How to Stop Yourself From Crying

Years ago, I had a scary boss, who taught me a lot, but would also inexplicably fly off the handle every few days. Often I could keep it together, but other times I would end up crying in the bathroom and putting wet toilet paper on my eyes to keep them from puffing up. (Glamorous!) Thankfully, I discovered a bizarre trick to stop yourself from crying every single time…

Pinch the webbed piece of skin between your thumb and pointer finger. Hard. It will immediately stop you from crying every time.

Genius, right? Try it the next time you’re at work/in public/in the middle of an argument and feel like you’re going to start crying. It really works!

P.S. Speaking of losing it: Would you cry on your wedding day, or in public?

(Via Glamour)

  1. M says...

    I was just reading an article about the Pixar film Bao, and in that article it links to this article. Even reading about that film has me a blubbering mess. I was so moved by it the first time I saw it that it still evokes a response in me, even if I think too much about it. Anyway, I immediately clicked through and read this article, because I’m always losing control of myself when anything stirs me to tears. AND THIS WORKS! I tried it in the middle of a jag and it stopped the tears immediately. So effectively that it actually made me start laughing! Which felt great. I don’t know if the pinch caused the laughing or the shock at the tears stopping so suddenly but I am very thankful. I hope the pinch will continue to make me laugh. It feels so good. Thank you!

  2. Nikky says...

    Thank you for this tip. I still gotta try it though. I’m such a cry baby but my partner doesn’t like it.

  3. Linda Grimes says...

    I have needed this tip for the past 20 years. I have a very tender heart and tend to get choked up easily. Even if I want to tell a clerk that she was helpful and did a good job, I tear up and can’t get one word out. It is EMBARRASSING! One time, I saw a crossing guard helping children cross the street and I got all teary eyed. I think I need serious help, but meanwhile I will do the pinch!

    • Reeta says...

      Me too …hope this will work for me too

  4. Thank you so much Jo… I had a terrifying presentation today and used this trick! Saved me a LOT of embarrassment. I was pretty sure I had read it here, so wanted to come back and thank you xxx

  5. Neetu Singh says...

    Wow, Thank you for sharing this tip. I tried and it works amazingly.
    Thank you once again.
    My dear doesn’t like me to cry in front of him, so I tried and it works…

  6. I’ve used this trick 3 times already after reading about it and it worked so thanks!

  7. Glad to hear that I am not the only woman who experiences crying as a reaction to a range of emotions (anger, anxiety, happiness, compliments, the remotest bit of constructive criticism, etc). Most often this happens when I’m tired and especially in the workplace, I don’t want it to come across as manipulative; it just happens! Anyway, I just wanted to report back that I tried doing this this morning and it kind of works. A few tears escaped but I was able to stop them pretty quickly. Also, the conversation wasn’t about anything very serious so I’m not sure if this would still work for me during those more difficult conversations. Still, worth trying!

  8. I’m not much of a crier, (or wasn’t until the last year and a half, then life happened!). But this does work! I’d find myself just walking down the aisle of the market and tears start to fall, No Good!

    Also pushing your tongue to the roof of your mouth works too. Not sure why, but it does. Sometimes it’s a bit less noticeable, than pinching your hand.

    But definitely let the cry out when you get to your safe place. The tears are there for a reason. I’ve been in enough therapy to know that! Ugh!

    Thanks for the tips!

  9. ok, I’m such a cry baby, so I wish I had read this years ago when working retail at a high end department store where the clients and the bosses were such meanie bikinis!! gonna use this the next time i’m watching those tear inducing publix commercials and see if it works:)

  10. I had learnt that no bosses have the right to make anyone cry, especially without much of a valid reason. Been there before but had that etched in my mind ever since because the situation was too silly! Not cool.

  11. So many comments about crying at work. I’ve done it too and just hate it. An ex-boyfriend taught me this tip when we were watching a sad movie: remember to breathe. As soon as he said it I realized that I had been holding my breath, and ever since, when I feel like I’m going to cry, I remind myself to breathe. It works most of the time to stop me. Another trick is to cough. If breathing isn’t enough to stop me, a little cough thrown in sometimes helps.

