Your palms start to sweat, checks become ashen as your blood is redirected to your skeletal muscles, pupils become as big as marbles. Your heartbeat quickens along with your breath. All of this is happening because a cocktail of chemicals are coursing through your veins. Cortisol and epinephrine are the main ingredients, along with a dash of norepinephrine for good measure.
No, you haven’t been drugged, at least not by anyone besides yourself. These chemicals are the human brain’s response to stressful situations, commonly referred to as the fight-or-flight response. Evolved over several millenia, this physiological reaction helped our ancestors out-run predators and gave (and still give us) them the ability to preform superhuman feats of strength.
Anytime you hear about a mom lifting a car to save her baby, or a climber throwing a boulder off a buddy and then carrying him to safety, it is possible because of the fight-or-flight response. But that doesn’t mean everything about this brain chemical cocktail is positive. It also makes you dumb.
Your vision and hearing are narrowed. Most likely your hearing will be almost completely gone and your peripheral vision will cease to exist. And your reasoning, your executive thoughts, what sets us humans apart from our chimpanzee relatives, shuts down. Without this higher level of thinking, people can make dumb mistakes that us living look back on and wonder ‘what were they thinking?’
The answer is, they weren’t.