Tips to keep from crying
October 12, 2017 1:40 PM   Subscribe

What are some easy tricks to stop crying quickly or to prevent it when you can feel it coming on?

I cry very easily. I'm one of those people who tears up at commercials, cries when she's angry, cries when she feels just slightly put out, cries when pretty much anything of any emotional consequence has happened.

I know that it's not a bad thing to cry but there are a lot of environments in which crying is an impediment and being prone to bursting into tears makes me feel very out of control and vulnerable. A major example is work. Another is therapy, where I burst into tears when discussing anything difficult or emotional and that makes it very hard to actually focus on conveying any information because I'm so distracted by my own crying. It's a very frustrating physical predisposition.

I'm looking for tips to stop crying quickly or to prevent it when I can feel tears coming on. I'm heard the one about drinking water or some other beverage because you can't cry and drink at the same time. Other stuff in that vein would be really helpful.
posted by armadillo1224 to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I know this is not exactly the question, but after years of "tricks" for this, I went on Zoloft (a very low dose, originally for other reasons), and this just stopped happening, along with me realizing that the thing I was feeling so often was anxiety, and I could just be happier and not have so much anxiety all the time and still be the same person and have the same feelings and whatnot. It has been a revelation.
posted by brainmouse at 1:45 PM on October 12 [22 favorites]

Yes, drinking water really does work. I also find that doing something slightly painful, like digging my nails into my palms hard, works well. Another thing that works for me is to pick a number at random and start counting backwards from there; that sort of focuses me and I can drag my brain back to what I want to be doing.
posted by holborne at 1:46 PM on October 12 [5 favorites]

One way to excuse yourself for a quick break and explain red eyes is to say you have to go check your contact lenses.
posted by kapers at 1:52 PM on October 12 [2 favorites]

This deep breathing technique where you inhale deeply and then exhale for at least twice as long has worked pretty well for me.
posted by lovableiago at 1:52 PM on October 12 [1 favorite]

Look up at the ceiling and take deep breaths.
posted by amanda at 2:10 PM on October 12 [2 favorites]

Push your tongue against the roof of your mouth.
posted by ewok_academy at 2:10 PM on October 12 [1 favorite]

Tickling the roof of your mouth with your tongue. Gently, so it really tickles. Works for crying and even better for an oncoming sneeze. The sooner you catch the cry/sneeze sensation, the more effective it is.
posted by quarterframer at 2:11 PM on October 12 [2 favorites]

Trying to smile as genuinely as possible - get those eyes involved - is my go-to. Which, yes, is really hard sometimes and may be super awkward if you're trying to have a normal interaction... but it works for me.
posted by obfuscation at 2:22 PM on October 12 [1 favorite]

I read somewhere once that if you pinch the part of your hand between your thumb and first finger real hard, you won't start crying. presumably with the other hand, not the same hand, although the advice I read did not specify. unless it's like drinking water from the far side of the glass to stop hiccups, where trying to do an impossible thing gets you so aggravated you forget the other thing you were doing, and stop.

anyway, doing it the obvious way, with both hands involved, doesn't work. at all. if you are someone who can stop crying when you get angry, and if you think you will get angry when you find that this bullshit thing you read on the internet doesn't actually work, give it a shot.

also: have some entirely unreal fantasyland tucked away in your head where you can go instantly, just for a quick 30 seconds. something well-worn and easily accessible but with no connection at all to real people and places that might be connected to whatever is making you feel like crying. this might be auto-conditioned dissociation for all I know, but whatever, it works if you practice it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:39 PM on October 12

I don't cry much at all but when I do and want it to stop, I go to a mirror and watch myself crying. Takes about 30 seconds before I stop. Just the act of looking at myself takes me out of the crying. Good luck.
posted by MovableBookLady at 2:48 PM on October 12

Focus entirely on one physical sensation your bodies weight in the chair you are sitting in, the sensation of touch from your hand and breath for like 10 seconds. The emotions are feeding off the energy/attention you put into them if you redirect the attention they can't spin up as high.
posted by edbles at 2:58 PM on October 12

Concentrate really hard on thinking about if you need to shit or not.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:10 PM on October 12

One of the things I do about crying at work is to prepare a lie. Like, "Oh I knew this was going to happen, I've been having the worst allergies this year." I focus so hard on making the lie believable that it stops me from crying, and it also relieves some of the anxiety because I don't worry as much about LOOKING LIKE I'M CRYING IN FRONT OF SOMEONE. Then I get a tissue, do the eye dab while I breathe, and usually by then I've got it under control. I am a rather skilled actor and liar, so YMMV.

