Resilience: How Do You Deal With Adrenaline Overload

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The Virtual Tranquilizer for Returning Veterans
By MAVA National CDR Mulzim R. Fidai
(The following text is from “Conflict Unrevealed: Fixing Problems at Work and in Families,” by Andra Medea)
To control adrenaline overload:
Watch for physical symptoms first: Pounding in your head, heart racing, shortness of breathe, 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 screaming your head off.
Watch for mental symptoms: Jumbled thoughts; circular thinking; or an inability to see options, remember time sequence, or handle math.
Also watch for sudden loss of ability to speak clearly, and for a tendency to believe things without questioning them.
Burn up the adrenaline by using large muscles: Many non-destructive activities can do this, for example:
Go for a run or a fast walk – outside if you can, or inside if you can’t go out.
Run up and down the stairs (unless stairs might trigger hard memories for you).
Open a window and push sideways on the frames.
Close the door and do calisthenics push-ups, jumping jacks, etc.
Breathe slowly and deeply (the lungs are large muscles, too).
Do active home repair or yard work (cleaning the garage, putting on a new roof, hauling things, digging a garden, cleaning brush, etc.
If you’re stuck in a meeting, use isometrics. If you’re sitting at a heavy table that you can’t lift, put your hands underneath it and push-up (without anyone noticing), as if you’re trying to lift it. Or attempt to pick it up the chair you’re sitting in.
Reverse the symptoms: if your breathing gets short, make yourself breathe deeply and slowly. If your fists are clenched, open your hands and stretch your fingers. If you’re hunched over, sit back. If your shoulders are scrunched up, lower them.
Focus on specifics: List the facts one by one, then read them back, to keep your mind focused. Show the pace.
If you can’t break free of adrenaline overload at the time: Recognize when you can’t think and stop arguing. State clearly that you’d like to talk later, then leave and re-group. Try again after you’ve repeated the steps shown above.
Prepare in advance: if you’re going into a tough situation, practice talking to yourself out of adrenaline overload.
Practice first when you’re just a little overloaded, and keep practicing until you can bring down high levels of adrenaline. (At Walter Reeds Deployment Health Clinical Center, they call this a “mental rehearsal or a “fire drill.”)
When all else fails, get it out of your situation: Find a private, quite place, go mediate, pray or read a book, smash nothing – not people or any other living thing.
Muslim American Veteran Association National Commander
1519 Islamic Way (4th St.) N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001
Office (202) 483-8832 ext. 7


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