Fun adventures in Georgia for nurses who are adrenaline junkies

VIDEO: 6 State Parks for Adrenaline Junkies

Access to this AJC content is brought to you by our sponsor, Wellstar

If you’re an ER, flight or acute care nurse, the “fight or flight” response might be your thing. After all, you need it on the job.

Chicago-based certified emergency nurse Teri Campbell, for example, works as chief flight nurse on emergency transport. She told the Monster career blog, “We’re adrenaline junkies,” she says. “We love the excitement of not knowing what’s coming around the corner.”

ExplorePulse: a digital magazine for nurses in the Southeast

Some people might be surprised to learn those adrenaline surges are something some nurses seek outside of work, too, even if they work somewhere far more sedate or with more predictable duties. Researchers have identified numerous upsides of legal activities that promote adrenaline release in a controlled experience.

Here’s how it works: “The production of adrenaline occurs in the adrenal glands, which sit above the kidneys,” according to coverage in Medical News Today reviewed by Dr. Daniel Murrell. “Adrenaline is responsible for the fight-or-flight reaction to a threat. ... As well as allowing a quick escape from danger, adrenaline has other effects on the body. These include decreasing the body’s ability to feel pain, increasing strength temporarily (and) sharpening mental focus, which will allow a person to think quickly and form a clear plan to escape a potential threat.”

Your glands can’t tell the difference between a fast-moving car and a fast-moving go-kart, so the release of this chemical can occur regardless of whether actual danger is present. And the “on purpose” rush instigated by thrill rides and similar activities can be a real mood booster, which is why they’re so popular with certain people.

ExploreMeet your fine feathered friends: How bird-watching may help you de-stress

The Conversation, a scientific journal, reported on the endorphins released after an adrenaline-boosting activity. “Novice bungee jumpers not only reported increased feelings of well-being, wakefulness and euphoria just after completing a jump, they also had raised levels of endorphins in the blood, well known to produce feelings of intense pleasure,” the journal noted. “Interestingly, the higher the levels of endorphins that were present, the more euphoric the jumper reported feeling. Here, then, is clear evidence that people enjoy the sensations that accompany the fight or flight response within a non-threatening environment.”

Research from sociologist Margee Kerr and cognitive neuroscientist Greg Siegle at the University of Pittsburgh demonstrated “the gains from thrills and chills can go further than the natural high,” Kerr told the Conversation.

The two collected data at an adult-level haunted attraction. Before entering and after exiting, they put participants through cognitive and emotional exercises, measuring their brainwaves with mobile EEG technology. “Guests reported significantly higher mood, and felt less anxious and tired directly after their trip through the haunted attraction,” Kerr noted. “The more terrifying the better: Feeling happy afterward was related to rating the experience as highly intense and scary. This set of volunteers also reported feeling that they’d challenged their personal fears and learned about themselves.”

An add-on benefit: “Highly intense and scary activities — at least in a controlled environment like this haunted attraction — may ‘shut down’ the brain to an extent, and that in turn is associated with feeling better,” Kerr added. “Together our findings suggest that going through an extreme haunted attraction provides gains similar to choosing to run a 5K race or tackling a difficult climbing wall. There’s a sense of uncertainty, physical exertion, a challenge to push yourself — and eventually achievement when it’s over and done with.”

Now, no one is going to push a nurse who’s afraid of heights or who hates scary movies to seek them out as a mood or confidence booster, however well-documented the potential benefits might be.

And those seeking the heart-pumping activities would do well to check with their doctors first if they have any prohibitive health conditions. Expect to sign waivers. Last, some of the thrills and spills that closed during COVID restrictions are open again, but all the ones suggested here still have safety protocols in place.

ExploreA little ‘grounding’ might go a long way to ease life’s stress

If you’re a self-admitted adrenaline junkie looking for safe-but-thrilling activities, here are three to consider:

Hike Raven Cliff Falls near Helen

The Raven Cliff Trailhead in the Chattahoochee National Forest is not for those afraid of heights. But for those who get a rush from cascading water and momentous drops, this is great choice.

The 6 mile round trip hike includes waterfalls flowing through impressive granite. If you make it to the top, you’ll have a fine view of Dodd Creek, a heart-pounding 90 feet below.

XD Dark Ride at Andretti Karting Marietta

Part amusement park ride, part video game and part interactive movie, XD Dark Ride pits riders against one another for a high score. Each gets laser blasters for the zombies and other evil lurkers on the shared screen. This is a good one if your whole work squad wants to get out together, since eight people can compete at once.

The adrenaline rush is enhanced with special effects that mimic the Earth shattering, high winds roaring and, well, some other surprises that might make you jump. While you’re there, check out the advanced track for adults.

Skydive Spaceland Atlanta

This is considered a beginner’s skydive, but it’s still plenty thrilling. You can yell “Tally ho!” if you like as you jump from an airplane at 14,000 feet. Of course, you’re harnessed to an experienced instructor, but will your adrenal glands know that?

If once is not enough, the business also offers skyline certification classes. Note that those who don’t want to plummet from the skies in search of a mood booster are welcome to park and watch the skydivers, for free.

Get more stories like this in your inbox with the Pulse newsletter. Sign up here