Anxiety: learning to live with adrenaline

There are things we can do to manage our adrenaline response. Photo by Tim Wilson on Unsplash


Adrenaline prepares the body for ‘fight or flight’.      Our body has special glands, located on top of the kidneys, that produce it.  They release adrenaline in response to threatening or stressful events.

Adrenaline increases heart rate and blood pressure, expands the airways, sharpens our senses, increases blood supply to the muscles, and increases the supply of energy to the brain.

Symptoms we experience include rapid or pounding heartbeat, a sense of blood rushing through our body, feelings of anxiety, and sweating.


The release of adrenaline is a normal part of our functioning.  It is caused by physical threat, excitement, noise, bright lights, or extreme temperatures.

Normally, adrenaline increases while we need it, and subsides when we do not.


If we are prone to anxiety, and wish to keep our adrenaline levels down, the following tactics may work:

  1. ROUTINE – Having a set routine removes the sense of physical threat and excitement, because it makes life predictable.
  2. REGULAR CONTACT WITH A TRUSTED FRIEND – In a similar way to a set routine, regular contact makes life predictable.  It also acts as a safe, controlled conduit for panicky thoughts, stopping them from starting a spiral of adrenalized panic.
  3. LOWER LIGHT LEVELS – Lowering light levels means that the body’s nervous system gets the message that it can relax.
  4. LOWER NOISE LEVELS – Keeping the environment quiet tells the body that there is no need for a fight-or-flight response.  If necessary, use noise-cancelling headphones during the day.
  5. EXERCISE –  Exercise reduces adrenaline levels.  (During exercise adrenaline increases, but then afterwards it flows out and stays at lower levels.)
  6. COLD SHOWERS OR OUTDOOR SWIMMING – A weird recommendation.  But, as with exercise, cold showers increase adrenaline levels in the short term, but under controlled circumstances, meaning that afterwards baseline stress is lower.


Adrenaline release is normal.  It’s the body’s natural response to threat, excitement, or sensory stimulation.  In anxious people, adrenaline can get too much of a look-in, and cause a spiral of panic.  To manage adrenaline levels:

  1. Establish a routine
  2. Speak to a trusted friend regularly
  3. Lower light levels
  4. Lower noise levels
  5. Take regular exercise
  6. If it appeals, consider cold showers or outdoor swimming