Why Do We Sometimes Get Sick When We Relax?

May 18, 2024

Anyone else like me and find you can wake up on a Saturday morning with the start of a cold which keeps you in bed all weekend so you miss doing the fun stuff you had planned the previous week? This can be due to a combination of physiological and psychological factors for which some possible explanations include:

1. Stress and Immune System Dynamics:

  • Stress-Induced Immunity: Chronic stress can suppress the immune system. When you are constantly busy or stressed, your body produces stress hormones like cortisol, which can temporarily bolster your immune response. However, this is not sustainable long-term.
  • Rebound Effect: Once you relax and the stress hormones decrease, your immune system might be temporarily less effective, making you more susceptible to infections that were previously held at bay.

2. Lifestyle Changes:

  • Routine Disruption: When you relax or take time off, your daily routine often changes. Changes in sleep patterns, diet, and activity levels can affect your immune function and make you more susceptible to getting sick.
  • Exposure: You might be more exposed to germs during relaxation periods, such as traveling or attending social events, increasing your chances of catching a cold.

3. Psychological Factors:

  • Perception of Symptoms: During busy periods, you might not notice or might ignore minor symptoms due to distraction. When you relax, you become more aware of your body and any symptoms that you might have overlooked.
  • Rest and Repair: When you finally rest, your body might shift resources to repair and recovery processes, during which symptoms of underlying or minor illnesses can become more apparent.

4. Post-Stress Illness:

  • Post-Stress Immune Suppression: After periods of high stress, there can be a temporary dip in immune function known as post-stress immune suppression, making you more vulnerable to infections during this recovery period.

5. Circadian Rhythms and Seasonal Effects:

  • Circadian Rhythms: Your body’s internal clock regulates many aspects of immune function. Changes in your daily schedule, such as staying up later or sleeping in, can disrupt these rhythms and impact immune efficiency.
  • Seasonal Effects: Many people take vacations or relax during certain times of the year when colds and other viruses are more prevalent (e.g., winter holidays).

Preventive Measures:

To mitigate the likelihood of getting a cold when you relax, consider the following strategies:

  1. Manage Stress: Practice stress management techniques regularly, such as mindfulness, meditation, or yoga, to keep your stress levels balanced.
  2. Maintain Healthy Habits: Stick to a consistent routine with adequate sleep, a balanced diet, and regular physical activity, even when you relax or take time off.
  3. Hygiene Practices: Continue to practice good hygiene, such as regular hand washing and avoiding close contact with sick individuals, especially during travel or social events.
  4. Boost Your Immune System: Support your immune health with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and other nutrients, and consider supplements like vitamin C and zinc if recommended by your healthcare provider. For me, the best preventor of colds has been “Immun’Age” – I will take a sachet every 6-8 hours at the first sign of a potential cold like that “roof of mouth feeling”.
  5. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, which supports overall health and immune function.
  6. Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s signals and take care of minor symptoms promptly to prevent them from worsening – see (4) above.

What do you do or take to help avoid these weekend / holiday colds?

 

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