Adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, is a hormone released by the adrenal glands. Located above each kidney, the adrenal glands release adrenaline when the body is under stress or in a dangerous situation, causing the fight-or-flight response.
Adrenaline is essential for survival as it prepares your body to deal with danger. However, your body can also release adrenaline even when the threat is only in your mind. This is called adrenaline anxiety.
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When the body senses stress or danger, a part of the brain called the amygdala sends danger signals to another part called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus then signals this danger to the rest of your body via the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), triggering the fight-or-flight response.
The adrenal glands receive this signal and start releasing adrenaline into your bloodstream. Adrenaline can perform many functions, including:
Increasing your breathing rate
Increasing energy available to your body by breaking down sugar stores
Moving blood to the major muscle groups by contracting the blood vessels to prepare your body for quick movements
Moving blood to the heart and lungs
Stimulating sweat glands, causing you to sweat
All of these functions of adrenaline are incredibly useful when you are facing life-threatening situations, like needing to jump out of the way of an oncoming car.
However, your body can also trigger this fight-or-flight response as a result of emotional stress or anxious thoughts. When it does, there is no use for the effects of adrenaline and you may be left feeling irritable and anxious.
Adrenaline anxiety can look different for everyone, so it is important to remember that what it looks and feels like for you may be different for someone else.
The common symptoms of adrenaline anxiety include:
When your body is always in the fight-or-flight mode, even when there is no real danger, it can create havoc in your system. It is important, then, to know how to deal with adrenaline anxiety so your body can return to its normal state.
Here are some ways you can manage and reduce symptoms of adrenaline anxiety.
Research has shown that meditation can help stop the fight-or-flight response and reduce the amount of adrenaline¹ circulating in the body, thereby reducing its effect.
Meditation causes the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) to activate, reducing the effects of the SNS as a result. The PNS is the “calm” subdivision of the nervous system, as opposed to the SNS that causes the fight-or-flight response that your body uses when under stress or anxiety.
There are different kinds of meditations. Three common types that can help manage anxiety symptoms are mindfulness meditation, guided meditation, and mantra meditation.
Mindfulness meditation is a combination of two practices—mindfulness and meditation. The aim is to reach inner peace by training and stilling your mind. In mindfulness meditation practice, you shift your focus from your thoughts to your breath and body.
Your thoughts and emotions will come and go throughout your meditation session. Acknowledge them, accept that they are there, let go of them, and shift your focus back to your breathing.
Guided meditation is usually led by an instructor. This can be through an in-person session if you chose, or through online videos or audio. There are several meditation apps you can download on your phone so you can access guided meditations wherever you may be.
If you are a beginner or have trouble keeping your mind from wandering while meditating, guided meditations may be a good fit. You will have an instructor talking you through it and their voice and words can help bring your mind back to the meditation practice.
Mantra meditation is the practice of meditation while repeating a mantra—either a specific word or a phrase. Your body emits energy in the form of vibrations; when the mantras are chanted, both hemispheres of your brain synchronize.
This is important in managing anxiety symptoms as it can produce calm brainwave activity² as well as reduce your heart rate and blood pressure.
The traditional mantra used for meditation is the “Om.” When Om is chanted, the vibrations are the same frequency found in nature.
The mantra can be repeated aloud or silently in your mind, whichever feels more comfortable for you. You can choose any word or phrase that resonates with you. For example, if you are meditating to relieve anxiety symptoms, you may choose to chant the word “calm.”
Focus on your breathing
If meditation doesn’t sound appealing, try taking a few minutes to just focus on your breathing. It is common to have quick, short, and shallow breaths that only fill your chest when you start to feel anxious.
Unfortunately, this does nothing to help your anxiety and actually encourages the SNS to continue producing the fight-or-flight symptoms.
Simply taking deep diaphragmatic breaths³ can help reduce your anxiety and lower your cortisol levels (your body’s main stress hormone).
If you start feeling anxious, sit somewhere comfortable and take a few minutes to just breathe. When you breathe in, focus on feeling the air fill your stomach and then your chest. Then slowly breathe out, feeling the air leave your stomach and chest.
It may help to place a hand on your stomach and another on your chest to really feel where your breath is going. Keep doing this for a few minutes.
