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Adrenaline Addiction Can Kill You

Laura Hess

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Our world is becoming increasingly complex. The demands of balancing work and family and finding 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 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 body's reaction to danger (stress), then and now, is to release adrenaline, the hormone controlling the fight or flight response - the readiness to face our challenges or to run from them.

The problem: For our ancestors, the surge of adrenaline was spent in the hunt. A period of relaxation followed the hunt bringing the body back to balance. For modern men and women there is little, if any, time for relaxation. Instead, our bodies are in a state of constant readiness to meet our challenges - adrenaline flowing freely.

The result: More stress. It's worse than that, though. Increased levels of adrenaline in our bodies causes increases in blood pressure and heart rate. Muscle tension increases, breathing rates increase and the immune system is diminished. The affect is cumulative so experiencing more stress means more adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone, and a greater likelihood you'll fall victim to stress-related health problems.

The solution: Get out of the cycle. While it is that simple to give you the solution, I know it's not easy to break the cycle. Like any other addiction, (this is an addiction) breaking the cycle is a process that will move you from dependence on an adrenaline high, into withdrawal and finally into having balance in your life. With balance, you start experiencing flow. In flow, life goes on around you and 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 for, perhaps, your entire adult life. You must be committed to moving through the discomfort of withdrawal.

How do you know if you have a problem with adrenaline? In my coaching business I use a 20 point self-test with my clients. The questions identify triggers that produce an adrenaline response. Look at the following 10 questions from the self-test and answer yes or no to each:

1. Do you tend to over promise and then rush to get things done?
2. Do you find some way to sabotage yourself or a project and still usually pull it off?
3. Do you tend to take on more than you really want to because you think you can?
4. Do you drive more than 5 mph over the speed limit?
5. Do you tend to run, or arrive, late, even if it's usually not your fault?
6. Do you people-please to the point of feeling compulsive, regardless of appropriateness or cost?
7. Do you find you attract more problems and upsets than you feel you deserve?
8. Are you not clearly winning at work yet working very hard?
9. Do you neglect to plan plenty of time in your day for things which are likely to come up?
10. Do you talk a lot even after people have stopped listening?

Answering yes to even one of these questions is 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 that there is a potential problem. Using this Adrenaline Self-Test is one way to heighten your awareness.

Having identified the triggers for your own adrenaline response, you can decide how to break the cycle. For example, if you answered “yes" to running late, you can choose to leave 15 minutes early for every appointment. This eliminates your need to rush and moves you out of the adrenaline style. Of greater benefit, though, is once you've arrived you have a chance to prepare yourself mentally for your 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. Since I made this change in my own life I find I am often more ready for meetings than the person I'm meeting. With this one change, you can begin to reclaim your personal 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. Like any other addiction, giving it up will change your life. You must be willing to experience extreme boredom while you are learning a new way of being. More important is understanding the relationships around you will also change. Chances are if you're living an adrenaline lifestyle, so are the people who surround you. As you become less dependent on that adrenaline rush, you will be less attracted to people who are. They'll probably not want to be around you, either. You will 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 to move out of an adrenaline lifestyle. They're happier now even after 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 have the ability to make the changes. You can do anything you want to.

Just decide.

Laura Hess is a Master Certified Coach who has worked with thousands of people to achieve success in their business and personal lives. She works with people across the globe and combines her coaching skills with her experience as a CPA to help make success possible for her clients. (You can read more about Laura at ) Laura believes it's possible for anybody to live their passions and she speaks from experience. Most recently Laura began learning to play the harp and it has become a spiritual and meditative practice for her. Her belief that people can live successfully on their own terms comes from her years of seeing it happen with her clients. Success happens when people commit to their goals and dreams and focus on making them happen. Success is a choice.


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