How good is the adrenaline rush during extreme events? Is there a way to manage the way adrenaline affects our bodies?
(Article by Jonathan Bahat, mental resilience expert and co-founder of Extreme Simulations)
In stressful situations, our sympathetic system operates and puts us into “survival mode”. The adrenaline rush is sometimes a life-saving reaction, but unfortunately, it does not always help us make the right decisions or perform complex technical tasks.
Adrenaline management training
Any extreme events training should help you develop your skills in four main areas:
- Increase your self-efficacy
- Make yourself familiar with the thoughts and feelings of real-life challenges by simulating real-life situations
- Give you the tools to optimally cope with the physical effects of stress
- Learn how to look at stress in a positive way
What causes the adrenaline rush?
As mentioned above, when faced with a stressful situation (such as an emergency), your sympathetic nervous system will get into action: the “fight or run” response (which we develop more here) will be activated.
Your body will concentrate its resources solely on those systems and organs which are essential in dealing with the immediate threat. This is happening at the expense of the other systems, considered non-essential for immediate survival.
What activates this response?
Let’s get into a bit of physiology.
The adrenal gland is responsible for your reaction during stressful events. The Adrenal gland is located on the kidneys. They release hormones (corticosteroids) that cause fast and extreme changes in the body:
Changes in the blood flow to favor strength in (and quick response of) the skeletal muscles
- Digestive activities are stopped
- Cellular and immune maintenance
- The pulse is raised
- Increase of sugar rate in blood
- Constriction of blood vessels in the skin help prevent bleeding
- Delaying muscles fatigue
- Pupil dilation
- …and more.
Apart from the physical effects, adrenaline secretion also has extensive mental and cognitive effects. You may find yourself unable to focus, you can’t think clearly. Your sensory perception is heightened, and you suddenly become more aware of your bodily sensations.
Is adrenaline helpful?
Whenever you go into the fight-or-run mode, you may notice that your body gets ready in a way that is not helpful for the situation you need to deal with. Some of these reactions contribute to the wakefulness effect that we need to survive, but others are just stopping you from doing what you should:
- You want to think deeply and widely about what you have to do, but instead, you experience a “tunnel thinking”
- You want to loosen your muscles, but they are stiff
- and so on
Looking at the information above, you may be wondering, “ok, so is adrenaline bad?”
Looking at the diagram above, you now understand that, in a low pressure or no pressure situation, your function is low. In other words, you do not have enough motivation and are not sufficiently alert to be active and focused.
When you are under moderate pressure, you function optimally. This “pressure” is perceived by your brain as something you can deal with, therefore you feel confident that you can control the situation you are in.
When you are under extreme stress – and most importantly, when your brain feels like it’s losing control – that is when your ability to function goes down because you get into flight or freeze mode.
As you can see, your goal should be to experience moderate pressure, moderate stress levels, even in extreme situations. This ensures that you are in a state of wakefulness, feeling in control of the situation, so you can function at your best performance.
Is stress necessarily a negative experience?
A comprehensive study, which followed 30,000 adults in the U.S. for eight years, found that, among people who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year, the risk of mortality was 43% higher BUT this was only true for people who believed stress was harmful to their health.
Those who did not perceive stress as harmful were not at higher risk of dying.
In fact, they were at the lowest mortality risk among all study participants, including people who experienced relatively low stress.
Science says: When you change your mind on how you perceive stress, you can change your body’s response strain.
How to become an experienced functionary during stressful situations
One of the important effects of productive training is to create relaxed conduct in stressful situations.
This comfort is similar to the one that characterizes experienced functionaries, where the levels of alertness and focus are high, yet there is an abstract thought, calm, and physical ease.
How can you achieve that during an extreme event?
There are four components of a training session that should be implemented together in order to assist trainees in dealing better with stressful situations. These increase their performance and can improve their quality of life.
1. Reduce stress through professional training
The purpose of professional training is, among other things, to improve the perception of your ability, or your self-efficacy. By doing this, you will experience a stressful situation as less threatening. As a result, you will be able to remain in the high-functioning range.
To achieve this, your training must be professional and graded; it should simulate reality in a good way, provide positive experiences and empowering messages from your mentor.
This is done with the aim of decreasing stress and increasing your feeling of control.
2. Train to control stress
There are specific training sessions that teach you how to control your stress levels. This is acquired by teaching you how to control your breathing and your thoughts. The best method for that is called the “in-my-eyes” method and it includes bio-feedback from an expert.
3. Make the experience familiar
The stress conditions, if replicated correctly during training, will take you through the same thoughts and feelings of a real-life event. You will perceive the training as being highly stressful BUT when you will be faced with a similar situation in real life, your brain will not be taken by surprise. And the element of surprise is the main stress generator because we experience familiar things as less stressful.
You read time and time again on this website that the secret to a successful training experience is to replicate a real-life situation in as much detail as possible. It is time to remind you again how important it is that your training look, sound, and feel just like a real-life incident.
4. Think positively about stress
During training, learn to treat stressful situations as a positive and awakening thing. Assimilate and accept stress as a general fact, not as a negative experience. If you manage to achieve that in your organization and with your team, you can ensure that they handle stressful situations better. And, going back to the study we mentioned above, you can ensure that you and your team live a better and longer life.
Are you ready for your adrenaline generating training?
Get used to stress, learn to monitor your adrenaline levels, and discover how you can make the most from an adrenaline rush.
Book your training with the experts at Extreme Simulations.
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