We need to allow ourselves to cry

Photo courtesy Ebony

With the winner of the presidential still up in the air and COVID-19 running rampant, built-up stress and emotions are at a all-time high.

For far too long we as a society have associated crying as a form of weakness, filled with embarrassment, shame and immaturity. But the truth is, crying is just as important as any other physiological response we have.

Firstly, there is a conversation to be had about how parents tend to govern their young children’s emotions that inevitably leads to potential long-term emotional suppression. I am sure that at some point in time we have all heard a parent tell their child to “stop all that crying.” In this very moment, the child is learning to associate a natural response [crying] to emotion and/or pain with something they should not be doing.

Secondly, misogyny plays a large role in the negative connotations associated with crying. For years society has associated weakness and fragility with women, commonly enforced by phrases such as “stop acting like a girl” and “stop crying — that is for girls.”

The false narrative that women are purely hyper-emotional beings is often paired with an opposing narrative that men are supposed to be emotionless beings who remain “strong.”

Physiologically speaking, there are numerous benefits to crying.

What are these benefits, you may ask? Well, crying No. 1 neurological benefit is the element of self-soothing and production of “feel-good chemicals.”

According to Healthline.com, “crying for long periods of time releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, otherwise known as endorphins. These feel-good chemicals can help ease both physical and emotional pain. Once the endorphins are released, your body may go into somewhat of a numb stage. Oxytocin can give you a sense of calm or well-being.”

We all handle stress and pain differently. However, it is our job to develop healthy ways of catharsis in order to cope with these emotions. I feel crying is often neglected as a way to express emotion even if that emotion is not sadness but perhaps joy.

According to Psychology Today, “hypothalamus can’t tell the difference between me being happy or sad or overwhelmed or stressed. Yours can’t tell the difference, either. All it knows is that it’s getting a strong neural signal from the amygdala, which registers our emotional reactions, and that it must, in turn, activate the autonomic nervous system.”

It is important to note that just like all things in life, moderation is key in order to not overstep the negative components of crying. Although crying is a natural bodily function, crying in excess could cause emotional and physical fatigue as well as slight headaches.

According to Medical News Today, “When crying hard enough, many people will experience a runny nose, bloodshot eyes, swelling around the eyes and general puffiness in the face, flushing around the face … a strong cry can leave a person feeling emotionally drained. For some people, a headache comes after the emotional and physical responses of crying.”

So next time you make it back home after a long frustrating day, perhaps allowing yourself the opportunity to release pent up emotional stress can do more good than you realize.