Avoiding the Let Down Effect

Sometimes the good times can make us sick. It can be a very common thing to develop a cold, the flu, or other sicknesses after the holidays are over or after any big event.

This is known as the let down effect, “It’s a pattern in which people experience a flare up of a chronic condition or get an illness right after some kind of stressful event,” explains Cherisse Davis, a clinical counselor from Mental Health Colorado.

This effect has been associated with conditions such as upper respiratory infections, the flu, migraines, arthritis pain and more.

9Health staff member Deanna Haas fell ill right after her daughter’s wedding. It was a happy event, with good stress, but she says she got sick right after. She asked Davis and Renée Rivera, also with Mental Health Colorado, why the let down effect happens and how to avoid it.

Davis and Rivera say when we destress too rapidly it leads to biochemical changes that result in a weakened immune system, “When our body is responding to stress it increases cortisol and adrenaline which are the stress hormones that actually make us more mentally agile and more physically able to handle stress. It’s a good thing we start increasing these hormones but once the stress is over, those hormone levels drop down and there are other chemicals in our bodies that are left over and can make us sick,” says Davis.

To avoid the let down effect they suggest a cool down period, just like you would do after exercising, “In that destressing phase, when you know it’s coming, find little things to do. Exercise in short spurts, meditate, do yoga, just take care of yourself,” Rivera says.

It’s important to find a de-stressing technique that works for you. During and after a stressful time, it can also be helpful to keep to your schedule and normal routine as much as possible, “It’s also really important to be mindful of any experience you’re going through and think about what you’re doing to take care of yourself,” Rivera adds.

Practice relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, which can give your mind and body a rest and make you more aware of how you are feeling. Paying attention to your breathing is a simple form of meditation.

Stress is a normal part of living but it is usually short term. It is different than depression and anxiety, which are more long-term mental health disorders. If you are dealing with a mental health issue Mental Health Colorado has resources available to help on their website: https://www.mentalhealthcolorado.org/resources/