Adrenaline and Dopamine — this is a critical balance in Parkinson’s recovery, so I am revisiting it…again. Part of Parkinson’s is that we have been in Adrenaline Mode for so long, our organs and systems, including our Dopamine, have ceased to function in the normal way they used to function, and that is why we have tremors and all of the physical problems of Parkinson’s. Finding balance between our Adrenaline and Dopamine leads to Parkinson’s recovery!
I have written about the Adrenaline and Dopamine relationship in the past. Here is a brief summary:
Adrenaline — you are walking through the jungle and a lion jumps out and starts chasing you. When your survival mode Adrenaline kicks in and you start running, other things are required of your body. Your stomach gets the message from the brain that says, “eating is of minor importance right now so do not send me hunger pangs.” The bladder and the large intestine get the message from the brain that says, “no time to evacuate, so I need you to shut down temporarily.” The body gets the message from the brain that says, “you are being pushed to your physical limits, but I do not want to hear about your pain — shut it off.” The heart gets the message from the brain that says, “no time for joyful emotions, so do not release Dopamine, just store it for later.”
Adrenaline Mode — your mind keeps running well after the lion has stopped chasing you…and fear is what keeps your mind running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running, and running. I know, just reading this probably increases your tremors. I needed to make my point.
What I am describing here is me. This is the me whose tremors were so severe I could no longer ignore all of the physical changes and limitations that I had been ignoring for the previous year (probably should say “years”). In my Parkinson’s recovery, I learned that my brain was hard-wired to fear. As soon as a situation occurred, my brain’s reflex action was to jump on the fear train and put it in full throttle.
Fear of what? Everything! Fear of: “Maybe I won’t be prepared for ______;” “Maybe I won’t know the answer to ______;” “Maybe I am not good enough for ______;” Maybe _____ (bad thing) will happen.” I think you know what I am talking about, and it is a long list. It is the list of things that could happen that we feel compelled to have all of the possible scenarios to so we will be prepared for everything that could possibly happen for the rest of our lives so that nothing will go wrong or bad and everything can happen according to plan. Fear of what? Life!
Think about it: If you are afraid of roller coasters, you don’t go on them. If you are afraid of scary movies, you don’t go to them. If you are afraid of the dark, you sleep with the lights on. When you are afraid of life, your options are limited. I could come up with two options only: 1. Continue to live in fear. 2. Face the fear and get beyond it. I knew that continuing to live in fear meant I would not be recovering from Parkinson’s, so number 1 got scratched from the list. That left number 2. Face the fear and get beyond it. I had no choice.
I was not well-equipped to fight the fear. Fear was my natural reflex. I needed help, and here is how I got it.
(excerpted from my February 28, 2011 post, “Fighting Parkinson’s, and prayer.”):
“At one point, a friend pointed out that fear and negative thoughts are a constant battle with the disease. Although I had a very positive attitude that some day I would recover, fighting the disease mentally and spiritual was a daily war. My friend pointed out that God was in a much better position to handle my fears and negative thoughts and that I needed to give them away so I could stay focused on my recovery.
I meditated on this and adopted the following prayer for when I felt negative thoughts or fears coming into the forefront of my thoughts: ”Dear God, I have this fear and I do not have time for it to bring me down. I need to stay focused on positive thoughts. You are in a much better position than me to deal with negative thoughts and fears, so I am giving you this negative thought and fear and thank you for taking care of it for me.” The first day I did this, it must have been 100 times I repeated this phrase. After four or five days, the negative thoughts and fears diminished, and then they went away.”
And, also excerpted from the same post, I mediated like this:
“Hello Adrenaline. Thank you for all of the years you have run my body. Without you in charge, I would not have survived. However, all of life’s stresses that required you do be in charge are gone, and you can take a break and you do not need to run my whole body anymore. Hello Dopamine. It has been a long time. Thank you for all of those years you stayed closed and allowed Adrenaline to run my body. I appreciate that you understood it was for survival. Now that those stresses are gone, I need you to flow again. The thing is, I do not know how much Adrenaline needs to shut down and how much Dopamine needs to flow to achieve the correct mix. The two of you need to figure this out with God, and I am going to meditate on something else so I do not get in the way.”
The Qigong healed my body. The meditations healed my mind. Connecting my Inner Divine to the Higher Power Divine healed my soul, opened my heart, and allowed my Dopamine to flow. In the Peaceful Warrior, Socrates tells Dan, “I call myself a Peaceful Warrior…because the battles we fight are on the inside.”
He is correct. Although Parkinson’s symptoms manifest themselves on the outside, the battle we must fight is on the inside — healing our souls and our minds and our bodies. I know I was a mess on the inside before Parkinson’s reared its ugly head on the outside with diagnosable symptoms. I knew I had to heal myself on the inside to make those symptoms on the outside go away. And, I knew I would be unable to accomplish this if fear continued to drive the train, so I worked hard to slay that demon, and I did…and it never has come back.
