Submitted by MAVA National CDR Mulzim R. Fidai
Adrenaline is a powerful “fight or flight” chemical, and everybody experiences “adrenaline overload.” Any situation where you feel threatened, insulted, guilty, etc., can signal the stress system to raise our levels of adrenaline.
Adrenaline overload is one of the most common things that gets Service Members and veterans into situations they’ll regret later.
Know when adrenaline has shut you out of the higher brain centers:
Without those brain centers, you might not even know you’re on adrenaline overload.
You might misinterpret what others are saying (and see it as insulting or threatening).
The things you say might not make a lot of sense to other people.
It might seem like you have no choice but to do something dangerous or illegal.
You might make risky expensive decisions, with consequences you really don’t want.
That adrenaline rush may feel good at first, and may remind you of the intense adrenaline highs that happened in the war zone.
It may even seem like the only alternative to feeling numb. But it’s easy for adrenaline overload to get painful – and to bring on painful consequences.
What do you think? Which of these signs of adrenaline overload have you experienced?
I feel intensely angry or scared. It’s hard to put things into words.
I make unwise decisions. My head gets hot or my face turns red.
Heat starts to rise in my body. My jaw muscles get tense, clenched.
My chest or throat gets tight. A vein sticks out on my forehead.
My heart starts to beat faster. My head starts hurting.
My body gets stiff. I hear a pounding in my ears.
My hands shake or close up in fists. I get a prickly feeling on my skin.
Of all the resiliency skills shared, bringing down your adrenaline levels may be one of the most important. Not only will it improve your decision making, but it can also help you learn to avoid or manage other common post-deployment stress effects – like out of control thoughts or feelings, nightmares, savage memories, or flashbacks (intense and all-encompassing memories that come out of nowhere and seem like they’re happening in the present).
The Virtual Tranquilizer for Returning Veterans (from Conflict Unrevealed: Fixing Problems at Work and in Families, by Andra Mede):
To control adrenaline overload:
Watch for physical symptoms first, pounding in your head, heart racing, shortness of breath, sweaty palms, dry mouth, heat rising in the body, tense muscles and jaw, etc. make a list of your personal signs.
Check the list when you’re under stress. Checking the list is more important than scramming your head off.
Watch for mental symptoms, jumbled thoughts, circular thinking, or an inability to see options, remember time sequence.
Muslim American Veteran Association National Commander
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Office (202) 483-8832 ext. 7