When you feel tears forming in your eyes, how do you react? Do you let them flow? Do you hold them in? Do you give yourself a pep talk? Do you cancel your plans and eat any chocolatey food item you can find in your kitchen?
Though there’s not one “right” way to cry, handling the experience of crying is generally not a topic that is discussed. Many of us have not been taught coping skills to move through it.
It’s common to experience discomfort when we cry. In our society, tears can be viewed as a sign of weakness or as an indicator that something bad is happening. However, crying is an integral part of the human experience. It can be a much-needed release when we’re experiencing stress, and our bodies actually produce feel-good hormones after a good cry. It’s the body’s natural way of rebalancing the nervous system.
Let’s talk about how we can take care of ourselves when the tears flow:
- Leave Shame at the Door – The last thing you need when you’re upset is to feel judged by yourself. Pay attention to any negative reactions you have toward your emotional expression and challenge those ideas. You’ll get the most out of your experience if you can give yourself permission to allow it to happen.
- Notice the Physical Sensations – Many of us are generally disconnected from the physical sensations of our emotions. This is often learned as a way to protect ourselves from the intensity of the sensations. Unfortunately, this disconnection can make us feel worse in the long run. Connect with your body by gaining awareness of the feeling of the tears rolling down your cheeks, the feeling in your throat, the movements of your muscles, and anything else you notice.
- Give Yourself Some Love – Choose a way to give yourself some comfort. You could put one hand on your heart and one hand on your stomach and feel the warmth of your hands. You could give yourself a little massage in areas that feel tense. My personal favorite is to look at yourself in the mirror and give yourself some words of affirmation. Anything that says, “I love you, self” is *chef’s kiss*.
- Recover – As wonderful as crying is, it does require a considerable amount of energy! Once you’ve shed all your tears, take some deep, slow breaths and drink some water. Maybe do some stretches as well to counteract tension.
Being present with your emotions is not an easy feat, so give yourself a pat on the back when it’s done. And if you want that chocolate treat, go ahead and have it. “Vulnerability is not weakness; it is our greatest measure of courage” – Brené Brown