Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stress and Adrenaline... (How They Met)

As you inch up foot by foot at a 90 degree angle, head firm against the headrest, eyes closed, arms outstretched, fists clenched... heart beating like a drum, your mouth waters as it prepares for a blood curdling scream and nervous uncontrollable laughter... this is stress at it's best, a rush of epinephrine (aka adrenaline) as you plummet into the swirls and curls of the best roller coaster you have ridden all year. This type of stress is the good kind. It's the same sort of stress you experience when trying to reach a goal and you are almost there, when you are presenting something at work to land that "big deal", asking for a raise, or getting ready to have a baby for the first time. You are nervous, scared, excited and feel you could vomit at any moment but deep down you know that in the end it will all be okay. 

Life has it's ups and downs, we all know that. But what you may not have known is that there IS good stress (let's face it, we all know there is bad stress.) I recently read an article in one of my favorite Psychology magazines that talked about what happens to our bodies physically, emotionally, physiologically  and chemically during stress of different kinds and it sparked the idea to blog about it. It was a truly fascinating article, so I will share some of what I learned. For me, this article explained physiologically why in the past three years I have been able to accomplish so much and literally turn my life around after being at such a low point simply by changing my frame of mind. From this article I learned that I also inadvertently changed my type of stress and when that happened; everything changed for me. I became this unstoppable machine ready to conquer the world with both feet in and hands in the air. I began looking at everything in a different way, I looked at obstacles as challenges not as threats. I changed my outcome by doing what I had to do and decided that NOTHING was going to stop me or derail my future EVER again. I embraced adversity more than I ever had, and decided that I would WIN no matter what.

Now for the scientific explanation (the cliff note version in case you are not turned on by intellectual information like I am.) There are three chemicals in the brain that are forced into action during stress... epinephrine, nor epinephrine, and cortisol. Now here's what they mean to our stress levels.

Good stress is riding a roller coaster... having sex, giving a presentation, climbing a mountain; lots of epinephrine a little bit of nor epinephrine, and cortisol is slowly oozing in... this is challenge stress, the good kind, the kind that makes you want to wake up and roast the beans AND make the coffee. Healthy stress helps you achieve great things.

It is the day before you have to give a speech in front of tons of people, all eyes will be on you... the success of it could make or break your career. You can't sleep, you have no appetite, you worry that you will fail. The day of the presentation you are still worried and you are beginning to forget everything you were going to say, you are not focused you are lost... epinephrine runs rabid, nor epinephrine follows abruptly and begins outweigh the epinephrine which causes more constriction on your blood vessels, your heart rate increases but the blood is not flowing as freely and cortisol intrudes in a big way. Your hands go cold, you are numb... this is threat stress. NOT good!

Beyond this is the worst kind, when epinephrine is being released in the smallest amount, and cortisol is the main game player. This is where high stress, heart attack waiting to happen, anxiety attack stress sets in. DEADLY stress that you must avoid at all costs. People who have this type of stress have also been found to have trouble remembering things that have emotion attached to them. (My question is could this be what happens to Alzheimer patients? What about people who experience post traumatic stress syndrome?) You just witnessed how my mind works and how my research begins. ugh my brain never shuts off.

Okay so now that I have bored some of you you to death... let's get back to Shelley talk on this topic.

This is the cool part... everyone has a different stress threshold, in other words, how much we can handle before we snap. Some of it is psychological, some of it genetic. Some of us, (me) love challenges because they are there to conquer, so I would assume I have a higher threshold than most. (If not, I would never be writing this I can promise that!) However it is Physiologically PROVEN that how you let a situation of stress affect you has everything to do with the outcome. Here is a scenario that the article used as an example: 

You come home after a day of torrential rain, your basement is flooded and the water is till rising. Your spouse is pacing and cursing and can't think straight. You arrive the problem solver, your mind is sharp as a tack, yes you are upset, but your mind is clear and you know what to do. You run to the local hardware store and get a pump, you return home and begin pumping the water from the basement. You sigh in relief as the water level rapidly decreases, problem solved. (Your spouse is still cursing)

Okay, so do you see how changing the way things and situations affect you can change the outcome in the end? I hope so.

Shift your mindset, change your "stinkin thinkin" and things will change all around you faster than you can grasp them. I PROMISE!

Three years ago I was in a mess.... everything around me was a mess, I was an emotional basket case and could not think straight. I had NO idea WHAT I was going to do because I was clouded by all the anxiety. I guarantee my cortisol levels were OFF the charts. So what did I do? Well... personally being a girl of faith; I prayed REALLY hard. I asked God to take over and I trusted he would. I was spent, had nothing left, so I handed over the "worry" to Him. I stopped worrying about things I could not change and began changing the things I HAD control over and from that point until now my life has turned around 180 degrees. 

For you, it may not be handing worry over to God, you may not even believe in God.... and that's okay; I am not here to judge you, it's not my place now and never will be. However you must become a problem solver in your own life in order to change your outcome. Stress out in a good way, look at adversity as a challenge to do more and do it better. Don't let cortisol take over, all you have to do in order to beat defeat is to keep the adrenaline (aka Epinephrine) pumping strong.

Challenge yourself EVERY SINGLE DAY, with what comes your way naturally and with what you may be able to create to get excitement going. You will live longer, be more fulfilled and happiness will OOZE out of your pores so much everyone around you will want to smack the smile off your face... great thing is you won't even care! 

Have a great night everyone! YOU ROCK & I'LL ROLL!