There are so, so, so many things to get upset about. Midterms are sweeping the campus, natural disasters just keep happening, you miss your family, the neighbor didn’t let his dog come say hi to you—all totally reasonable things to get you in a funk. When one thing after another just keeps building up, you may find yourself staring an emotional breakdown in the face, and it ain’t pretty. There are plenty of articles and listicles about how to deal with the blues, but I know sometimes our emotions like to take things even further. I’m not here to tell you how not to get sad, I’m here to tell you what to keep in your toolbox when you catch yourself in one of those crying, wailing, thrashing, can’t-even-function fits.
· A Trigger Playlist
Sometimes we can feel a sad haze come upon us long before we feel the symptoms hit. How often have you caught yourself thinking, “Gosh, I just need to cry”? In those cases, when you just feel gross and you know you need to get it out of your system, consider having on hand a playlist of music and movies that you know will make you cry. I hesitate to give any actual suggestions as to what could be on your playlist because it’s so highly personal; some people will lose it over 101 Dalmations and others might need a Sophie’s Choice level of trauma to get the tears going. But chances are, you know what’ll tip you over the teary edge. If you don’t, Spotify has a few “sad” playlists, and there are a dozens of “Try Not to Cry” challenges on YouTube to give you a place to start.
Okay, so you’ve made yourself cry. Excellent. Sometimes just a few tears are all you need to feel better—other times, you will have opened a giant floodgate. In that case, you’ll need a box of tissues (and I do recommend a box, not a travel pack) on hand to mop up the aftermath. Big surprise: crying a lot will work up tons of snot. It’s gross. Trust me, you’re going to need tissues.
If you’re crying, water is leaving your body. You need to put water back in. Hydration is important, y’all, whether you feel like you’re on top of the world or at the bottom of the sea. Additionally, taking the time to drink water will probably give you a second to stop wailing and moaning and catch your breath.
· Something to Hug
Have a teddy bear you can’t bring yourself to leave with your parents? Have an extra pillow on your bed? Have a living, possibly furry buddy? Hold on to that real tight. For one, this will occupy your arms and probably help ground you so you don’t feel like you’re going to fly apart. For another, the act of hugging releases hormones in your brain and body that provide emotional relief.
I’ll be real: this shouldn’t be the first step you take. If you’re breaking down, you’re breaking down for a reason, and you should face it at least for a little. But when you’re coming down from that super emotional high, it’s sometimes hard to know what to do with yourself. This is where it’s helpful to have some media to dive into. Have a book on hand, or have a few movies or TV show episodes that will either calm you down or cheer you up or both. I don’t recommend anything that’s too emotionally turbulent; your goal now is to come down from that, so pick “easy” media, stuff you don’t have to think about too hard.
· A Safe Person
When in doubt, call your mama. If for whatever reason you can’t, or she’s not the best choice, call someone who is, whether that’s a significant other, a best friend, a sibling, or another family member. It might even be that you need to talk to yourself; if you can’t talk because you’re just sobbing so freaking hard, write it out. It’s important to identify what you’re thinking and feeling, if at all possible, and it’s especially helpful to have someone to give you some perspective and support.
It’s okay to get upset, even really upset, every once in a while. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be fun. And of course, if breakdowns just keep coming, seek help. Psychology Today has an excellent and easy program to help you find a local therapist in your budget. But for those once-in-a-while events, hopefully, this list and some of your own intuition will make those terrible nights a little better.
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