Weekend Reports: The Physiology of Nerves
On the way to Saturday’s show [Report], my medical advisor dosed me with 200mg of caffeine, the equivalent of more than five 12-ounce Cokes (35mg each). Those who know me IRL are saying, “Why? For the love of all that is holy, WHY?!” I can be … perky. I am not an obvious candidate for a stimulant.
In stressful situations, the standard response is an activation of the sympathetic nervous system [Wiki], otherwise known as fight-or-flight. The opposite is an activation of the parasympathetic nervous system [Wiki], otherwise known as rest-and-digest. Part of the parasympathetic nervous system is a vasovagel response [Wiki, Mayo Clinic]. This is the process that can cause one to faint when giving blood (done this) or have a systemic response to a minor injury (this too).
His theory was that my show nerves are the latter rather than the former. We already know that I vagel out in other situations. The idea was to see if straight caffeine would keep me from crumbling at a show.
It worked. My stomach stopped hurting. I stopped trying to nap in the car. I didn’t feel quite so awful getting ready for my classes. He’s not denying the mental side of the game [Report], but feels that getting the body tuned can’t hurt. As a surgeon, he takes a mechanistic approach to health.
This would explain why exhorting myself to calm down wasn’t working. This would also explain my obsession with the little red can [Motivation], when I have no other strong food behaviors.
It didn’t work as well for the Horsemanship Challenge on Sunday [Report]. First, I fiddled with taking several lower doses over time. Second, there was not enough caffeine in the world to make me happy about hopping on strange horses.