Let the tears roll, for crying out loud
By Chris Hammerlund
Dear Chris: The holidays always leave me an emotional wreck. I'm the one in the family who prepares all the food, gets the decorations ready, handles the Christmas tree and deals with the kids and their gifts. But instead of it making me happier, I find myself crying for no particular reason. Is that normal? Any tips so I don't always feel like a mess? Angela in Mundelein
Dear Angela: Not only is a good cry a permissible gift to yourself, science says it's a necessary way the body cleanses itself internally. Look it up. It's in all the biology books.
But even if I didn't have the research at my fingertips, just ask yourself how you feel after a big, loud, blubbery cry. Most people feel much better, and it's not just an illusion. Your body often sends you clear signals. Crying is one of them.
What makes you cry can be a thousand different stimuli - pain, grief, joy, hormones, or even genetic influences. This uniquely-human experience is natural and necessary for biochemical cleansing - helping the body dump toxins and reset healing processes. Sobbing flushes stress hormones while prompting endorphin production - the feel-good chemical responsible for soothing raw pain, calming overstimulation, and boosting optimism.
I love those endorphins. In fact, I've often wondered if people who are more naturally and visibly “happy” with the world are that way partly because their endorphin triggers are easier to access. People who cry freely may have a big advantage in tapping endorphins.
You may be one of those people who cry at any moment - weddings, birthday parties, or your kids' school plays. Or you may be the type who can't remember when you last cried.
Either way, crying often catches everyone when or where they don't want to weep. Others might not want to watch you weep.
But sorry, Angela, they're just going to have to get over it. What sort of a family do you have anyway? The “why” of crying may seem obvious. You're happy or sad. But that's too simplistic.
Dr. Stephen Sideroff is Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA's School of Medicine, as well as the Director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Ethics says people cry for very complex reasons. For instance, he says, people cry in response to something of beauty. He calls it “melting.” They are letting go of their guard, and tapping into a place deep. Crying can also be a survival mechanism.
Jodi DeLuca, a neuropsychologist at Tampa General Hospital in Florida, says that crying might be a signal you need to address something. Maybe you are frustrated, overwhelmed or even just trying to get someone's attention. Maybe you are secretly angry that no one helps you at the holidays. That would certainly make me cry.
On top of that, crying may have a purging biochemical purpose. So relax. It's just a part of being a complex physical specimen.
In any case, the last emotion you should feel about crying is that it's a bad thing that should be stifled because it makes someone else uncomfortable. Personally, I think we need a National Day of Crying.
Who am I, and why would a person listen to me? Both fair questions. I'm Christine Hammerlund and I've been a nurse for years. I have delivered babies, saved lives, and cared for hundreds of patients through their medical triumphs and tragedies. Now I run Assured Healthcare at http://www.assuredhealthcare.com.