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Wash Away Stress with Tears The surprising effects of “rui-katsu”

When was the last time you cried?

Before reading the rest of this article, try to think back on this for a moment.

Many people working from home can go all day without meeting or talking with anyone. Despite having fewer opportunities to express our emotions, vast amounts of information from the internet and social networking sites continue to flow into our minds. Most of this information isn’t just about the coronavirus, either—natural disasters, racism and political instability all stir up our own anxieties.

When the brain’s amygdala reacts to stress, it signals the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. The sympathetic nervous system then takes over, and we transition into a state of tension. This is effective in the short-term for dealing with stress, but if it goes on for too long, we will burn out. Should that happen, you will descend into the so-called ‘pandemic depression’ or ‘pandemic fatigue’—that is to say, a state of lethargy and apathy where you have no interest in anything.

The sympathetic nervous system is like the accelerator of a car, while the parasympathetic nervous system hits the brakes, and maintaining a balance between the two is essential for preventing pandemic depression. So, are there any effective methods for giving our parasympathetic nerves the upper hand?

Release built-up stress with tears

Rui-katsu is defined as detoxing the mind through crying, and without even realizing, we can achieve purification by expelling all the things that have accumulated in our minds together with our tears.

The point is, rui-katsu is more than just viewing tears in a positive light—it’s about consciously doing activities that make us cry. Stretching, yoga, jogging… It’s about actively incorporating tears into our daily lives.

Of course, these conscious tears are not tears of sadness or pain. Those are emotional tears. When talking about catharsis, Aristotle said that the pain and suffering we can’t put into words can be purged through tragic drama, which expresses them for us. This means that when you watch movies, dramas or sports, if you empathize with the people you see, have them embody your own hazy emotions and then shed an emotional tear, your feelings will be purged and you’ll be able to relax.

If you search the internet, you'll find heaps of "crying" movies, dramas, and videos, but nobody can cry at each and every one. This is because if you can’t empathize with them, then you can’t have an emotional cry.

What pulls on our heartstrings depends on each individual person, so finding the things that make you cry is also about knowing your inner self.

Why not find the best movie or music for you to cry to, and try practicing rui-katsu once a week?


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Born in Japan and moved to China in 2008. After studying the Chinese language in Chengdu, Sichuan province, Kawai deepened his learning in Hunan and Jiangsu provinces through close interaction with locals. Currently staying in Ghana and making his endeavor to English and local Twi languages.

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