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All of the above situations can lead to the Let-Down Effect and result in illness.
What is the Let-Down Effect?
The Let-Down Effect occurs when we suddenly shift from a very High Activation state (in which we feel high energy, great joy or pleasure, anger, aggravation, tension, or anxiety) to a Low Activation state (when we feel relaxed, quiet, calm, tired, or still). Due to this sudden shift, we become vulnerable to illness and symptoms.
States of High Activation can be either pleasant or stressful. Any situation that increases our internal excitement can lead to a High Activation level. Most people believe that illness generally occurs during the throes of stress or work. In actuality, one of our most vulnerable times for illness is the time immediately following periods of stress or work, when we are, in fact, able to let go and relax.
Why do I call this phenomenon the "Let-Down Effect?" When we relax, we let down our guard, that state of mental vigilance and high mental and physical activity we experience when we are in a stressful or exciting situation. Ironically, at the same time we let down our guard, the body's immune system is also letting down its guard. The term "let down" in our language is also associated with disappointment. What could be more of a let down than anticipating a relaxing break from the demands of work or coming home feeling euphoric after an exciting social event, only to come down with a cold or a headache as soon as we get fully relaxed?
The first time I became aware of the Let-Down Effect was when I was in college going through my final exams. During exams, it was typical to sleep less, work late into the night, and eat poorly. The three Cs –candy, coffee, and chips were my basic staples. These conditions certainly were not health promoting.
Of course, my classmates and I were all determined to remain healthy. We just knew that becoming sick would be the kiss of death, for there would be no way to complete all the work we had to do. Yet we all felt we were teetering on the edge of a cold or flu. I remember promising myself that once finals were over, I would reward myself with plenty of sleep, exercise, and healthy food.
Fortunately, most of us remained healthy through finals. Yet several days after finals, while receiving plenty of sleep and eating healthy meals, the reaper of illness paid us a visit. Soon we were all falling victim to some form of sickness. The Let-Down Effect was alive and well.
After spoiling several of my own vacations by becoming sick, I was dead set on finding a solution to the Let-Down Effect. I was finished with sipping warm tea, taking aspirin, decongestants, and consuming tons of vitamin C when I should have been enjoying my holiday.
I began observing my patients and noticed a similar pattern in them as well. Many of my headache patients were not developing headaches in the throes of stress, but rather, once the stress was finished, such as at the end of their day or on the weekends. A similar pattern was apparent in my patients with skin disorders such as eczema or psoriasis, which manifests as itching, flaking, drying, or cracking skin. The pattern was most glaring in those who frequently developed upper respiratory infections, such as colds and sore throats.
Even autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus tended to have major flare-ups on the Let-Down side of stress. (By the way, an autoimmune condition is one in which the body's immune system actually attacks the body.) Chronic pain conditions such as back pain or fibromyalgia (a condition in which the body develops painful areas, such as the neck, shoulders, and back, often coupled with fatigue), also tended to worsen during the Let-Down phase.
I also noticed a Let-Down pattern in some recently retired patients. Many people who enjoy excellent health throughout their working lives, such as the hard-working executive who was a neighbor of mine, looked forward to retirement only to become ill shortly thereafter. I remember him often saying to me, "As soon as I retire, all I'm going to do is golf." He did finally retire, and three months later he had a stroke.
After observing the Let-Down Effect in so many of the patients who came to me for symptom improvement, I felt certain that it was not my problem alone. This gave me an even greater incentive to find a solution to Let-Down related illnesses. As a result, I developed simple techniques that have made a tremendous difference in my life and in the lives of my patients.
In this book, you will learn what you can do to stop Let-Down-related illnesses in your life. You will learn how to identify the Let-Down Effect when it is happening, and you will acquire tools that you can rapidly employ to turn it around and preserve your health. In following chapters you will discover simple techniques that you can easily learn and assimilate into your life. These tools can make a dramatic difference in reducing or stopping Let-Down related illnesses.
There is no longer any reason to feel at the mercy of your symptoms. Nor is there any reason that your symptoms should dictate when you can go out socially, travel, or enjoy a quiet evening at home. In just a few minutes each day, these tools can bring more health and happiness back into your life. And not only can you improve your health right now, you can also improve your chances of sustaining good health throughout your later years.