Feeling stressed during the holidays? Maybe all you need is a good cry. Shedding tears is actually a process your body uses to release...

Feeling stressed during the holidays? Maybe all you need is a good cry. Shedding tears is actually a process your body uses to release pent up emotions that can be caused by sadness, grief, stress, anxiety, frustration or even joy. It signals that you have reached an intense emotional level that your body can no longer handle. At this point, just let the tears flow. It is a healthy and healing response. Crying actually releases a stress hormone called prolactin. Women produce more prolactin than men, which supports the common theory that women cry more than men.

There are three types of tears associated with crying; reflex, continuous and emotional. All three have the ability to heal. Reflex tears are a response to environmental stimulants such as exposure to chemical irritants, smoke and even onions. If you do your own cooking, chances are you’ve experienced this phenomenon more than once. Continuous tears are lubricating but also protect the eyes from infection by washing out bacteria. They also drip through the nose to keep it moist and bacteria free.

Emotional tears have the ability to improve breathing and heart rate after the crying spell, relieving the tension associated with the cause of the event.
Reflex tears contain mostly water. Continuous tears contain lubricating chemicals that keep your eyes moist and flush bacteria. Emotional tears release stress-related hormones and enhance your mood.

Have you ever heard of the expression, “I laughed until I cried?” I have a history of doing just that. In fact over the years my family has often teased me about this response. It started with sharing a funny story that made me giggle for no apparent reason. It moved to hysterical laughter and finally ended in sobbing. Looking back, I can always relate it to a time of emotional stress. And yes, each time I felt better afterwards, in spite of the flush of tears that smeared my makeup and flushed my cheeks.

So next time you feel all tensed up and ready to shout at someone or send an ugly email, put it on hold for a while and watch a movie first. It might be a funny one to make you laugh hysterically or one that is just plain sad. There are certainly plenty of both this time of year. In either case let the tears roll when they come. You’ll feel better and less agitated. Just think of them as tears that heal, no prescription needed and no pesky side effects.