To put it bluntly, crying sucks. Though letting the tears flow can actually be good for you, there's nothing more frustrating than trying to make your point in an argument, only to burst into tears. Whether you're an angry crier, someone who can't help leaking a little when facing criticism at work or school, or you just cry super easily in general, it's helpful to know highly effective ways to stop crying.
According to Bethany Cadman writing for Medical News Today, figuring out how to stop yourself from crying starts with learning a little bit, both about why our bodies produce tears and why you, specifically, cry. As Cadman points out, we produce three different kinds of tears: basal tears, which keep our eyes from drying out; reflex tears, which help protect our eyes from things like dust; and emotional tears, which are, of course, the tears we shed when we're angry or sad.
We can't always predict situations that are going to make us cry — and, to be clear, you should always feel empowered to cry when you need to — but if you're crying on the regular, in situations where you'd rather avoid it, for reasons you don't want to be crying over, you should be looking for patterns, Cadman writes. "Avoiding triggers is about knowing the things that make a person cry and being able to identify them," she writes. "This makes it easier for them to manage their emotions, as they can spot and prevent familiar thought-patterns long before reaching the point of crying."
But once you've hit that crying point, it's ideal to be able to back away from it. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to help yourself stop crying.
1Focus On Your Breathing
As someone with generalized anxiety disorder, I keep meditation and relaxation apps on my phone to help myself calm down if I'm experiencing an anxiety attack. But these apps can also be helpful when it comes to crying. For example, the wellness app Happy Not Perfect offers a check-in feature where a graphic of an expanding and contracting bag helps you breathe in time.
You can also try breathing in the four-seven-eight pattern, which Dr. Andrew Weil calls "a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system" on his site. You breathe in for four seconds, hold for seven, and exhale for eight, and voilà — instant relaxation.
2Text It Out
This is one of my top coping methods when I'm crying. Often I keep crying because I haven't fully worked out what it is I'm crying about, or I just need someone to help me work through the swirling emotions and find some calm. Since talking out loud can often be difficult when you're in the midst of crying, consider texting or even writing notes back and forth to a friend on a notepad. Or, if you're not comfortable talking to anyone about what's going on, do some free-writing. Getting your thoughts and feelings out of your head and onto paper will help you center yourself.
Cadman suggests that if you're going into a situation you recognize may cause you to cry, like a performance check-in with your nasty boss, you should take something like a stress ball in with you to keep your hands busy and give yourself something to focus on if things get overwhelming. Doing this can help you curb tears before they kick into gear.
Cadman also recommends thinking about something funny or listening to upbeat music, which is useful pre- or post-situation. My default distraction is watching old Whose Line Is it Anyway? videos on my phone.Whose Line can make me laugh until I cry, which weirdly enough can be incredibly helpful when I'm trying to stop sad-crying.
4Check In With Your Body
Stopping crying by going internal and focusing on your body can be a hugely effective combo of breathing and distraction, and you also don't need props or your own space to do it. Try tensing and relaxing muscle groups, counting your pulse, or even tapping your fingers against your thumb in succession. Joanna Goddard writing for Glamour says her top trick for stopping crying is to pinch herself, which also works for me, but may not work for everyone. Still, no matter what you choose, the objective here is to cause other sensations in your body that will help ease the burning in your eyes and help take your mind off crying.
5The Mammalian Diving Reflex
Like pinching yourself, the mammalian diving reflex is not going to be for everyone. The mammalian diving reflex is "a phenomenon that occurs in mammals when they are submerged in cool water below 21 degrees centigrade (or 70 degrees fahrenheit), in which the body’s natural cardiovascular responses are altered to maintain cerebral and cardiac blood flow," according to Emergency Medical Paramedic.
Basically, this reflex instantly slows down your heart rate, which can help calm you down when you're in a high-stress state. Don't worry — you don't have to go diving to achieve this. I like to hop in the shower and stick my face under the (cold!) spray, but cupping some cold water in your hands and pressing your face into it will do the trick too.
6Go For A Walk
Another distraction-oriented solution, going for a walk will help remove you from the situation that's making you cry, give you something else to focus on, and get you some exercise as well, which Cadman points out will help your body release endorphins. I suggest going for a walk with a particular positive destination in mind, like a favorite park, coffee shop, or even just a route where you know you'll likely get to pet some very good dogs.
7Let Yourself Be Mad
Oftentimes we cry because we're overwhelmed with emotions, but crying in frustration situations can be caused by trying to bottle up those negative emotions. Sometimes the easiest way to get that out of your system and stop yourself from expressing it in undesired ways is to just give in and let yourself feel it. Take 30 seconds to be utterly furious, or jealous, or heartbroken, and then move on.
With all these tips in mind, remember that sometimes you do have to let go and cry. It's useful to be able to stop, and in some cases is healthy, but be sure you're checking in with your emotional self and, if needed, take a self-care day, grab a box of tissues, and let it all out.