When you’re feeling stressed, or overwhelmed, sad or anxious, having a big cry can make you feel surprisingly better. It’s like your body needs to physically release the built-up emotions and feelings that have been swirling around your mind for who knows how long.
According to Stephen Sideroff, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California, crying is actually good for you and serves a purpose for your body.
“These feelings have energy,” Sideroff told CNN Health. “You (then) have to constrict in different ways to hold them in.”
Stopping yourself from crying actually interferes with your body’s natural instinctive processes as you’re preventing it from doing something it needs to do.
“If you’re hungry, you eat,” Sideroff said. “You find food to resolve and address that imbalance.”
And, if you’re sad or frustrated, you also need to find something to restore balance to the body and often, that’s crying. When you stop yourself from engaging in a natural and emotional release like crying, you might further bottle up those feelings of anger or sadness and they can come out in other ways.
“Crying and honouring your own needs and sensitivities is a critical part of self-care and being loving with oneself, being aware of one’s needs and honouring them to benefit the health of the body, mind and spirit,” Dr Judith Orloff, a psychiatrist at the University of California Psychiatric Clinical Faculty, told CNN Health.
With crying comes the ability to appear vulnerable to those around you. Being vulnerable can be hard if you’re not accustomed to it, but it’s also healthy for you and your body.
“You can’t always be on guard all the time,” Sideroff said. “The body always leans on many different dimensions to be in a place of balance. Being vulnerable and letting down your guard is a way of recovering, in a sense, from stress and tension.”
According to CNN Health, when you feel stressed your sympathetic nervous system activity becomes heightened. But, when you cry, there is an increase in your parasympathetic nervous system activity, which helps you to relax.
So, while fighting back tears might be your default, letting yourself experience the emotions and cry it out is your body’s way of bringing you back to balance.