On Labor Day, I left my doctor’s office and hopped in my car to drive home. My cell phone rang, and I saw it was my mom calling. I answered with my usual cheery, “Hello-o.”

24825176 - the word fear written with a pencil on white paper. an eraser from a pencil is starting to erase the word fear.

Mom’s hitched breathing came through the phone. “What’s wrong?” I demanded, as adrenaline surged from my overworked adrenal gland.

“I can’t get up.”

Unlike my husband, whose questions would have been more feeling oriented, my questions were more fact-finding as I fumbled for my car key to jam into the ignition.

“Where are you? How did you fall? How long have you been there?”

Once my questions were answered, I made my plan. “I’m about twenty minutes away. So is Mike. I’ll call him at work and whoever gets there first will help you.”

Mom tearfully agreed. Then I remembered her friend, Dodie, had a key to the house. “I’ll call Dodie. She’s closer and can let herself in. Is that okay?”

“Okay.” She sniffled, then disconnected.

I made my calls, then raced home, all the while picturing Mom lying on the floor, helpless. It’s not a pretty picture. My heart broke for her. She’s ninety-three and becoming more and more frail. More helpless. More needy. Less dignity.

Mike called me from Mom’s to let me know he’d arrived shortly after Dodie. Mom was in bed, resting.

The after-effects of a surge of adrenaline are shakiness, exhaustion, and for me, a headache. All I wanted to do was take a nap.

According to a December 2016 article in Promises Treatment Center:

“When adrenaline is released, it signals the brain to redirect energy and blood from the internal organs to the muscles to prepare to fight or flee. Adrenaline causes an increased heart rate, high blood pressure and rapid, shallow respiration. The body temperature will increase and cause sweating.”

The article goes on to talk about how to cope with an adrenaline rush. This is especially important for caregivers, who regularly experience the constant surprises we have in dealing with sometimes life-threatening situations of our loved ones.

Breathe. As I drove home from the doctor’s office that day, I had to remind myself to take deep breaths. I was focused on getting home as quickly as possible, so my diaphragm was tense.

Practice focused relaxation. Once the threat has passed, sit quietly and focus on one thing. Then begin from your toes, telling your brain to relax them completely. Move up your legs, all the way to your head. This takes practice and concentration. It’s easier for my mind to go back to the harrowing situation than it is to focus on relaxing.

What are the ways you cope with the continual barrage of adrenaline? I’d love to include your tips in a future blog.

Promises Treatment Centers, December 20, 2016, “What Are the Negative Effects of Adrenaline,” by Rai Cornell