughts processing quickly: I have bare feet, shorts on, what do I do re personal safety? How do I protect my cat? Keep the snake out of my house? What can I get to deal with the snake?

I ran to get a long-handled spade from in front of the shed. Put on my steel-capped boots and arrived back to where the cat was, head and tail visible, in the Singapore Daisy looking for the snake. Used spade to lift cat from the ground cover. Snake got away, but the cat was safe. I took her inside and she flopped on the ground panting. Her adrenaline kicked in to help her fight and now post danger she needed to recover. The cat lives to protect another day. My heart rate took some time to turn to normal.

Adrenaline: the foe

Adrenaline is our friend in stressful situations. I became addicted to excessive drawing on it. My friend to a foe. It is a terrible master.
Heading into burnout (see previous blogs), I did not see that I was living on adrenaline. Many times of stress and the responding flow of adrenaline had taught my body to rely on this drug.

The addiction to adrenaline made me go harder. I upped my visits to the gym, working the weights, pushing in the spin class to make the heart pound and the adrenalin flow. Going harder at work did not change my effectiveness. Things around me were crumbling. I became critical of my leaders who were flagging. My prayers became strident, pushy and aggressive. Adrenaline prayers are like the sound of fingernails on a blackboard. I was blind to the control that Adrenaline had over my life.

It took three months away from the stress of work for the inner whir to stop. I stopped. I seemed to get worse. Adrenal fatigue had kicked in. My body needed to rest to recover. I have some good news for you. If you are running on adrenaline you can get better.

Do you have any signs of living on adrenaline?

One obvious place adrenaline addiction can be seen is in sleeplessness. Arch Hart in his very helpful book says “one very simple, commonly overlooked factor contributing to sleeplessness is elevated adrenaline.”

Hart, Archibald. Adrenaline and Stress: The Exciting New Breakthrough That Helps You Overcome Stress Damage (Kindle Location 2488). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. (Highly recommended for any stressful vocation).

Person Operating Smartwatch

In the middle of one sleepless night in the journey of recovery, I discovered my heart rate was 90bpm. My resting is under 60bpm. It was an ah-ha moment. In response to the stress of the day, adrenaline was running. It was not hard to work out what was churning inside. Making notes and noting steps forward have become a very helpful key to turning off the adrenaline.

The key question here is do you have any signs of living on adrenaline? If your answer is yes, who can help you understand and make changes?

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