1. a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands, especially in conditions of stress, increasing rates of blood circulation, breathing, and carbohydrate metabolism and preparing muscles for exertion.

16 months ago I made a big change. I had been living in the same small beach town in California for almost three decades, running a successful consulting business, driving 25,000 miles a year, and running around with my hair on fire. My friends and advisors started pointing out that every conversation turned to the topic “work.” Every phone call was made from the car and turned to the topic “traffic.” Someone remarked, “You’re wound a little tight, aren’t you?” I got the message.

And I had a brilliant idea. I would start fresh. I’d move to a place that wasn’t as frenzied, where I could buy an actual house, not just a tiny townhouse. I would rest for a couple months, meet new people, meet new clients … reinvent myself. And because I make things happen, within a few months I made that move, bought that house, and started over.

Nowhere in my plan was withdrawal from adrenaline.

I thought (two words that will live in infamy for me) that I’d take a couple months off, sleep without an alarm, rest up, and gain clarity about my reimagined life before getting back to work.

Ha. I’d been stressed out for so long that it took a year for me to adjust to a life without the adrenaline high.

I’m pretty sure that if I had continued on as I was, I would have had a heart attack in the middle of facilitating a workshop. I now know what it feels like when you think you are having a heart attack. Ask me how I know.

Which brings me to you. Is your hair on fire? Do you light others’ hair on fire when they stand too close? Are you caught up in the frenzy? Is there a real need for the frenzy?

I often work with leaders who say they don’t have time for ______________ (planning, listening, vacation, fill in the blank as appropriate). Sometimes they say they don’t even have time to do their jobs.   I won’t try to minimize the reality of shareholders and deadlines and regulations. But that level of red alert can become a way of life.  Constant stress.

Stress releases adrenaline which makes you reactive (and cortisol, which makes you fat). Your brain doesn’t function as well.  If you never step back to survey the landscape, you make decisions based on a narrow set of factors. If you never stop, your body may force you to stop. If you’re dead, you’re not getting much accomplished.

Too much preaching? Perhaps. But today I realize that the clarity I hoped for within the first couple of months of the move is finally here. I feel better than I have in a long time. I can feel the difference between stressed and not-stressed.  Can you?