The dreaded PSS (Post-Semester Sickness)

Christmas Eve 2014, I went shopping for dinner, which we were taking to my family the next day.  It was our first Christmas in our new home.  I started getting what I thought was a migraine. Nope. Christmas Day, I got Tamiflu as a gift from Santa. And no family visit. Yay me.

I’m sure that many of you can relate to the Post-Semester Sickness phenomenon. The illness you get right after the stress of the semester ends. Of course, it isn’t restricted to the end of semester. Right after that big grant application. Turned in your promotion or annual review.  The list goes on and on.

This year for me it’s just a nasty head cold and sinus infection. But it got me wondering – how does the stress of academia affect our immunity?

To delve into this, I had to read outside my comfort (and possibly my comprehension) zone. The medical articles I read didn’t really get to what I was looking for – most of them were talking about chronic stressors or major illnesses such as heart attacks and strokes. There was lots of literature about mental illness and stress. Important topics, but not what I wanted to know. I wanted to know about small illnesses after big stressors. 

I found nothing in my search. Nonetheless, I have been told by friends and physicians alike getting sick after big projects is not uncommon.  It’s a thing, but of course scientific evidence of a thing is superior to anecdotal.

If science ever says Post-Semester Sickness is a thing, I’m wondering if it is preventable?  Sure, we need our flu shots and to wash our hands more. But could it be that we put the project’s needs before our own health?  Would engaging in regular exercise, stress reduction, and a good diet mitigate illness after stress in an otherwise healthy population?

Anyone want to take this project on?  If you can find literature that I didn’t, please let me know! Now bundle up, wash your hands, and head towards the finish line!