The Let Down Effect: Why Illnesses Re-emergeJun 30, 2022 10:00AM ● By Veena Verma-Dzik
Why is my Lyme back? Why am I having horrible stomach problems? Why do I keep getting sick? Many patients with chronic illnesses say how well they were feeling, then all of a sudden after a life event, all of their symptoms return and their illness is back. This happens with Lyme disease, autoimmune conditions, stomach issues, viruses and more.
We most certainly have all been there, in that place in life where we are finally feeling like our normal selves, and after a period of prolonged stress, whether we perceived it as stress at the time or not, we become ill again. The chronic stress takes a toll. This situation is known as The Let Down Effect, where pre-existing chronic conditions reignite or frequent illnesses take over our health. Flare-ups—not in the midst of a period of concentrated stress—but after the stressful event resolves.
There are so many different life stressors. Most people perceive stress as any time we are faced with conflict in our lives or emotional trauma. However, stress is also that day-to-day grind that a lot of us live through, juggling work, kids, family, friends and more.
For the most part, we are able to hold it together and get it all done. This daily hustle-bustle, whether you realize it or not, demands a lot out of us and is a stress on our bodies.
So, why after stress do illnesses appear or flare-up? Thanks to our good old friend and stress hormone, cortisol, we are able to kick into survival mode and get through stress. At the same time our healthy fight-or-flight response is activated, cortisol is doing its job to put our bodies in defense mode and our immune system is kicking out cells needed to prevent us from getting sick.
All is fine and good now that the stress is over, right? Not necessarily. The most vulnerable time for our bodies to get hit with an illness is actually after periods of emotional and physical stress, when our immune system is burnt out and inflammation in our bodies rise. There may be mental relief after the stress is over, but physically, our bodies are spent.
Most of us become wrapped up in doing so much for others, and become so overwhelmed by life’s stressors that we forget about ourselves. Though it is not easy at times, you have to remember to prioritize your health, especially if you are in the midst of caring for others.
Stay ahead and support your body. There is value to supplementing with herbs and nutrients during and after stressful periods in your life. When under stress, your immune system pulls from your nutrient stores to function at its best. Over time, vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc and B vitamins become depleted, and your white blood cells do not have enough to work at their best. It is also a very good idea to support your adrenals and cortisol levels with adaptogens, such as Ashwagandha, Rhodiola and Tulsi, which have been shown to be very beneficial during periods of stress to not just modulate cortisol, but also to help assist in keeping inflammation down and improving anxiety and depression.
Take time for yourself. This definitely can be easier said than done, but achievable. Whether it is 10 minutes or an hour, every moment that you take for yourself matters. Go for a walk, listen to a podcast or sit in silence with a book. Do anything that will bring you a moment of peace to keep yourself grounded.
Find some joy. Believe it or not, during stressful periods, it is a good time to try something new. It gives you something to look forward to and experience. Whether it’s meditation, joining a book club or paddle boarding for the first time, planning something for yourself is important. Making time for yourself and prioritizing your health is absolutely worth it—because you are.
Liz Jorgensen has 30 year’s experience with adolescent and adult psychotherapy and counseling. She is a nationally recognized expert in counseling, particularly in engaging resistant tee... Read More »