If you would like to try a slightly more difficult breathing technique, a good one is the 4-7-8 method. To do this, follow these steps:
Breathe in for four slow counts.
Hold your breath for seven counts.
Breathe out slowly for eight counts.
Repeat these steps for a few minutes.
Focusing on your breath can be beneficial even when you are not feeling anxious. Practice either of these breathing techniques throughout the day. This will help you remain calm and you will be more likely to remember to focus on your breath when you do feel anxious.
Research has shown that acute exercise enhances attention and stress resistance,⁴ and improves your mood. An increase in endorphins can also be observed.
Endorphins are natural opioids that your body makes. They are the feel-good hormones in your body. The more of these your body produces, the better you will feel.
Essential oils, especially lavender oil, have been shown to help relieve anxiety.⁵ Two common ways of administering essential oils for anxiety are through absorption via the skin from a product such as a hand cream, face oil, or facial spray, or through inhalation via a steam diffuser.
Essential oils that have anxiety-relieving properties include:
If you struggle with adrenaline anxiety, try using a cream or spray that contains one of these essential oils for some anxiety relief. You can also keep a product like this in your bag in case you get anxious when you’re not home.
Alternatively, you can put a few drops of one of these oils in a steam diffuser at home or in your office.
Reduce caffeine intake
Caffeine is linked to increased anxiety,⁶ stress, and depression. However, this doesn’t mean you should eliminate all coffee from your diet.
You can still have coffee, or other caffeinated drinks if you wish to, but you should watch how much you are having and decrease it. Try just one cup a day, or even use decaffeinated coffee for a change.
Figure out the cause of your anxiety
Research has shown that problem solving⁷ and finding strategies to manage your anxiety can help. To do this, try writing out everything that is on your mind and noting things that you can do to help whatever it is that is causing your anxious thoughts.
Focus on one thing at a time, as making too many changes at once may become overwhelming.
Many people find that yoga helps decrease their anxiety.⁸ There are many yoga classes you can attend in person.
You can also try one of the numerous beginner-friendly yoga tutorials available online if you would prefer to practice yoga at home.
Use muscle relaxation techniques
Muscle relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation⁹ are treatments taught by trained professionals to help relieve anxiety. There are several videos online that explain and demonstrate these techniques to help you work out if this is for you.
Another way to relax your muscles and help relieve anxiety is to take a warm bath or shower just before going to bed.
Spend time outdoors
Spending time outdoors and exploring nature has been shown to be good for improving mental health,¹⁰ including reducing anxiety. It can reduce blood pressure¹¹ and lower your cortisol levels.
Do the grounding exercise: 5-4-3-2-1 technique
This is a super quick exercise you can do wherever you are to relieve your anxiety. It takes less than two minutes and all you need to do is identify each of the following:
Five things you can see
Four things you can feel
Three things you can hear
Two things you can smell
One thing you can taste
Talk to people you trust
Talking to people you trust like your parents, friends, or guidance counselor can help relieve your anxiety. Sometimes just speaking your feelings out loud can relieve some of the stress. Try it; you may notice the anxiety lift a bit.
You may also find that other people around you may be feeling the same, which can be a source of comfort, knowing you are not alone. They can assist you to find a doctor or other professional that can help manage your anxiety if you feel you need or want to.
If you are struggling to cope with anxiety or if it is impacting your work, relationships, or social interactions, you should seek help from a professional. This could be a mental health counselor or your family doctor. Choose one that feels more comfortable for you.
Your doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medications for you. Feel free to ask questions and discuss potential side effects. While these medications can be very helpful in managing anxiety, some can have adverse side effects and drug interactions.
Anxiety can be caused by your body initiating its fight-or-flight response due to stress or even just due to anxious thoughts. This response produces adrenaline, which prepares your body for danger. Adrenaline causes many of the symptoms you experience with anxiety.
There are several things you can do to help manage your adrenaline anxiety, from practicing meditation or yoga, to exercising, going outdoors, and using essential oils. Consult your doctor to discuss anxiety management and get help in reducing your anxiety symptoms.
It's official -- spending time outside is good for you | Science Daily
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