Here’s How to Stop Crying Quickly
Even if you’re someone who sheds tears during birthday parties and phone commercials, 2020 has probably given you major reasons to cry. You might’ve Googled “how to stop crying,” on a random Wednesday afternoon (no judgment) because, even if you’re cool with tearing up, crying spells that happen right before Zoom meetings are inconvenient. If you’re wondering whether or not you’re crying too much, whether you should be concerned, and whether there are ways to stop crying, we can help.
The first thing to realize is that crying is absolutely normal, and there are no rules or quotas involved. People cry for reasons that range from life-altering to mundane, and tears can clue you in to how you’re feeling (whether that’s sad, stressed, scared, nervous, overjoyed, or something else entirely). So crying, in and of itself, isn’t a huge deal. What’s more? Whether or not your frequent crying is actually a cause for concern “would probably depend on your baseline,” Marisa G. Franco, Ph.D., counseling psychologist, tells SELF. “Has your crying increased from times when you felt more okay, and to what extent has it increased?” These are a few preliminary questions to ponder if you’re a little worried.
Even if you are crying more often than you normally would, this might be a good thing. According to a 2019 literature review published in Clinical Autonomic Research, emotional crying often coincides with an increase in our sympathetic nervous system activity (the parts of our bodies that deal with fight-or-flight responses), and by the time we’re done crying, our parasympathetic nervous system (the rest-and-digest response, which can help you feel calmer) has often been activated. This means that there’s evidence that crying can be, well, helpful.
So if you are majorly resistant to shedding tears, Franco suggests unpacking some of your cultural and individual beliefs around crying. “Research suggests that when we associate crying with shame and guilt, it’s a lot more unpleasant,” Franco says. “And it’s less likely to make us feel better compared to if we associate crying with relief.” Through journaling or talking with a friend, you can shed a little light on any aversion you have to tears.
Below you’ll find a few tips to help if you’d like to ease out of a crying spell quickly (or before it starts), but remember that crying isn’t necessarily something you need to rage against. Honestly, it seems like a logical reaction to a lot of what we’re facing.
Here’s how to stop crying all the time.
1. Don’t fight the urge to cry.
Much like how trying to talk yourself out of anxious feelings doesn’t always alleviate your anxieties, trying to talk yourself out of crying probably won’t be helpful, licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Long Island Behavioral, Regine Galanti, Ph.D., tells SELF. “Telling yourself to stop crying is only going to make it worse,” she says. Instead, know that it’s okay to cry. Once you’ve allowed yourself the time to feel your immediate emotions, you can spend a bit of time thinking about how you can manage triggers and coping going forward, Franco suggests. But don’t try to talk yourself out of crying while it’s happening.
2. Seek out an opposite action.
Let’s say that you have a few minutes to cry before a big meeting, and you really need to keep it together. You might do what Galanti calls seeking an “opposite action.” If you’re crying because you’re sad, for instance, watch a quick YouTube video that makes you laugh or dance around a little bit. This isn’t about denying how you’re feeling—it’s simply about trying to ease into a better feeling state.
3. Take deep breaths.
If crying is often triggered when you get anxious (and your fight-or-flight response kicks in), then finding ways to relax a bit might be useful. Taking deep breaths turns on your rest-and-digest system, Mona Potter, M.D., medical director at the McLean Anxiety Mastery Program, previously told SELF. So breathing when you’re crying (slowly and gently) is worth a try.
4. Try a grounding technique.
When Galanti sees that her clients are crying and struggling to calm down, she often asks them to look around the room and point out everything that’s red. This is called a grounding technique, or a coping strategy that helps you calm down. You can also try the 5-4-3-2-1 practice, which involves acknowledging five things you can see around you, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste to help you calm down without judgment. This is an important distinction, Galanti explains, because easing yourself out of a crying spell is never about denying your emotional state.
5. Tilt your head back (work against gravity).
Most of us probably do this already. When you feel the tears begin to flow, simply tilt your head back and hope that the tears will remain in place. During this time, you might take a deep breath or try a grounding technique to help you move through your emotions.
6. Try pinching yourself.
While Galanti isn’t a huge proponent of causing yourself more pain to keep from crying, she does admit that this could be useful. “The idea is that you’re distracting yourself,” she explains. A common way to do this is by pinching the area between your thumb and your index finger. Just don’t hurt yourself, she warns.
7. Find ways to self-soothe every day.
Crying can be a form of self-soothing, but if you find that you’re bursting into tears frequently and randomly, Franco suggests taking a moment to think about how you’re caring for your emotional wellness overall. “Find ways to soothe yourself with self-compassion and identify that it’s okay to feel how you’re feeling,” Franco says. These overall self-soothing practices can include getting enough rest, eating well, meditating, and exercising, Franco explains. (Which are very similar to how we manage stress and anxiety—two major triggers for crying.) Doing this doesn’t mean that certain events and situations won’t induce tears, but it might help you feel equipped to handle some of the emotions that come your way.
There’s nothing wrong with crying—but it might help to explore why you are.
It’s also worth mentioning that while crying is a natural physiological response, it’s not an emotional panacea. If you’re uncomfortable with the frequency with which you’re crying, or you have noticed the crying is making you feel worse, consider reaching out to a therapist or someone you can trust. Ultimately, much like yawning might mean that you need a nap, a bit of crying could be a sign that there are some emotions that need your attention. So even if you don’t want to cry, consider leaning into your tears to figure out what’s going on.
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