Did you know you have two little yellow, nine-volt-battery-sized adrenal glands in your body, just chilling out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool on top of your kidneys? Someone told me this and I checked it out. Turns out it’s true.
It seems as though your adrenal glands are kind of like those British Royal Guards with the big, black fuzzy hats who stand like statues in front of Buckingham Palace. They just stand there quietly, not doing much really, just enjoying the brown, slippery beach that is your kidneys.
However, if anything startling should happen that requires your attention — like say you’re about to give a speech at a wedding or your hear a twig crack outside your tent or your doorbell rings in the middle of the night — then they leap into action, jumping out of their peaceful slumber to squeeze out a big dose of adrenaline right into your body, pumping you up, and turning you into a primal, warrior-like version of yourself.
When tension runs high and adrenaline is secreted into your body some crazy things can happen — sometimes called the fight-or-flight response:
- Your heart rate increases. And specifically, your body starts sending blood to all your big muscles and diverts it away from “non-critical” parts of your body, like your brain, immune system, and digestive system. I guess someone figured you could digest the sandwich after you killed the bear.
- Your pupils dilate and you get tunnel vision. Quite literally, adrenaline also reduces your peripheral vision, which together with your big, wide pupils helps you focus on what lies ahead. You can’t quite see through walls, but if a crow is diving at your eyes you might be able to swat it away better.
- Your body gets ready to boot it. In addition to the rising heart rate, your body starts turning lots more stuff into sugar, raising your blood sugar level and filling you with energy. You might not even feel pain as easily, so the raspberry bushes that shred your legs when you’re running out of the forest won’t slow you down.
But what’s also great about adrenalin is that, first of all, you don’t have to control it. It just sort of kicks it into high gear when it figures you could use a boost. I think it’s kind of cool knowing that your body will help you out when you need it most. Punch me in the face and suddenly my internal British Royal Guard tosses away his fuzzy, black cap, cracks his neck, and rolls up his sleeves.
And really, isn’t it that little dose of adrenalin that helps you do a better job when you need it most? It’s a natural upper, helping you nail the big speech, ace the final exam, or perhaps flee both of those scenes.
There’s a reason some people become adrenaline junkies. The boost you get from your adrenal glands waking up and getting out of bed is intoxicating. Sure, it fuzzes up your thinking a bit and sends your intestines on sabbatical, but it sure does pump you up. And remember: when something important in your life is about to happen, you can count on your good pal adrenaline to be there, juicing you up, helping you fight the good fight.
Jian Ghomeshi is the host of my favorite radio show. It’s called Q and broadcasts across North America every morning. Jian is a big friend and fan of 1000 Awesome Things and The Book of Awesome and I’m really excited because he just released his first book. It’s called 1982 and is a beautifully written memoir about growing up in the suburbs of Toronto and trying to fit in. (My kind of book!) For those of you who love reading, I think he’s a fantastic writer and am really excited to recommend this book.