“Heartbeat” (CC BY 2.0) by Joyce Kaes
Whenever you find yourself in a stressful situation, you experience a number of physical symptoms. We’ve all had them, whether we’re racing to catch a train, about to make a major presentation or are even facing a direct physical threat.
For starters, your heart feels like it’s about to beat out of your chest, your palms are clammy and sweaty and your immediate response is to look for a quick way to either escape or to confront the situation. This is a classic example of the fight-or-flight response – a reaction hardwired into us all and equally common throughout the animal kingdom. It’s caused by the sudden flooding of our system by the hormone adrenaline and, although the physical effects can be unpleasant to experience and over-exposure to it can be physically damaging, without it we’d find ourselves unable to cope in a wide range of situations.
The actual hormone is produced in the medulla by the adrenal glands as well as by a number of neurons throughout the body’s nervous systems. And, unlike some hormones which work more slowly, there are always plentiful supplies waiting to be released in a split second as a danger signal is received.
As the fuel that lies behind the fight-or-flight response, the physical responses that it generates all serve a logical purpose. These include the dilation of air passages to the lungs to give a burst of oxygenated blood to the muscles, driven by a rapidly beating heart. As a result, we – hopefully – have all the energy needed to either confront or evade the threat in question
Of course, the emotion that adrenaline is linked with just as closely as fear is stress – a reaction to our environment that is often seen as detrimental to our overall wellbeing and peace of mind. But this doesn’t always have to be the case as, in certain circumstances, the super-sensitive levels of alertness that it can generate can be harnessed to help you perform at a heightened level in a number of ways. Here are just 10 of them.
1. It can help you hit a deadline
When your brain is flooded with adrenaline, for example when that feeling of panic that a deadline’s going to be missed, it focuses your attention very effectively indeed. So rather than relying on cups of coffee to sharpen you up and get you in the right mood to perform when it’s vital, just trust in your own in-built rocket fuel instead.
2. It can help you to see more clearly
Because the role of adrenaline is to get your body ready to react to a danger it can also help you to spot the signs of it approaching. It does this by making your pupils dilate in order to let in more light, which allows you to be more sensitive to the visible signs of an impending attack.
3. It can help you breathe more easily
When you’re stressed you may have the sensation of feeling tightly wound up. So it might be a surprise to learn that adrenaline actually causes some parts of the body to relax including your bronchioles allowing more vital oxygen to be absorbed into the bloodstream. That’s why injections of synthetic adrenaline are often given to asthma sufferers when they are having an attack.
4. It can help you experience life more intensely.
“Loop” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by PanCa SatRio
When adrenaline is coursing round your body it plays a key role in creating what doctors call the “excitation transfer process” which works to intensify any feelings that you’re having at the time. That’s why roller coasters are such an exhilarating and addictive experience for some – and such a source of dread for others.
5. It can help you to manage pain
In a process that’s still only partially understood, adrenaline helps to block pain receptors, at least when it’s in your system. This obviously has a number of advantages – and not just when you feel under real physical threat. For athletes, it can help them focus on the excitement of striving for victory and overcome the pain they’ll have to endure to reach that finishing line.
6. It can give you extra strength
While tales of super-human strength when under extreme stress may seem like an exaggeration, there is considerable evidence – and logic – behind the assertion that a shot of adrenaline can help us all to achieve feats that would normally prove to be beyond us. That’s because when muscles are receiving a highly oxygenated blood supply from exercise and adrenaline they will be able to work extra efficiently and, again, this could be why athletes fired up to perform can go on break world records.
7. It can make you bolder
When you’re in a situation where there’s plenty at stake it can be helpful if the rational can be over-ridden by the impulsive. Say, for example, you’re playing in a live online casino like bitcasino.io. The thrill of the play and the chance to go for a big win could well lead you to on-the-spot decision-making that, in the normal course of events, you simply wouldn’t contemplate. And, hopefully, you would then discover that fortune really does favour the brave.
8. It can help you think more clearly
There’s also evidence that when you’re in a stressful situation it can also help you to think more clearly. An academic called Michael Gass of the University of New Hampshire has found, in two decades of studying the benefits of physical risk taking, that when danger presents itself instinct takes over, blocking out all extraneous detail.
9. It can help to fight off illness
Just as adrenaline primes your body to get everything working at maximum efficiency it also gives a real boost to your immune system, at least for a short period of time, by sending your white blood cells into overdrive
10. It might even slow down the ageing process
Research is still in its early stages but it’s even thought that the antioxidants that are released in an adrenaline rush also serve to destroy many of the free radicals that are responsible for a certain amount of tissue damage that is part of the ageing process – and that really is something to get excited about.