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The Let-Down Effect

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Why do I seem to catch cold after a stressful period is over?

The Let-Down Effect

Has this ever happened to you? You're working on a big project. You're feeling a lot of stress as the deadline approaches, but you're also enjoying the challenge. You probably have some feel-good endorphins releasing into your body, as well as the stress hormones, like cortisol.

You haven't been eating well, exercising, or getting enough sleep, but you're able to complete the project. When it's over, you want to totally relax, looking forward to vacation, and resume your healthy habits. And then you get sick.

Many of us have had the experience of getting sick after the stress is over. It's usually upper respiratory disease, but could also be headaches, gastrointestinal problems, or others.

The stressful event can be short or long term. One study showed marathon finishers were much more likely to catch a cold in the days after the race. It was not the training, which is spread over a long period, but the race itself that triggered the illness.

Dr. Marc Schoen calls this the "let-down effect." If you drop from a state of high activation to a state of low activation, your immune system slows way down too, leaving you open to infection. Schoen says it's better to taper off, to go from high speed to low speed gradually. He suggests a number of techniques, including brief but brisk walking. To find out more, go to

You can adjust your self-hypnosis techniques so that you slow down gradually. Here's a technique that will put you into a light trance, while stimulating your mind and releasing serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter. Try this.

Stand with your right foot forward and your left foot turned out 45 degrees. Extend your arms in front of you, chest level, with your palms facing each other, about 8 inches apart. Rock back, weight on left foot, and bring your hands up and over, then forward, pushing your hands out. Your hands move in an oval shape. Breathe easily and concnetrate on what you're doing. Continue for a couple of minutes, or as long as you want. Do you feel the energy between your hands?



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