“Heavy hearts, like heavy clouds in the sky, are best relieved by the letting of a little water.” ~Antoine Rivarol
When thinking about self-care methods, the method that came to my mind, embarrassingly fast, was drinking wine and crying. Your immediate thought might be that this, in fact, sounds incredibly unhealthy and probably quite sad, but hear me out: When we are young, we are told “big girls don’t cry.” This sentiment makes sense for children who are trying to get their way or who are being generally difficult. However, as adults, we are taught crying goes against all societal norms. Admittedly, we can’t just go crying to our bosses when our workload becomes too much. However, this idea somehow has come to encompass all forms of crying, as we grow into adulthood. It seeps so deeply into our societal norms that we apologize to others for crying in front of them. We get embarrassed and we feel weak. Just the other night, I stopped my friend mid-sentence so I could run away to the safety of the bathroom, to attempt to hide the fact that I was crying. I apologized profusely, as if I had just done the most offensive thing possible. We were having a very raw and real conversation, so my tears weren’t out of place, yet I felt extremely embarrassed.
As the only species who cries emotional tears, we defy a lot of our evolutionary background when we shame each other for doing so. Dr. Oren Hasson, a researcher at TAU, says, “Crying is a highly evolved behavior,[sic] tears give clues and reliable information about submission, needs and social attachments between one another.” When we cry, we are bringing all our walls down and being incredibly vulnerable. We’re trusting whoever we’re exposing that vulnerability to; forming a stronger bond for both parties involved. We are saying, “I trust you enough to be vulnerable in front of you,” and the other person recognizes that they are special enough for us to display that vulnerability. When we see someone crying, it elicits compassion and empathy and these feelings build stronger relationships and a stronger community, which, in turn, provides protection and support. It allows for true emotion to be communicated. In short, crying helps us to survive.
Besides the beneficial pro-social reasons for crying, there are also beneficial biological reasons. Dr. William Frey from the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis researched the difference between emotional tears and reflex tears (tears that emerge when you do something like peel an onion) and found that, while reflex tears are 98% water, emotional tears contain stress hormones that accumulate in the body. It has also been found that crying triggers the production of endorphins, which act as a natural pain killer and generally make us feel good. When people refer to crying as “a good cry” it’s because you actually do, biologically, feel better afterwards. This is just another surprising reason that crying isn’t something our society supports more fully.
So, when I say that my self-care involves drinking wine and crying, I mean that drinking wine helps to bring my walls down and become more vulnerable, allowing me to express my deepest thoughts and emotions to people I trust to protect that vulnerability. Crying and discussing the things that have been weighing on me, with people who care about me bring validity to those thoughts and emotions. Doing this allows me to work through my emotions and thoughts in a healthier environment than going through anxiety-riddled circles in my head. Most importantly, this process allows me to nurture deep bonds with people who are important to me, and for them to do the same, creating a more supportive community. When someone cries in front of me, I know that they are being real, and I know that they are trusting me with some of their toughest issues.