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Adrenaline. Friend or Foe?

I think we all have seasons in our life when we need to dip into our adrenal storehouse.

Ever seen Fast & Furious? Adrenaline is like the body's nitros-oxide used to super-charge your race to the finish line. Used at the right time it can be a powerful tool to generate a peak performance state - however too early you can fall short of your goal - and there are side effects...

Essentially, using adrenaline to super-charge your performance in the present is 'borrowing' time/energy from some point in the future. That is, sooner or later you are going to have to stop and recoup the over-expense of energy you are using.

Running on adrenaline full time is not a sustainable option.

Adrenaline is linked to our bodies stress hormone cortisol which can make us more focused and hyper-aware for short bursts of time, but over the long term it actually begins to degenerate our bodies. It reduces the essential flow of blood and life to our vital organs and our bodies begin to shut down.

What that looks like in the work world or around our families is forgetfulness, making mistakes we otherwise wouldn't make, short temper and a susceptibility to depressive emotions. Depression is generally seen as the enemy by the medical profession, something that needs to be managed and eliminated, however I question this approach - often depressive emotions are just the symptom. The body is simply trying to slow a person down, or stop them altogether because they have over-exhausted their emotional energy reserves and they need to stop and rest. In our culture that embraces and even celebrates over-working at your own expense and frowns upon self-preservation and self-care; is it any wonder we are still walking headlong into a mental health epidemic?

So how should we approach adrenaline? Is it a friend or foe? Is it a life-saver at the point of crisis or a destructive force that can rob our happiness and wellbeing?

The answer is: Yes. It can be either, depending on how we use it.

The approach I am currently in the midst of trialling in my own life is this:

We often hear the phrase in sports, "Play within yourself" - this means to know and play within your limits to ensure your success. I know that I can push myself and actually give 110% at times - I can skip sleep, I can sacrifice time with the family, I can work extra hours if necessary BUT I can't do any of this sustainably and stay happy. AND I know that long term, happiness is an essential ingredient to my success! So I wind back the expectations I have of myself. As Tony Robbins says: "Move from expectation, to appreciation" This generally refers to our circumstances but it is just as relevant when we think of ourselves. Move out from a critical place of over-expecting of yourself and move into a mental space of appreciating yourself for who you are and what you do. Aim to spend 80-90% of yourself on work and performance and then prioritise time to sit and reflect on all the good this you HAVE done. Factoring in this self-love ensures that it will happen.

My experience so far:

Whenever I forget this principle and go back to my old ways of over-reaching, I start to fail. I constantly drop the ball and am aware that I am taxing my relationship and time with my family.

When I remember to 'play within myself', to give 80-90% at work and set aside time for me - I find that my 80-90% suddenly becomes equivalent to 100%, 110%, 120% of those around me. I tap into the happiness advantage AND I am mindful and aware enough to keep building NLP strategies and new habits of peak performance into my day.

It really is a case of 'less is more'!

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