Crying it Out: How to Make it a Healthy ExperienceSep 11, 2021
Do you find yourself crying a lot?
Do you feel like you need to cry, but you can't?
Or perhaps you do everything you possibly can to avoid crying all together?
This blog post is going to talk about all of the ways that we can make crying a healthy experience so that it doesn't make things worse for you.
After all... isn't that what we're all afraid of?... Crying to a point that we're just a big, blubbering mess and can't handle life anymore?
First of all, that's just a myth. So let's toss that belief out before we move on to the message of this blog post:
Crying it out can actually help you feel better if done in the right way.
But more on that later...
Right now, I want to talk about the reason why so many of us feel like like crying is "bad or unhealthy".
And let me start of by just saying… I've done my fair share of crying over the years. And a lot of it wasn't pretty or healthy.
But as a young girl, I felt like it was weak to cry. And I didn't believe that crying could actually make me feel better.
When I cried in the past, I felt like the world was crumbling down around me. I felt like my emotions were sweeping me up into a vortex of feelings that I just couldn't handle.
It wasn't often that I felt in control when I cried.
And feeling out of control eventually led me to stop crying altogether.
For years, I stuffed it down, buried it, and pretended that I didn't feel the emotions.
I numbed myself out with drugs, alcohol, and anything I could possibly use to just not. feel. the. pain.
At any and all costs.
But let me tell you something super important...
When we stuff our emotions deep inside our body to avoid feeling them, they don't go away. In fact, when they come out (and trust me, they WILL come out) they'll be even more intense.
After many years of therapy, I learned that it's not only okay to cry, but it's healthy to cry. But I didn't know how to do it in a way that actually felt "good." After all, the type of crying that I was doing didn't feel healthy at all.
It sounds kind of strange, but it takes practice to learn how to cry in a healthy and helpful way.
When we learn how to cry in a healthy way, we can avoid the dark and damaging places that our psyche likes to take us when we're experiencing a painful emotion.
And learning to cry in a healthy way is really just a skill that we practice.
In this blog post, I'm going to tell you about some of the things to be aware of when you're crying. Additionally, I'll teach you how to tweak a few things so that you can get the most out of it.
But first, let's talk about what makes crying helpful or harmful.
Why is crying helpful?
There are so many benefits to crying. Not only does it help us release stored emotions from our body, but it also provides a ton of extra health benefits. Crying it out:
- Detoxifies the body
- Nullifies pain by releasing feel-good chemicals in the brain
- Helps self-soothe
- Improves mood
- Restores emotional balance
- Helps you recover from grief
While not many people enjoy crying, most people report feeling at least a little bit better after crying. It's normal for crying to be painful in the moment.
But it's also normal to feel a sense of relief afterward.
After all, it's a physical release of distressing energy stuck in the body.
Getting that distressing energy out is important for our health and wellbeing.
When is crying harmful?
Crying becomes harmful when the mind takes over the process and sends us into a darker place.
Crying becomes harmful when we shame ourselves about it.
And it becomes harmful when it turns into wallowing, self-pity, dwelling in the past, or feeling like a victim.
We've all experienced the moment when something reminds us of a painful past experience. We instantly start to feel ourselves get hot, our chest tightens up, our eyes strain, and we feel the tears coming on. This is an example of a normal reaction to an emotional trigger. But this experience can turn harmful when we start telling ourselves hurtful stories about these emotions.
"You need to stop crying about this. It happened years ago."
"My life will always be horrible, and I'll never get over what happened."
"What's the point of being here if all I ever do is cry?"
I want to point out that if you do these things, it is NORMAL. You're only human, after all. And let's be real, most of us didn't take a how-to-cry-in-a-healthy-way course in school. Healthy crying is a learning process to practice crying in a way that feels liberating and cathartic.
So, how can I practice crying it out in a healthy way, you ask?
Check your self-talk.
