What gets your heart pumping? And why should you care?
A couple of weeks back I left the house at 06:18... A full three minutes later than my usual time.
This might not seem like much, but I have the bus timed pretty precisely.
At one point in my walk to the bus stop there is a gap in a housing estate that allows me to peek up the road in the direction my bus comes from, and on this morning I saw my bus approaching the stop.
If I missed it I'd be waiting thirty minutes for the next one.
I'd arrive to work late...
I'd have to stay later...
It would throw all my plans for the day off...
As that array of thoughts bounced around my head my heart started to go mental.
I felt an intense rush of panic.
My muscles implored me to move. To run.
The cause of all this?
A dose of adrenaline, administered directly by my endocrine system...
What does it all mean?
Evolution is an interesting process that leaves behind a lot of baggage.
In our modern world there are all sorts of biological processes that exist to deal with situations we no longer face.
That's not to say that these processes are no longer useful or necessary, it's just that they are applied to different situation.
The example I gave above refers specifically to adrenaline, which everyone knows of by virtue of the fact that we have all experienced its effects:
Increased heart rate
Increased blood pressure
Increased blood flow to the muscles
It's the biological substance that fuels our fight or flight response.
In our ancestors this would have been vital for survival.
If you found yourself face to face with some dangerous animal or chasing down some prey that if you fail to catch you will likely starve, you will almost certainly want all of the above to happen.
It's an intense feeling for intense situations.
Basically it's what our ancestors would have felt when staring into the eyes of a wild wolf.
In 2019 I feel that same internal surge when faced with the possibility of missing a bus... How far we've come...
Cortisol is another striking example.
This is commonly referred to as the stress hormone and it does a lot of things.
Helps manage how your body processes micro nutrients (protein, fat & carbohydrates).
Regulates inflammation and blood pressure.
Controls sleep/wake cycle.
Boosts your energy (you will feel cortisol during a workout).
However, cortisol can also work against you. If there is too much of it, it can contribute to:
Anxiety & depression
Generally our ancestors would have experienced spikes in cortisol which would have recovered once the stressful situation passed. It's a short term physiological response to a stressful situation (like facing down our wolf earlier).
For modern humans, however, things have changed.
Work, money problems, social problems, exercise etc... All are constant and all are sources of stress... Which means a never ending supply of cortisol.
It's important to be aware of the basics of how your body works as it will help you understand the impact your lifestyle is having on your health.
In our modern society, and as the pace of technological advancement steadily increases, it's always worth remembering that there is a bunch of evolutionary baggage that is not going anywhere.
We can't ignore it and should always consider the unseen impact of new technology. Social media being the prime example we all know and love.