  12. Wait, can we talk about why we need to stop ourselves from crying? Crying is natural and healthy. Cutting off your feelings and not fully experiencing them is not. And it usually lands people in my office (I’m a therapist). Not that I’m advocating uncontrollable sobbing at work, but feelings aren’t bad, neither are tears.

  13. If only I knew about this on Monday! Got called in to my boss’s office, and he had some “concerns,” so of course I burst into tears. Ugh. I also cry when I’m angry or stressed :-/

  14. I’ve used this same trick to put myself into labor! (I swear, that’s what did it!)

  15. Oh man, I so need this. I’ll be in the middle of making some big, important points during an argument and they all become invalid once the angry involuntary tears start.

    Will let you know how it goes ;)

    xo! Dakota

  16. Oh man, I so need this. I’ll be in the middle of making some big, important points during an argument and they all become invalid once the angry involuntary tears start.

    Will let you know how it goes ;)

    xo! Dakota

  17. My sister told me before my wedding: “some people are pretty criers and some people are ugly criers. Don’t cry at your wedding!” (she actually said that to me). And then she read a poem in our ceremony and made me cry. And the photos ended up in a wedding magazine. I wish I had had this trick up my sleeve 5 years ago!

  18. I read this post just in time! I’m minutes away from putting in my notice at work and I have a history of tearing up every time I’ve done so with previous jobs. I think I get overwhelmed with ending something I’ve put such a commitment in to. I will DEFINITELY try this trick!

  19. I’m a psychologist & I agree with @Casey Ann. Crying has a physiological purpose & there is a whole spectrum of sensitivity among people that we should learn to accept. Having said that, sometimes it just isn’t an optimal time. This sounds like a good way to postpone it until you can take a break & have that much needed release.

  20. I have never heard of this before! definitely going to try it next time as I am such a blubber during arguments and especially when I am angry!

  21. oh thank you so much for sharing this. I’m an emotional wreck! haha. Great tips, I’ll be sure to try them out next time I’m headed for a good weep, and update you if they work! haha.

    Jess X

  22. I’ve never met anybody that cries as easily as I do. Reading the comments about other people that easily tear up for not only sadness but also happiness, anger and other strong feelings makes me feel like I’m not so odd.
    I also think that when I cry because I’m angry, people don’t take my anger seriously.

  23. I had to try this tip on the 2 train this morning when a horribly mean woman wouldn’t move in to accommodate (pregnant) me.

  24. This is essentially reflexology.. also really great for stress!!

  25. As I get older, I am always mere steps from tears, something about the poignancy of life—people’s vulnerability, the hopelessness of our effort, and the unstoppable force of good, they clash together and I weep.

    That said, sometimes you have to save face, so I will tuck this away for the next unwanted lump in my throat and sting in my eye.

  26. Hey Jo! What a genius trick!! have been through a bad phase because of my accident and following depression. What works for me is drinking a glass of cold water. But I am going to try this trick next time as I cry when I get sad.

  27. OMAg my voice starts cracking the minute I talk about something upsetting me especially in an argument it’s so annoying when I’m like I’m not even hurt yet!

    I’ve noticed this weird thing where my face gets all gross and red and puffy if I’m crying / sobbing when I’m hurt and angry and scared or humiliated , but if I’m crying watching a touching moment real or on tv, all I have to do is dry my face and it’s like nothing happened. Is there something chemically different about happy tears?

  28. Oof. After a really stressful year at work this is an interesting idea.

    I cry easily but never at work (and if I do, it’s in the bathroom) but due to a new project whose time is uncontrollably out of whack with what I can handle, I have sobbed to my boss twice this year. That’s two more times than I have cried in 10 years of this position.

    The pinching of the webbing will help, but I’m hoping a new job will solve everything :)

  29. I’ve heard this can also induce labor! I’m not sure how effective it is, but be careful :)

  30. This tip is such perfect timing! I’m moving 100 miles away from the place I’ve lived my whole life next week and starting a new job the week after. I know I’m going to miss my mom an embarrassing amount for a 28 year old. And I’m a total crier! I’m *hoping* to never let this boss see me cry. Fingers crossed this will work!!