Like I mentioned above, crying becomes harmful when we tell ourselves stories about what crying means about who we are as a person. It's normal to tell ourselves all sorts of different things when we cry. But the more we can stop telling ourselves things that make the situation worse, the more healthy your crying experience will be. Here are some examples of some messages we tell ourselves that makes crying harmful and unhealthy:
- I'm a horrible (person, friend, partner)
- No one will ever love me
- There's no way out of this
- I'm such a (insert self-deprecating word here)
- You're such a failure
- What's wrong with you?
The list goes on and on and on, my friends. I, too, find myself in this negative thoughts spiral sometimes.
Some people think this kind of self-speak helps them "hear what they need to hear" to get over something. But in reality, all this does is beat yourself up and make you feel worse.
Notice when this mean inner voice pops up, and then challenge what it says.
Challenge your harmful self-speak.
Challenging the painful messages we tell ourselves takes practice.
But I promise that the sooner you can learn to do this, the sooner you'll be an overall healthier and happier person in life.
There are a few patterns that our negative self-speak takes form. Here are some different ways that negative self-speak shows up:
All-or-nothing thinking is when we see things as black or white.
You can tell when you're overgeneralizing when you use words like "always" and "never."
I never do anything right.
Life is always so unfair and cruel to me.
The reality is that there are many layers to every situation. Almost no situation is either black or white, good or bad.
When we can train our brains to stay away from thinking in black/white, we can have a better life experience.
This form of negative self-speak is popular, and most people have experienced it. It is when we call ourselves names based on what we're feeling.
I am such a loser.
I'm so dumb, boring, screwed up, stupid.
Dwelling on the negative:
When we only focus on the negative aspects of any situation, we can find ourselves in a deep hole of wallowing and self-pity. We instantly jump to the negative and remain stuck there.
How can I enjoy life when I've made so many mistakes?
I burned the steak--I ruined the entire meal!
Rejecting the positive:
When we refuse to search for the positives in any situation, we reject other essential aspects of the story.
I don't deserve to feel proud of myself for getting good grades. Anyone could do it.
When you believe something is a catastrophe, you tell yourself that it's so awful and horrible that you won't be able to stand it! By telling ourselves this, we convince ourselves that we're incapable of handling pain.
If he/she breaks up with me, I'm not going to be able to survive.
Personalizing means we put all of the blame on ourselves in a situation. We rarely see anyone else at fault and put the entirety of the responsibility on ourselves.
The reason my parents divorced is because of me.
When we blame things outside of ourselves, we can't take responsibility for the things that we do have control over. All of the emotional responsibility falls on something (or someone) else.
He has ruined my life and confidence.
I am a totally screwed-up person because of my parents.
Making feelings facts:
Feelings are not facts. But when we turn feelings into facts, we create "proof" of how things really are. This can get us stuck in a cycle of misery and negative self-talk.
I feel like such a loser, so I must be a loser.
I can't stop crying, so I must be crazy and screwed up.
As you can see, there are SO many different ways that our brain tries to sabotage our happiness. And it's more likely that these forms of thinking will come out when we're already feeling down in the dumps and crying it out.
The first step to healthy crying is noticing when any of these thoughts are happening.
(Related Post: The 4 Painful Myths We Tell Ourselves about Negative Emotions)
Then, we can challenge those thoughts with this handy tool.
Even though ___, it doesn't mean ___.
This tool has worked wonders for me when I notice that I'm getting caught up in negative self-talk while crying it out. Like I said, jumping to painful conclusions when we're crying it out is normal. But it becomes unhealthy when we don't learn how to recognize it and challenge it. This even though ___, it doesn't mean ___ tool can help you stop those negative thoughts right when you notice it.
Here are some examples of how you can use it:
Even though (I made a mistake / life seems pointless / I can't stop crying) doesn't mean (I'm a horrible person / life isn't worth living / I'm crazy and screwed up).
Repeat this tool as many times as you need to.
Lovingly accept how you feel.
It can feel tempting to tell yourself all the reasons why you shouldn't be crying.
And it might feel like the best option is just to shut 'er down and get back to living your life.