Crying in therapy was different obviously. For that one I usually allow myself to cry, but while I'm doing it be regulating myself in other ways - so your nervous system can be distressed (sad, angry, anxious) but regulated at the same time. If you're emotionally flooded, you're not regulated. To regulate your nervous system, focus on things like others have mentioned like the way your feet feel on the floor, the way your butt feels in the chair, what the room looks like, what your therapist looks like, what it feels like to squeeze your hands together or rub your own clothing or skin, using bilateral tapping on your arms and legs, tapping your feet rhythmically on the floor while focusing in on the rhythm, and breathing slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth. It is much easier for me to manage my crying and not have it carry me away if I'm actively using strategies to regulate my nervous system at the same time.

This is a chart that I like to use with my own clients and for myself. One side is nervous system symptoms of regulation and dysregulation, and the other side is a list of strategies for regulating. You can also find other ones that are more grown-up focused, but I like this one for the simplicity.

Chart of Nervous System Symptoms and Regulation Strategies
posted by fairlynearlyready at 3:34 PM on October 12 [9 favorites]

Mentally count backward from 18,906 by 7s.
posted by alusru at 3:47 PM on October 12 [3 favorites]

I just went through a major crying period and read a bunch of stop crying tips on the internet. The only one that worked for me was rolling or crossing my eyes when I teared up, which supposedly physically restricts your tear ducts somehow and keeps the tears from falling. It worked even when I closed my eyes (or looked down studiously at a legal pad) so I could do it in work meetings with jerks. Godspeed fellow crier!
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:10 PM on October 12 [7 favorites]

Possibly because I have a toddler and say the alphabet all the time anyway, concentrating hard on mentally reciting the alphabet works for me.
posted by centrifugal at 4:53 PM on October 12 [1 favorite]

Making up a heavily syncopated tune on the fly helps me. I figured this out by accident as a heartbroken baby band nerd and it has served me well in a number of situations since.
posted by tchemgrrl at 4:58 PM on October 12 [2 favorites]

Stretching my arms above my head and taking a deep breath always helps me. It seems to loosen that tight physical feeling in my chest that precedes a cry for me.
posted by rhiannonstone at 5:47 PM on October 12 [1 favorite]

using your thumb and forefinger like you're going to signal "okay," but don't let them touch. Hold them as tensely as possible, as close together as possible, without touching. I read that not completing the touch distracts your nervous system from the crying into the not-quite-touching fingers. No idea if that's even remotely how nervous systems work, but it does work okay for heading off crying.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:26 PM on October 12 [1 favorite]

Chewing gum (or anything else) has always worked for me.
posted by wreckingball at 1:55 AM on October 13

Laugh out loud. You can't cry if you are laughing.
posted by james33 at 6:01 AM on October 13

In a similar vein as alusru's suggestion, I count forward by prime numbers: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19... etc. I rarely need to go beyond 37.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:27 AM on October 13

A lot of great ideas here! Thanks a lot! I haven't tested them all out but the ones revolving around distraction especially (like doing math problems or counting backwards) seem like they would be really effective and I hadn't thought of them before.
posted by armadillo1224 at 8:02 AM on October 13

Sipping water! You can't cry and swallow at the same time. At least I can't.
posted by drunkonthemoon at 11:57 AM on October 13

This obviously has its own drawbacks, but smoking a cigarette almost always works for me.
posted by anotherthink at 1:43 PM on October 13

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