I’m due for a cry. As a kid, I was a bit of a crybaby. I was always sensitive and anything from a skinned knee, to a bad grade, to seeing someone else suffering could set me off. In high school, it only got worse. There was a two-year streak where I couldn’t make it through a single movie without tearing up. Even the briefest moments of poignancy in an otherwise goofy screwball comedy would bring me to tears.
I did my best to “toughen up” in my 20s but found that denying myself the outlet of crying left me simmering with anger and anxiety and ruined many a night out when a drink or two would rip my floodgates wide open.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to see my sensitivity as a gift rather than a curse. Rather than continuing to try to make it go away, really leaning into that tender-heartedness has made me a much better parent. When my toddler has big feelings and needs to scream and cry, I have so much more patience with him than I would have if I were still trying to fight off my own big feelings. Of course, I’m not recommending that we, as adults, start lying down weeping on the sidewalk when our socks get wet, but just as toddlers need to have great big meltdowns as they learn to understand the world around them, adults can benefit from indulging in a good cry as we learn to understand ourselves.
I don’t just mean that metaphorically. Crying really does have scientifically proven benefits. Just like doing cardio or meditating, crying can be used to end a stress cycle and help you finally relax. (For safety reasons, I cannot recommend crying while exercising, but hypothetically if you were to try it, you might get double the benefits.) Crying can even release the “love hormone” oxytocin, the very same hormone our bodies release when we give birth, breastfeed, hug someone dear to us, or even have an orgasm. This is why after a big cry you may be left feeling wrung-out, relaxed, and even a little warm and fuzzy.
So give it a try.
If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or burnt out, if you find yourself snapping at your spouse and kids more than you’d like or suppressing the urge to just go outside and scream, consider a long walk, a hot shower, or a viewing of Steel Magnolias (or My Girl, A Walk To Remember, or Marley and Me, whatever your go-to crying movie is). When the tears start, let them come. It may be just what the doctor ordered.