So often we think of “fitness” as a purely physical thing. But it’s not. Just ask someone who is stressed out about losing weight how many pounds they are actually dropping. Hint, not as many as if they were relaxed about it. So, today is all about an emotional thing that keeps most of us sane.
In my post on Monday I mention a little incident in boxing class one day. A meltdown. Also known as a breakdown. Which is also considered an incoherent, sobbing mess of WTF-is-wrong-with-you. Answer is, I have no fucking clue.
Emotional breakdowns are as varied as the stars. They are all made of the same basic stuff, but beyond that, there is little similarity. Most breakdowns consist of sadness (rational or otherwise), frustration (again, rational or otherwise), rage (you’re catching the pattern here, right?), and crying (internal or all-out blubbering and sobbing on the floor in a public place). But, the most important thing about them is…
They are healthy! Yep. I said it. Having an emotional meltdown is a good thing at times. It means something is building up inside you. There is a surplus of emotion, of feelings you can’t rationalize away, or force down anymore. It means that you need to vent some unseen pressure.
Think of it this way. You are a peaceful, majestic mountain. On the outside everything looks awesome! There are peaks in all the right places, valleys too, and even a snowy cap that inspires others around you. But underneath, perhaps far underneath, magma’s a’movin’. Pressure is building up, seeping into nooks and crannies you had no idea were there. It is sneaky and unseen. Sometimes the mountain rumbles. A little earthquake shifts a little rock and a new avenue is opened for the steam to move into.
Staying with this analogy, there are two types of volcanoes (yes, I know there are more, I made it through science in high school and college too). The first one has hot springs, and mineral mud pits that people pay way too much to go soak in. These warm places are the areas where that internal pressure vents. Just a little outlet is all it takes to help release this pressure and keep everyone safe in the valley below. BUT, if there is nowhere for this steam to go, eventually the mountain will run out of internal space and…
KABLOOWY!! Vesuvius wipes out Pompeii, Mount Saint Helens shrouds the Inland Empire in sudden darkness, and there is residual damage that can be easily seen decades later.
People are no different. If we hold on to everything that irritates, angers, saddens, or terrorizes us, we will build up pressure. And, eventually we’ll explode. Just like a volcano, there will be casualties. Relationships, jobs, self-esteem, sense of worth, everything around and inside us will be effected by the cataclysmic blast of our emotions.
Enter the meltdown. When we break down and cry, we are actually building ourselves up. When we let our emotions be what they are, disengage our brain, and just feel, we vent that pressure. It doesn’t make sense most of the time. It never will. Because it is a culmination of days, weeks, months, or even years of suppression. All that stuff is being pushed through the steam vents to the surface and none of it is related to what is happening in the here and now.
Example: I was having a couple of stressful, hard weeks. On the surface they were filled with minor annoyances. Little things that are easy to shake off and move past. Until I saw a card I bought for my husband on a whim. Just a random card that I thought would brighten his day. I lost it. I mean, really lost it. Crying? Yep. Sobbing? Uh-huh. Jumbling sentences until I was speaking in tongues no one has ever heard? Definitely. I was not, nor am I still, upset with the card. I still have no friggin’ clue why it set me off. But I had a full emotional breakdown. That dam of emotional fortitude cracked, split, and crumbled into oblivion. But, you know what? It felt great! I cried hard, so hard my body ached the next day. The skin on my face felt like someone scrubbed it with sandpaper. When it was over and the tears were wiped away, I felt lighter, more peaceful. It wasn’t hard for me to be happy again. For whatever reason, I needed a good, long, honest cry.
Humans are messy. I don’t think anyone can honestly deny that. We make mistakes, we hurt eachother, we hurt ourselves. And part of staying healthy, of remaining fit, is to own that. To let yourself have that private time. To not shame yourself or others for it. Just like venting pressure makes a mountain even more majestic, letting yourself let go makes you stronger, happier, and more peaceful.
So here it is. My advice and permission. You ready? Good. Get your favorite comfort food. Whatever it is, I promise there is no judgement. Got it? Good. Now, get some tissues. I’ll wait. Ready? Now, watch that one movie that always gets you right in the feels. Or, listen to that one song on repeat. Or, think of that one person or one situation that always makes the water works start. And open up. Let it all come out. Be with someone if you need to, or be alone, but let yourself feel all the things that clog your emotions and pull you down. This is not the time to write a letter, call someone, or drive anywhere. This is a time to feel. So, feel.
Once you are done and the tear wells dry up. When the sobs turn to hiccups of gasps and sighs. Wipe your face, blow your nose, and tell yourself, “thank you. I needed that. I feel much better now.”
The last part of this exercise is to move on! One of my favorite people always says, “if you’re going through Hell, keep walking. Don’t stop and buy a condo.” Maybe you are exhausted and need to sleep. Great, then sleep, but start tomorrow fresh. Don’t dwell on anything that came up for you unless it is serious. And I mean this, so pay attention. Anything that serious needs an impartial listener. No, the other patrons on the bus or subway do NOT want to be that person. I mean a counselor. Someone who listens to people professionally. Think about it. They are paid to sit and listen. That is their whole job. Sit and listen and occasionally give advice. These people are professional sounding boards. So go talk to them!
I know this post was long. There will be others about mental and emotional health, and each of them will be important. The biggest point here is to avoid judging or shaming yourself or others. Yes, it is rough. Yes, it makes you feel weak in the moment. But when it is all said and done, you’ll be stronger than ever. Thank you for reading along!