Go on… Let it out.
If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or Winter Blues, then you’ll probably know all-too-well that tearful feeling that can inexplicably creep up on you. You ask yourself the question, ‘why do I feel like crying?’ and your brain very helpfully starts trying to generate some answers for you. Except it isn’t always very helpful. It starts to ping ideas to you and can drag you into a spinning vortex of everything that is not perfect in your life. In this mindset, it probably throws a few spiteful accusations at you too for good measure.
In this place, you have two main options: give in to it and have a good old cry or try to stem the flow by distracting yourself, putting the tears off to be released later if you feel the need.
There are times when we all need a good cry; it just seems like it has to come out. Despite being something that is universal and uniquely human, crying emotional tears continues to baffle scientists and psychologists. Most seem to agree that it’s beneficial, releasing a build-up of stress hormones and allowing others to be released into your body, providing a sense of calm.
You might find these two articles interesting:
But what about when it’s inconvenient, you’d feel too embarrassed, you know it doesn’t help you feel better, or you’re simply sick of crying? An old friend of mine, who’s a master Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner and hypnotherapist (among many other hats she wears), gave me some good tips on how to stop crying once, which I thought I’d share with you:
- Chew gum or suck on a boiled sweet – it’s really hard to cry when you’re doing this; honestly, try it!
- Smile widely – go on, really grin! – for 10 seconds, preferably into a mirror. This really confuses your brain! Pull a silly face at yourself – this guy certainly made me smile…
- Breathe deeply. The increase in oxygen will help your body cope with the flood of emotions and focusing on doing this will distract you.
- Think of something or someone who really makes you laugh, or has an infectious smile, remember a funny memory or maybe think of your kids as babies… anything that makes you smile.
After doing any of these, quickly do something distracting – put a load of washing in or tackle your housework, grab your purse and take yourself for a brisk walk and a soothing hot chocolate, play with a pet… I found these other great suggestions too, which include watching a funny video, eating something hot or cold and having a nap.
As for my way of coping; I do a bit of both – in fact, I’m indulging in some therapy right here! (please forgive my self-indulgence, but I do hope this post will be as helpful to you reading it as it’s been for me writing it!). If I’m alone then I’ll give in to the tears and let them flow, which is how I started this post, with black runways blurring my face, mascara mixing with salt water to create an inky, spidery drawing. I’ve washed it all off now – don’t worry, I’m not sitting here looking like Morticia Addams after being caught in a rain storm!!
I tried at first to fight the tears and then gave in. I won’t go into why I was crying, but unlike the times when I’m not managing my SAD symptoms very well, or I’m simply hormonal and aren’t sure why I’m tearful, I understood why and I had good reason to be tonight, so I indulged it. And then I turned to distraction. I was meant to be doing some work on my assignments for a course I started this January, but I felt like harnessing the feeling and writing this post instead. I find it very cathartic and absorbing; I definitely recommend it. Sometimes it just helps to get things out of your head and onto a page where you can see it more objectively.
That’s one of the principles behind Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). I touched on this in another post on managing SAD, and you can read more about it on Mind. When you’re feeling anxious, sad or angry it can really help. I don’t practice CBT every day; more when I’m really wound up or overwhelmed and need an outlet. It’s a highly recommended therapy for depression and anxiety. The very act of doing something productive can help you to calm down too.
Here’s how I do CBT:
- Grab a notebook and write down how you’re feeling – what thoughts are in your head? How does your body feel? Can you identify what you’re feeling?
- Rate on a scale of 1-10 (1 being not at all, 10 being absolutely certain), how strongly you believe each of the thoughts that you’ve written down.
- Hopefully you’re feeling a little better just for getting some thoughts out. Maybe you can even see that some of them just aren’t true already? Challenge the rest of them – can you think of a time that what you’re saying about yourself wasn’t true? For example do you really always make mistakes? Can you think of times when you’ve completed things perfectly? Can you see the situation differently – for example, did that person mean to snap at you, or could they have been having a difficult day and taken it out on you?
- Go back and look at the scores you gave to each of your thoughts; how do you score now? Do you believe any of them a bit less? I hope so…
Of course, another talking therapy – picking up the phone to a good friend or family member, or talking to a partner might help too. Sometimes the old maxim, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ really is true!
If you find you’re crying a lot and you don’t feel like you’re able to shift your gloom, it might be worth having a word with your doctor. Certainly crying and feeling down and flat can be a symptom of SAD and other depressive conditions if they’re not being managed effectively, but if you feel like this for more than a couple of weeks, I really would recommend you try to get some help from your doctor.
Whichever methods you choose to cope when you get the ‘blahs’, whether it’s due to having SAD or not, I hope that this post might have given you a couple more ideas to try. Let me know if you do, and if they work for you? Thank you for reading and being part of my therapy tonight!!
What methods do you use to help you deal with the ‘blahs’? Are you an advocate of having a cry, or do you think it’s better to distract yourself?
Funny man: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/941938
Writing, rain: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/349015