But unfortunately, the only way out of these painful emotions is through.
When we learn to accept our painful and overwhelming emotions, we allow ourselves to cry healthily.
If you're crying it out, you're experiencing a lot of pain. Accept that pain in this moment.
Be gentle and loving to yourself, and remember that what you're experiencing is valid and painful.
Encourage yourself that it's safe to feel these feelings and it's okay to cry.
Put a hand on your heart and say these words quietly to yourself:
I'm having a really painful experience right now. It's completely normal for me to feel this way, even in times that I don't necessarily know why. And I am giving myself the space to feel all of these emotions fully.
Take deep breaths
Believe it or not, taking long, deep breaths is a signal of love.
Long, deep breaths let our body know that it's safe.
It helps regulate the nervous system by increasing relaxation and decreasing stress. On top of that, deep breaths help us feel more grounded and present.
As you cry, you can try this simple breathing exercise.
Inhale to the count of 3
Hold the breath for 1 second
Exhale for the count of 5.
If you're in the middle of a good ugly-cry, you probably won't be doing this breathing exercise. But when you feel like you need a little relief or you're slowing down a bit, take some deep, long, loving breaths.
Cry until you feel done.
We don't always have the luxury of crying for as long as we want or need to. But when you can, allow yourself the time to cry it out until your body naturally stops. This may take only a few minutes, or it may take much longer. But forcing ourselves to stop crying before our body feels complete can lead to some problems. We'll likely be tearful for the rest of the day since our emotions are at the surface. We may even end up breaking into sobs at an unexpected time later in the day. Crying until we're finished helps us fully release our emotions. Sometimes the best way to practice crying it out is to make sure you have ample time to cry for as long as you need and practice self-care afterward. You may even schedule time into your day to spend alone time with your emotions.
Phew! Now that you've released all of your emotions, it's time to give your body some love. What can you do for yourself to take care of your body? Perhaps you want to get outside and take a walk, journal, call a friend, take a bubble bath, or watch a funny movie. If you don't have time for a long self-care activity, at least give yourself 5-10 minutes before you resume your day. Then, return to some self-care when you have more time later. Practicing self-care after we cry is a surefire way to know you're practicing healthy crying. And it lets our body know that it's safe to cry again in the future.
(Side note: Did you know that letting yourself cry is a form of self-care? So, congratulations. You just practiced some major self-care and self-love while crying it out. Check out my blog post Everything Self-Care: The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly for more on this topic.)
Before you stop reading, I'd like to just give you a big, warm hug through the computer screen.
I understand how it feels to feel like we're completely losing control of our mind, body, and spirit when we're crying it out.
I understand the feeling of not knowing when (or if) the crying will end. It's a really hard, overwhelming, and painful place to be.
I want to acknowledge you for where you are right now and remind you that you're not alone in this journey.
Come back to this blog post as many times as you need. Things don't have to feel so out of control when you're crying it out. Practicing things like:
- Checking your self-talk
- Reframing the painful messages you're telling yourself
- Taking deep breaths
- Crying until your body is finished
- Doing some post-cry self-care
helps us move from unhealthy, uncontrollable, harmful crying to crying that feels more controlled, loving, and cathartic.
I'm sending you so much love on your healing journey.
Take care of yourself.
Is your past trauma influencing your ability to have healthy intimate relationships?
Is your relationship constantly leaving you tears?
Are you afraid that your crying will "ruin" your relationship or your ability to date anyone again?
Do you have a hard time believing that anyone would ever love you after everything you've experienced?
This is most likely your trauma talking. And there are ways to work around it.
If you want to learn more about how your intimate relationships are impacted by trauma, take my Trauma-Informed Relationship Assessment!
In this assessment, you will understand how trauma has impacted your self worth as well as your ability to trust others, set healthy boundaries, practice healthy communication, and take care of yourself.
Want to create healthy, safe, & loving intimate relationships after trauma?
Take this Trauma-Informed Relationship Assessment!
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