Updated: Aug 3
(See bottom of article for list of specific reasons crying helps protect our bodies)
As COVID-19 progresses, we continue to experience something that we, as a society, were never warned to prepare for. When we mapped out the chapters of our lives in our ventrolateral frontal cortex, the part of our brain utilized for long term planning and goal making, we didn’t consider the possibility of COVID-19. Students who worked their entire lives to get into their dream school might not walk at their college graduation. Employees who spent years working towards a promotion, are now being let go from their jobs. Birthdays are being spent alone. Weddings are being canceled. Expectant mothers are changing their delivery plans. These are not the stories we anticipated sharing with our children and our grandchildren one day.
While we are all contained within our living quarters and given very minimal access to the outside world for the time being, we may feel as if we are living inside a bubble. Equivalently, we each have a bubble living inside of us. This bubble sits within our chest, and is filled with a series of emotions. For some, it might contain optimism, hope, or productive energy. For others, it might be filled with fear, discomfort, and grief. Most of our bubbles are filled with variations of these emotions.
We are reminded each day of our unavoidable fate, as the hours of our day go by uninterrupted by a routine trip to the market or carpool for soccer practice. Yet we move along swiftly, and go about our days as the bubble grows within our chest. Despite the metamorphose of our existence- the show must go on and our lives must move forward. We’re attempting to proceed as if working from home feels productive, homeschooling our children feels normal, and the world isn’t frozen in time. However, while doing so, we fail to stop and acknowledge the pain we are experiencing and the trauma we continue to endure as these changes are thrown at us. While people are dying around us, we fear that if we breathe too deeply, or sit in silence for two seconds too long our bubble will pop, the salt water will leak, and our hopes and fears will flood out with it.
Yesterday, while reading my book “Getting Things Done, the art of stress free productivity,” by David Allen, I began to hold back tears. For obvious, it was not the literature that was making me emotional. I wanted to stop and cry, but first of all I had eleven minutes left on my phone timer that were scheduled to be spent deep in the pages of my paper back. Secondly, I felt a little bit scared to cry, and a little bit ashamed. I had spent excessive energy over the past two weeks sanitizing my home, re-organizing my living space, and ripping through to-do lists. I decided that I would take this situation head on and make the most of it. Yet, here I was, struggling to keep it together and hating myself for it. But why?
As soon as we allow ourselves to cry, we begin to face the fact that things are not normal. That the world is a terrifying place to reside at this moment in time, and that there is very little we can do to reassure ourselves that our lives and our loved ones are not at risk. If we break down and cry, to some it may feel like we are giving up, or giving in. Others might fear that acknowledging the sadness of this circumstance will trigger a downward spiral. Nonetheless, the reality is that we need these moments. We need to allow ourselves to break down, and pop those bubbles in our chest so that they can build themselves back up again, getting stronger with every go. Things are hard right now. It’s okay to be scared. However, we need our bodies to rely on during a time like this, so when it tells you it needs to cry, listen to it. Afterward, remind yourself that you are strong enough to get up and go on again.
Remind yourself how far you’ve come already, and how much of your life you have left to look forward to once all of this is over. Now is the time to give yourself a break. To know, and truly believe, that you mustn’t always be composed, and that crying doesn’t mean you aren’t strong . If you find yourself needing to cry in the middle of dinner, while walking your dog, or while on the phone with your best friend, just do it. The best thing we can do for ourselves and for one another during a time like this, is to be patient. We will all experience different losses, extents of pain, and levels of sacrifice. We are certainly all entitled to our tears.
Why else should we cry?
Based off of an article written by Penn Medicine, titled “Why You Should Cry — 5 Reasons to Let It All Out,” crying is good for us because it relieves our body of toxins and hormones that contribute to elevated stress levels. When we cry, not only do we improve our mental health, but we also boost our immune system.
Crying can be incredibly beneficial to our eyes as well! Crying helps keep our eyes from getting too dry, washes out germs, and clears away dust particles that block our vision.
Some people are surprised to hear that we have tear ducts inside of our nose as well! This allows crying to help us clear out sinuses, wash away germs, and flush out bacteria.
Medical News Today shares with us that crying can help your body self soothe and is scientifically proven to improve sleep.
Crying helps relieve physical pain as well as emotional pain. It alters hormone levels and allows you to experience pain at less severe rates.
Today, while I was reading, I began to tear up once again. (I am starting to think that my background music is perhaps the trigger). Instead of sniffling while I turned another page, I sat back, and let myself cry. It was relieving to finally accept that my repressed pain and my underlying fear was valid. It felt good acknowledging that this was essential to my growth. Once I had cried it out, I washed my face, made myself a glass of lemon water, and moved along with my day. I feel better, and I think those of you who finally allow yourself to cry will feel better too.
Remember that this is just temporary. There will be light again.
Burgess, Lana. “8 Benefits of Crying: Why Do We Cry, and When to Seek Support.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 7 Oct. 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319631#benefits-of-crying.
“Why You Should Cry — 5 Reasons to Let It All Out — Penn Medicine.” — Penn Medicine, 14 Nov. 2016, www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2016/november/health-benefits-of-crying.