The holidays (and the Omicron variant) are upon us and you know what that means: There’s never been a better time to cry it out. While the month of December — and all its attendant festivities — is a joyous time for many, it can also be a time of stress, overwhelm, loneliness, and grief.
Which is why speaker, host, and social media personality V. Spehar “pre-cries” before sad and difficult events. In this viral TikTok, she explains.
“Before I get to the event that I think is gonna make me super sad,” Spehar began, referring to celebrating Thanksgiving without one of her siblings. “I think about it ahead of time and I cry ahead of time, so that way I’m more stable in the moment.”
Most of us feel better after a good cry, and there’s scientific reason. According to the Harvard Health Blog, emotional tears (as separate from reflex tears and basal tears that flush out debris and lubricate our eyes) “flush stress hormones and other toxins out of our system.” Research shows that crying releases the hormones oxytocin and endogenous morphine (aka endorphins), which help ease physical and emotional pain and improve our mood. A 2014 study also linked “tearful crying” in adults with increased activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps the body rest and relax.
There are times when crying can be a sign of a larger problem (when it’s frequent, uncontrollable, or unprompted), but done in moderation, there’s no doubt it has a palliative effect. And it’s much healthier than the alternative, called “repressive coping,” which has been linked to higher risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, as well as a decreased immune system function, anxiety and depression.
The idea is to purposefully think about the event that scares you and conjure up the feeling of being there to process some of the strong emotions at home and enter the situation less tearfully. While Spehar acknowledges the validity of sadness, “it just gets scary when we think our sadness is going to push us over the edge.”
She advocates using an “anchor object” — something of sentimental value like a coin from your grandfather, or a crystal with special meaning — to hold or keep in your pocket while pre-crying “so I don’t slip off the edge of my sadness.”
Of course, we often don’t know when hard events are going to hit us (I wish I could’ve pre-cried before I found out my three young children would have to stay home from school due to potential COVID exposure), but when you’re headed to a holiday party without an ex or a Christmas dinner without a loved one, try disposing some of those tears before you’re expected to be merry and bright. It just might make the evening more bearable.