Suffering From ‘Let-Down Effect?’


When Marc Schoen was attending college at the University of California, working toward his PhD in psychology, he repeatedly experienced a surprising health-and-illness pattern around the time of final exams. Although he survived and even thrived before and during the grueling exams, his body seemed to crumble as soon as those tests were over. Finally able to relax, he’d be preyed upon by one malicious infectious bug or another, most often causing colds or the , , dermatitis, arthritis pain, and depression,” says Schoen, a migraines.

“Illness during this let-down period may come in two ways,” according to Schoen, author of When Relaxation Is Hazardous to Your Health. “It could be related to something we were exposed to in the throes of stress. Or it might be something that develops afterward through this open window, where any organisms around us have a far greater chance of infecting us.”

Elizabeth Carll, PhD, clinical psychologist in Huntington, N.Y., ran support groups and stress-management programs for relatives of soldiers serving in the Persian Gulf War in 1991. “About 80% of these family members had continuous yoga work great for some people, but prove dull and stressful when arbitrarily imposed on others. You have to find what works for you.”

Here are some options to help fight off the ills of the let-down effect:

  • Schoen recommends techniques that activate the immune system a little, and thus keep it from slowing down too rapidly after a period of stress. Try short bursts of exercise — even just five minutes in length — which can trigger a positive immune-system response. “Walk up and down the stairs in your office building,” says Schoen. “Or after a stressful day at work, instead of coming home and vegging-out in front of the TV, take a brisk walk for a few minutes.”
  • Try some mental problem solving, like crossword puzzles, under time constraints. “Several studies show that doing math computations at a rapid pace actually increases immune-system activity,” says Schoen.
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, which can give your mind and body a rest stop from the day’s anxieties. Consciously make yourself breathe slower, inhaling deeply and exhaling naturally. Become aware of the gentle rising and falling of your . This deep breathing can lower your heart rate, slow your brain waves, and even reduce your blood pressure. Paying attention to your breathing is actually a simple, calming form of meditation..