Recently I have been asked the same question, how do we start our journey of finding peace and freedom from all the challenges life can throw at us. And I find myself giving the same reply; become a friend of adrenaline. Adrenaline? Isn’t adrenaline bad? Doesn’t it lead to adrenal fatigue? I don’t want to feel adrenaline? My goal is to avoid it at all costs. It scares me because I feel out of control when I feel it. Sound familiar? If it does read on below for some thoughts and some ways that adrenaline becoming our friend is the doorway to finding true peace and freedom.
Let’s start by demystifying and untangling adrenaline. For too long adrenaline has been tangled with cortisol (the stress hormone). Too much stress or even low levels of prolonged stress is harmful to our health and wellbeing. We want to see cortisol levels lower but adrenaline and cortisol are released at different times and have different functions. Adrenaline when it is first released comes from the hypothalamus sending a message to the pituitary gland that we need to pay attention, something is happening and that something could be a threat. If our interpretation is that it is a threat then the pituitary gland will send a message to the adrenal gland (the centre that we can experience adrenal fatigue from) and cortisol is released. I know you are probably thinking, you don’t like the sound of any of it and it is best to avoid it. The problem with that approach is we are not paying attention or processing our worlds and while we are not doing that we will be under stress.
In the purest sense adrenaline tells us something changed, something is happening and if we see it as a friend then we can figure that out. Maybe it was just a thought, I can’t do this, adrenaline will be released with the objective to give you the awareness that something just changed. We went from feeling we could do it to a thought we can’t. That is a change and the brain doesn’t like change. Change to the brain is threat. That simple awareness of the change now give us space to figure out how we want to respond. Maybe it is by taking a break and having a short walk or a drink. Maybe it is by changing the thought to “I can do this and I can do more”. Maybe it is sharing with a close friend this feels out of my league. Each of these 3 responses tell the brain that change doesn’t need a stress response, it needs a planned response. This interrupts the message to the adrenal gland. A planned response based on noticing adrenaline means we will have the awareness to choose a different response rather than being stressed.
Routines, predictability, self care all help us feel safe but the one thing we all know about life is there will be change. I have a belief that change is the prerequisite for improvement so change also doesn’t scare me. The unexpected will be part of our lives and when we learn to be a friend to adrenaline we will find a greater self-compassion and whole way of living.
My challenge to you, is become a friend to adrenaline. It simply tells us something has changed.