How Do You Stop Yourself From Crying? These 7 Methods Are Surprisingly Effective When You Need Them
Whether it hits you in the middle of a subway ride, or at your desk after a particularly terrible day at work, the urge to cry can strike at the worst times. As one of the most relatable human experiences, crying in public has become such a rite of passage that Brooklyn-based programmer Kate Ray even made an interactive map of New York City earlier this year that pinpointed where and why people got emotional. But what if you'd really just rather not cry right now? Stopping yourself from crying can be easier than you think.
Research shows that women in particular are more susceptible than men to crying in public spaces like the workplace. In a survey by Time, 41 percent of women reported crying at work, in comparison to 9 percent of men. A simple search of “how to stop crying” on YouTube yields pages and pages of motivational videos with images of rolling hills and stock photos of women with mascara and tear-stained cheeks.
While crying can be a great form of release, there are times when you simply don’t want to lose your cool in the presence of others. Luckily, there are methods that can help you hold back tears the next time you find yourself feeling choked up. Here are seven surprisingly effective ways to stop yourself from crying when you feel it coming on.
1. Use Props
When you’re feeling the tears come on, try using a physical prop by scribbling a list onto a notepad or squeezing a stress ball. Focusing your attention on holding something tangible may help distract you from the tears, says Medical News Today.
2. Pinch the Skin Between Your Thumb and Pointer Finger
Years ago, I remember reading an article by Joanna Goddard at Glamour about a great trick to hold back the tears. She suggested pinching the skin on your hand, specifically the area between the thumb and pointer finger. Science seems to agree — tensing up the muscles and giving yourself something to do can make you feel less helpless, and thus “may limit your crying response, because it seems that crying is in particular a passive and helpless reaction,” scientist Dr. Ad Vingerhoets, an expert on emotional tears, told The Cut.
3. Deep Breathing is Your Friend
It sounds obvious, but taking deep breaths during moments of stress has been linked to inducing feelings of calm. One 2017 study found that slow and controlled breathing can have a “direct and dramatic influence” on brain activity levels in mice.
4. Pinch Your Nose
Try pinching the bridge of your nose, near where the tear ducts are, to stop tears in their tracks. Dr. Vingerhoets told The Cut that self-inflicted physical pain (within reason!) may distract you enough to stop yourself from crying.
5. Tilt Your Head Back
When you’re on the verge of tears, tilt your head back and look up. The tears will pool at the base of your eyelid, giving you a couple seconds where they won’t immediately stream down your face. Use those seconds to redirect your focus on anything else to try to diminish the flow of tears.
6. Step Back from the Situation, Literally
Try to pull yourself out of your head and assess the source of your tears. If another person is the cause of your tears, it may not be what they said, but how you interpreted their words, said Dr. Jerry Bubrick, a psychologist, to Oprah.com. Bubrick recommended removing yourself from what’s bothering you by taking a step away, quite literally, and maintaining a neutral face to inhibit the usual rush of tears.
7. When All Else Fails, Embrace the Tears
If you're in front of people in a work or social setting, inform them that you need a moment to gather your thoughts and have to step away for a bit. Melody Wilding, a coach, speaker, and writer who teaches Human Behavior at New York's Hunter College, suggested in Forbes that allowing yourself time to be upset, rather than continually trying to stifle your emotions, is a good coping tool for crying.
While bursting into tears at an inopportune moment can be less-than-ideal, it’s important to check in with how you’re feeling, too. Crying is a natural human emotion, and while it may feel embarrassing if someone catches you dabbing away tears IRL, it isn't the end of the world.