Fight, Flight, or Flow? Adrenaline Is A Killer
An adrenaline rush can be fun ad has it’s place. But adrenaline shouldn’t be part of your daily life.
Our world is becoming increasingly complex. The demands of balancing work, family, and time for ourselves are overwhelming. We rush through each day doing, accomplishing and performing – getting things done while adding to a growing list of what still needs to be done. Where does it stop?
This pattern produces the same response in us that our ancestors experienced when facing physical danger in their struggle to survive. The problem? For our ancestors, the surge of adrenaline (the hormone controlling the fight or flight response) was spent in the hunt. A period of relaxation followed bringing the body back to balance. For us, there’s little time for relaxation. Instead, our bodies are in a state of constant readiness – adrenaline flowing freely.
More stress. The bad news – increased levels of adrenaline in our bodies causes increases in blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and breathing rate and the immune system is diminished. The affect is cumulative so experiencing more stress means more adrenaline and a greater likelihood you’ll fall victim to stress-related health problems.
Stop the cycle. While it’s simple to give you the solution, it’s not easy to break the cycle. Like any other addiction, (this is an addiction) recovery is a process moving you from dependence on an adrenaline high to withdrawal and finally to balance and peace. With balance, you experience flow. In flow, you learn to step into your life on your own terms with no negative impact on your personal well-being. The process requires you to be willing to give up the adrenaline rush you’ve lived with, perhaps for your entire adult life, and to move through the discomfort of withdrawal.
How do you know if you have a problem with adrenaline? We use a 20 point self-test with clients. The questions identify triggers producing an adrenaline response. Look at these 7 questions. Answer yes or no to each. Do you…
- … tend to over promise and then rush to get things done?
- … find some way to sabotage yourself or a project and still usually pull it off?
- … tend to take on more than you really want to because you think you can?
- … drive more than 5 mph over the speed limit?
- … tend to run, or arrive, late, even if it’s usually not your fault?
- … react strongly to the unexpected?
- … neglect to plan plenty of time in your day for things which are likely to come up?
Answering yes to even one of these questions is a reason to look at the role adrenaline plays in your life. You can make different choices to change your physical and emotional responses. The first step is awareness there is a potential problem. Using this Adrenaline Self-Test is one way to heighten your awareness.
Break the Cycle
Once you’ve identified the triggers for your adrenaline response, you can decide how to break the cycle. For example, if you answered “yes” to running late, choose to leave 15 minutes earlier for every appointment. This eliminates your need to rush and moves you out of the adrenaline pattern. Once you’ve arrived for your appointment you can prepare yourself mentally for the meeting. Imagine the difference in you and your performance if, instead of beginning a meeting out of breath and scattered, you are poised and centered with a clear idea of what you want to accomplish. With this one change, you can begin to reclaim your power, be more effective and start becoming adrenaline free.
The ultimate goal is to live an adrenaline-free life – eliminate the triggering behavior and have more peace and serenity. It will change your life. You must be willing to experience extreme boredom while you’re learning a new way of being . . . and understand relationships around you will also change. Chances are if you’re living an adrenaline lifestyle, so are the people who surround you. Become less dependent on the adrenaline rush means you’ll also be less attracted to other people who are. They’ll probably not want to be around you, either. You’ll be too calm, too much at peace, and more in flow.
This evolution in relationships happens whenever you make shifts in your life. I have clients whose entire support structure has changed as a direct result of shifts they’ve made out of the adrenaline lifestyle. They’re happier now even having experienced discomfort through the transition.
What’s the real message? We live in a “hurry-up” world and have adapted our lives to be in the fight or flight response almost all the time. This is physically damaging to us (and emotionally draining). You can make extreme changes in your life to make flow a conscious choice instead of a happy accident. You can make the changes. You can do anything you want to. Just decide.
(Click on this link if you’d like a copy of the complete Adrenaline Self-Assessment. There is no charge for this.)
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