Most of us have heard of an "adrenaline rush." Maybe you've experienced this feeling if you've ever gone skydiving or participated in similar activities. Adrenaline is also useful when you're in danger because it prepares your body to do what you need to do to keep yourself safe.
However, your body can also release adrenaline when you're not in danger. When this happens, it can result in anxiety. What's the relationship between adrenaline and anxiety? Let's dive in and learn more.
What is adrenaline?
Also known as epinephrine, adrenaline is a hormone the adrenal glands release when you feel stress or find yourself in a dangerous situation. You'll often see adrenaline referred to as the "fight-or-flight" hormone for this reason. The adrenal glands are located above the kidneys.
When you perceive a threat, the adrenal glands go to work, flooding your body with adrenaline, which can help you rapidly react to a threat. Blood flow to the muscles and brain increase, and we feel the famous "adrenaline rush."
In addition to adrenaline, the adrenal glands also produce other hormones, including:
- Cortisol (the stress hormone)
There are two parts to the adrenal glands: the adrenal cortex (outer glands) and the adrenal medulla (inner glands). The adrenal medulla produces adrenaline.
Adrenaline's role in stress and danger
Once adrenaline hits the bloodstream, all of these things happen:
- Muscles get a boost of energy.
- Breathing becomes faster.
- Heart rate increases.
- Blood is directed to your major muscle groups.
- Because the muscle cells are contracting, you begin to sweat.
- Insulin production is stopped.
When your body senses danger or stress, the brain's amygdala sends a danger signal to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus then uses the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) to subsequently signal to the rest of the body that danger is lurking.
What is adrenaline anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of intense fear, stress, or panic. While it's normal to experience some anxiety during times of stress, many people live with an anxiety disorder, and they experience these feelings more frequently.
Anxiety disorders have an effect on a person's daily life, including, relationships, work, and eventually, physical health.
Adrenaline anxiety occurs when the body experiences stress or anxiety. While adrenaline helps when you need to react quickly without thinking, rushes of adrenaline also come about when we feel danger but aren't truly at risk.
When adrenaline is the result of anxious thoughts or stress, you can be left with feelings of anxiousness and irritability.
Symptoms of adrenaline anxiety
Knowing what adrenaline anxiety looks and feels like can help you cope better.
Adrenaline anxiety symptoms include:
- Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Rapid breathing (hyperventilation)
- Excessive sweating
- Trembling or shaking
How to reduce adrenaline anxiety
Our bodies aren't made to always be in fight-or-flight mode. When there's no real danger, excess adrenaline creates havoc in your bodily symptoms.
Knowing how to cope with adrenaline anxiety can help you return your body to its normal state. Below, we list several things you can do to help manage adrenaline anxiety.
Identify the underlying cause
When you're feeling excessive anxiety or symptoms of adrenaline anxiety, consider noting on a piece of paper all of the things occupying your mind at that moment. This can help you see what triggers your adrenaline anxiety.
By knowing what causes your adrenaline anxiety, it may be possible to make proactive changes in your life or habits.
Spend more time outdoors
Spending time in the great outdoors is known to help improve mental health and reduce anxiety. Moreover, outside time also lowers cortisol levels and reduces blood pressure.
Start a meditation practice
Countless studies have shown the benefits of meditation. When you meditate, it can help you relax, focus, and even go to sleep. There are a few different types of meditation:
- Guided meditation
- Mindfulness meditation
- Mantra meditation
Maybe mediation doesn't appeal to you. If so, consider trying breathwork. One of the effects of adrenaline anxiety is short, quick, and shallow breaths that do nothing to help with your anxiety.
When you take repeated deep diaphragmatic breaths, you can reduce adrenaline anxiety and lower cortisol levels. Here's how to do breathwork:
- Sit in a comfortable spot.
- Start taking deep breaths into the diaphragm.
- Continue this process for a few minutes until you start to feel relaxed.
- Focus on the air coming into and out of your body.
For a more powerful breathing technique, try the 4-7-8 method.
- Find a comfortable place to sit.
- Breathe in for four deep, slow counts.
- Hold your breath for seven seconds.
- Breathe out for eight counts slowly.
- Repeat steps 1-4 a few times.
Reduce your caffeine intake
Coffee has health benefits, but the caffeine in this beloved beverage can aggravate the symptoms of adrenaline anxiety. You can enjoy your favorite caffeinated beverages in moderation, or switch to coffee with half the caffeine or decaffeinated coffee. And if you’re drinking energy drinks or other beverages with large amounts of caffeine, try to cut back or eliminate these beverages.
Endorphins are your body's feel-good hormones, and the more your body produces, the better your workout will make you feel.
If you're not up for going to the gym, you can head to a yoga class instead. For many people, yoga is an excellent tool for anxiety. In addition to in-person yoga classes, you can also do free yoga classes online.
Practice muscle relaxation techniques
On YouTube, you can find videos demonstrating how to do muscle relaxation techniques. Taking a warm shower or bath also helps relax your muscles.
Talk to someone
Have you ever noticed when you talk about something that's troubling you or scaring you, it seems less scary? Sharing your worries with a trusted friend or therapist allows you to speak your feelings aloud to relieve stress.
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