That’s one of the most delightful parts of recovery. No fear of living. You can do this. I know you can!
You are worth it!
All my best,
Awesome…well written and so, so true….
Yes, many thanks, Howard.
Thank you Howard. Yur running running running paragraph has me laughing like a loon
Continued thanks for the inspiring words of wisdom. I live for and look so forward to your weekly shot of motivation to keep me on the path. I also love the comments from other fellow PD-ers. Thanks to all of you!
Wonderful Howard! I simplify those affirmations to:
– God, take this fear, I’m done with it, thank you
– Hello and welcome, dopamine, thanks for being here and balancing with adrenaline
– Thanks, adrenaline, for all your help, you can rest easy now, balancing with dopamine
Easier to remember!
Thank you Howard, for reminding me how to send fear away.
I believe that this post contains so much truth that in sharing it with us freely, Howard demonstrates his compassionate love for us.
The Adrenaline X Dopamine Axis is probably a Local manifestation of the principle of Yin/Yang in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Adrenaline produces Yang energy so Dopamine must produce Yin. Yang is hot, bright, the sun Etc. Yin is cool, heavy and dark. They need to be balanced to each other, If one, say Yang or Adrenaline , gets overproduced we get anxious and like a leaf above a flame we shake and become fearful and nervous. Our agitation produces uncertainty which produces more fear which produces more Adrenaline, which then becomes basically an autoimmune Neuro Toxin. A negative Feedback loop, as Howard so brilliantly understood and pointed out! So how can we reverse this cascade of Neuro Toxins? By nurturing ourselves and being respectful to the Temple of our Souls, the
bodymind, this requires nourishing Yin Qi or Dopamine.
So! meditation, peacefulness, stopping the negative Mindless Chitter-Chatter , doing unrequited Mitzvahs or Good Deeds, all that Howard has suggested!
I grow weary, sorry but I believe this is very important for all who suffer with any “situation”
I give thanks every day that my path has crossed Howard’s!!!! He is the incredible catalyst that got me back to my health again.
Thank you Howard from the bottom of my Heart!
Wow, Howard! This is such an inspirational piece. Your writing is just getting better and better and this entry I’m tempted to print out and tape to the wall. Thank you for being the guiding light that you are. And thank you for sharing your voice in such an articulate and inspiring way. I especially appreciate that even though you have become symptom free and have recovered, still you are able to feel into the condition and compassionately guide others who are still shrouded by their symptoms. Thank you for all you are doing. I”ll miss seeing and hugging you at the Summit. May your day be filled with rainbows! Aloha!
I love these prayers of yours, Howard, and have often quoted them to others.
Increasingly it seems it’s either love&trust or fear&co. The latter needing vigilance, while love’s light immediately disappears any dark.
What makes dopamine flow? Painting, writing, singing, dancing, friends, children, laughter, play, gardening, walking, meditating, surrendering to God, trusting God…
Thank you so much for the reminder,
Thank you Howard for your inspiration you know both sides. Everyone’s comments are so comforting too. Happily dopamine is coming in to me more and I remember if not straight away then at some stage to pray for help n hand it over. All the best everyone
To everyone. You are welcome. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and slowly exhale. Feel your Dopamine flow. Look at what Jane wrote above…she is correct, and it is a long list so add to it and make it your own. Open your heart, open your Dopamine faucet, begin to feel life flow back into you…soul, mind, and body….
Blessings and love,
Yes, we all want (the right amount) dopamine to flow so that we can function healthy.
On some early mornings (about 5:30 am), for just one time, I am able to pull down and up my underwear/pants (pardon me!) effortlessly, for toilet. Just only one time effortlessly! For the rest of the day, the same task is laborious and with my upper body bends over.
Howard, is it because dopamine collects after some hours of sleep?
Will straining (‘cos limited ability) to do any task, deplete dopamine?
It is not the Dopamine that helps you pull down your pants for the toilet in the morning. It is that your brain has been relaxing all night. The only energy it needed was to pump your heart and make your lungs breathe. So, it is relaxed and holding much energy. In that state of mind, it provides full energy when you pull down, and up, your pants. As the day goes on, all of your senses, plus your thinking mind, are making physical and mental demands on your brain. The PD brain cannot handle this due to low energy, so energy to the physical body suffers. The Recipe fixes this issue by healing the organs and generating more energy in the brain to do more things efficiently.
Straining to do a tasks asks too much of the over-worked brain, and usually results in pain and more stiffness. Relaxing into an activity provides more looseness of movement with less effort.
Finally, no apologies are needed. Everybody faces these issues at one time or another, so it is good to be able to discuss them publicly.
Thanks so much. The article sums up my mental situation hundred per cent. Reading and re-reading your articles helps keep me on track.
I gotta say… everyone who writes on Howard’s blog sounds like someone I’d enjoy hanging out with! Thank you Howard (yet again!) for your wonderfully encouraging words and insights AND for creating this space/place where we can feel connected with fellow travelers on the PD road to recovery. Smile more, shake less… 🙂