There is a whole lot to be said for sitting down and having a good cry once in awhile. If you’ve had one lately, then I probably don’t need to explain what was good about it. You probably felt a lot different – relaxed, relieved, restored – after you wiped your eyes and blew your nose that one last time.
But if you haven’t let yourself turn on the waterworks in awhile, what’s holding you back? You may be afraid that once you let the tears flow, you might not be able to stop them from coming. Or, you are thinking that you shouldn’t be crying, that you should instead hold the feelings inside and hang tough or “smile through the pain.” Perhaps you're even playing that old tape from childhood: “I don’t want to see any tears.” Maybe you just don’t want to appear to be vulnerable or weak, something I hear all the time.
Well, time to reconsider. Shedding a few — or a lot of — tears is part of being human and it’s a shame that we so often hold ourselves back from crying when it has so many potential benefits. Exactly what is a good cry good for? Here’s what:
Stress relief. When the stress builds up, and threatens to overwhelm you, crying can be a great way to release your stress and tension — and all of those pent up feelings that go along with stress. They’re just tears. You won’t melt.
Getting happy. Ever wonder why you sometimes feel the urge to cry when you are feeling happy? We call them “tears of joy.” So enjoy!
Coping with frustration. The bumps in the road that we all run into along the way can leave you feeling helpless and out of control... and really, really frustrated. Crying doesn’t put you in control but it can go a long way toward helping you to release all of that pent up frustration, and maybe free you up to look at what you can control.
Accepting disappointment. Things don’t always go the way we wanted, or expected, them to go. Life has a way of getting in the way of our plans. Crying helps you to sit with the disappointment, let it in, and gain some perspective on it.
Adjusting to change. Humans don’t love change. We kind of like to stick with what’s familiar, even if it’s not so comfortable. Living with HIV comes with its share of changes — following a medication schedule, monitoring your numbers, deciding who to disclose to and more. When faced with change, it’s only human to feel as if something is being taken away from us. And when we have a loss, we grieve. Going through the grief process is how our minds learn to accept change and cope with it. When we are grieving, it is normal to shed some tears. Crying is a mentally healthy response to grief.
Because you don’t know what else to do. Tears may seem to come out of nowhere, for no specific reason, and not out of any feelings, at least any feelings that you are aware of. You just want to let some tears flow. Don’t fight it. Let them out. Chances are, you’ll feel better. And when you stop fighting the urge to cry, you may even figure out what’s bothering you.
And because you can. Crying is a normal human response. It’s a great way to release tension and pent up emotions. Having a good cry can help to clear out emotions that you are holding back, emotions that may be preventing you from having a balanced perspective. And when your emotions and your rational mind are more in balance, then it you are also more likely to be freed up to look at what’s real, but also to consider the possibilities.
So what’s stopping you from reaching for that box of tissue? When the urge hits to cry, then let those tears flow. Do it in a place that is most comfortable for you, with someone you want to share your tears with, or off by yourself, or maybe take a walk somewhere where you won’t be noticed or where you don’t care who notices you. If you haven't had a good cry lately, it’s may be time.
(One note of caution: If you find that you are crying uncontrollably or that you don’t seem to be able to function because of your constant tears, this can be a symptom of depression, and time to consult with a mental health professional.)