I have been acting since I was very young. During my high school and college theater experience I have attempted to balance the demands of putting up a show, keeping up with my school work, and keeping myself physically fit. Over the years I have noticed that whenever I am involved in a show, particularly if I have a role that requires me to be particularly involved, I am able to keep myself relatively healthy throughout the rehearsal process and then as soon as the last performance is finished I find myself sick, tired, and simply unable to return to my previous workout routine or sleep pattern. This has been a consistent physiological response to nearly every performance. In fact, I just finished performing in Romeo and Juliet and am now tired and sick. It is an odd response. But I have often wondered if the stress period in which I am balancing theater, school, other extracurricular activities, and sleep, is so high stress that my body goes into overdrive only to crash after the play is over.
My high school director referred to this phenomenon as “parasympathetic rebound.” As my director understood it, during the performance process the stress was enough to cause the body to heighten immune function and energy and then as soon as the show finished the body “relaxed” sending the immune system and the actor’s energy into a nose-dive.
I have yet to be able to find much to support this explanation. However, I would like to find a way to prevent it as I can be sure that every time I finish a show I will become ill and lethargic thus disrupting my workout routine for as much as a few weeks.
I wonder if anyone else experiences this “parasympathetic rebound” response to long periods of high stress?