Unfortunately the kinds of stress we find ourselves in these days rarely require large amounts of physical energy in order to resolve them, so the hormones released into our body stay there and this becomes a problem.
However, if we’re sitting in an office looking at the piles of work we have to do, or feeling annoyed at our boss, fighting or running away is not really a relevant response.
It is also very tiring. After running away from danger, we would probably have had a chance to relax and recuperate. However, if we find ourselves in this state on a daily basis, it can really drain us.
Try artificially putting yourself on red alert. You tense up your body, you look around constantly, your eyes contantly moving from place to place. Your breathing may become more shallow as your chest muscles constrict the opening of the lungs and this will cause you to breathe faster. All this happens automatically when adrenaline is released, but you’ll probably be finding that it’s hard work to do it consciously for any length of time.
This gives us an idea of how much energy is expended by this state. Now imagine doing this for most of your day. Just because we’re doing it automatically through the release of adrenaline, it doesn’t mean you are using any less energy.
As a result of low energy, we are more likely to reach for caffeine drinks or sugary snacks, both of which put our bodies under more stress. If we’re constantly on red alert, we can find it hard to relax, even when we are very tired. And because this state is unpleasant, we may be drawn to addictive substances like alcohol which enable us to “escape” for a few hours.
If something is putting you under so much stress that your adrenal glands are putting you in a fight or flight situation, then it might be time to question how necessary that situation really is for your life. Is it time to have a serious talk with your boss or even find another job? Is it time to cut adrift that person who has been nothing but trouble in your life? It might be hard to make these choices, but how easy is it being under constant stress?
If we reach for bad nutrition then we’re fueling the stressed state. Although you might not feel like it, making healthy choices will have a positive effect on your emotional state. If you find yourself in this state a lot, make a decision in advance as to what you will eat. Maybe make some healthy food and freeze it so you can have dinner without much effort. Maybe carry some healthy snacks around with you so you don’t “accidentally” buy a chocolate bar when you’re filling up with petrol. (I’ve done this one many times.)
And finally, take some time out, even if you feel you don’t have the time. You are likely to be more efficient when you are no longer drained from having adrenaline sourcing round your body.