Adrenaline: Fight-or-flight rush


When a person feels extreme emotions the body’s response is the release of adrenaline. The heart starts to race, the hands start to sweat, and you want to escape, which is that flight-or-flight mode. Another name for adrenaline is epinephrine. This hormone lives in the central nervous system and is produced by the medulla in the adrenal glands. These glands are found on top of the kidneys. The pituitary gland controls the adrenal glands. Our brain receives emotional information and sends it to the amygdala. Here, the emotional state is processed. When a stressful situation arises, adrenaline is released into the blood, which then sends signals to the organs to respond. Adrenaline binds to the receptor cells of the lungs, and the person starts to breathe faster.

The response that adrenaline creates, flight-or-flight, causes air passages to dilate in order for the muscles to receive adequate oxygen in case the body needs to fight or flee. At the same time, the blood vessels contract in order to re-direct the blood towards the major muscles who might be involved, particularly the heart and lungs. The body also becomes Superman and can almost feel no pain during this time. This is a person who hasn’t ran in years can suddenly run when threated by danger. During this stressful time, the body also increases in strength and performance.

Adrenaline is a weapon for survival. However, there are times when the body can release adrenaline during unnecessary times. A person might feel stressed, but that doesn’t mean there is real danger near. When this happens, glucose levels rise, and a person become restless and irritable with all this pent-up energy. Feeling dizzy, light-headed, and having a headache can also occur. High levels of unnecessary adrenaline can lead to insomnia, heart damage, feeling nervous as well as jittery. Having too little adrenaline is rarely the case.

The body does not need constant and chronic stress. The reaction of adrenaline can happen so fast that a person doesn’t even realize it. Some people even seek adrenaline rushes by taking part in skydiving, ziplining, watching scary movies, or bungee jumping. For those people who necessary seek adrenaline rushes, the nighttime can take care of that situation for them. Adrenaline likes to surface when a person is laying down at night and thinking about what is going to happen tomorrow. This worry and anxiety can make a person feel restless. Certain noises can stir up adrenaline.

It is important to stop and breathe and take a moment when this unwanted rush starts to happen. This can be done with breathing technique or meditation, or merely practicing self-awareness. Adrenaline isn’t all bad, in fact a person might not be able to jump out of the way of an oncoming car if it weren’t for this hormone. When adrenaline is heightened frequently in the body, the ongoing rush of emotions can take its toll mentally and physically. Taking time to relax and recover or even exercise to release stress naturally should be highly considered and practiced. Your heart rate will tell you when it’s time to slow down, ground yourself, and realize what can be altered to avoid triggers. Take a nice bath with lavender to end a stressful day. We don’t always have to fight-or-flee, rather, we can just breathe and be in the moment.

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Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough owns a fitness studio in Oceanside CA called Every BODY's Fit. She has a Doctorate in Health and Human Performance, M.A. in Physical Education & Health Science, and she's an NASM Master Trainer & Instructor. She's also a professional natural bodybuilder, fitness model, Wellness Coach, and AFAA Group Exercise Instructor. She has 6 books on Amazon too,.