  31. A little break for you all from science. Did you know that for those with lots of testosterone (generally dudes) the chemical reaction that happens in your body when you’re frustrated/angry/upset charges all the reactions that make them want to punch a wall (aka lashing out physically). For those with lots of estrogen (generally ladies) the chemical reaction that happens in your body when you’re frustrated/angry/upset charges all the reactions that manifest tears. Science is amazing. For the few times I have needed to cry at work (not often) I’ve used the moment to explain the science behind my physical reaction to frustration. Often I get an “oh, so if you were me you’d want to punch a hole in the wall”. People get it, and tears stop and laughter starts.

  32. I’ve always heard to pinch your armpit. Since this is kind of awkward to do in public, I normally end up crossing my arms and pinching the back of my upper arm. It works! But your way is much more civilized. Will try. xo

  33. what the??!! so absurd…im going to try it though! haha…
    isn’t it bad we cry at work, we need to stand up and give feedback to these kind of managers!! I know its our emotions we need to control but if people are putting you in such a position then we need to let them know!

  34. This is seriously genius! I tend to show any type of emotion whether it’s being happy, mad or sad through crying. Look forward to trying, thank you for sharing.

  35. I have heard that pinching this spot (the webbing between the forefinger and thumb) will help headaches. That never worked for me, but maybe the it’ll stop the tears instead!

  36. you have no idea how much I needed this! I am an emotional crier – for EVERY emotion. Mad? Cry. Frustrated? cry. Happy? Cry. Sometimes I just cry for no reason at all. and it is always at the WORST times. I really hope this works for me!

  37. In my first job out of college, my manager said something that made me tear up so I dipped into the bathroom. It was totally empty except for the (super awesome!) female CEO who was washing her hands — needless to say I was mortified for her to see me cry. She was insanely kind and said “in my first job on wall street, I cried ALL THE TIME.” It made me feel so much better and appreciate the amazing lady boss running the show at my company. :)

  38. I’m definitely going to try this. I cry when I’m angry and it is so frustrating. Not how I want to handle a sitch. Thanks, Jo!

  39. Ahhh, this is great! I’m in school studying to be a marriage and family therapist and one of my professors told us a trick she had learned which is to take big, deep breaths since we tend to hold our breath when we get emotional. I’ve tried it countless times since and it works! I’ll add the pinching as well since it wouldn’t be too noticeable in sessions. Thanks!

  40. I needed this yesterday! Too many stressful things piled up one on top of another and I was trying not to cry walking across campus! Definitely keeping this in mind

  41. I am such a cryer…and always at the most inopportune moments! If this really works it will be so very handy. Subtle enough to deploy in front of people without looking like a lunatic! Love it! :)

  42. So funny of you to post this! I just got a bit upset in front of my boss..eek! She acted like I killed someone over an honest email mistake!! If only I read your blog sooner today for this tip, but it will definitely come in handy soon. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and can often tear up so easily. Ugh, it’s so annoying!

    Thank you Johanna, I just love your blog. You are such a sweet sweet person and seem so down to earth. <3

  43. I can’t wait to try this out. Now if there were only a way to prevent me from blurting out sarcastic comments… Lol.

  44. I had a total melt down in front of a former boss. I had just gotten a call from my doctor’s office telling me that I had to come in right away for a second mammogram and I needed to come in as soon as I could. I had to ask my boss if I could leave for part of the day and I just lost it. It all turned out ok, it was a false alarm, but it was so scary and upsetting.

  45. Such a relief to hear that I’m not alone in tearing up at the wrong times!I feel like it’s gotten worse since I had my kids … thank you Joanna for this tip!

  46. I cry when I experience heightened emotions–which means I practically cry everyday. Happy tears, sad tears, frustrated tears, I-just-saw-the-cutest-thing tears–you get the idea. If this can stop the waterworks, I’ll be so happy, I’ll probably cry! ;)

  47. I agree with Casey Ann – it’s important to cry. I wish we allowed men the space to cry more often. As explained by Louis CK (in this story about texting): ), when you allow yourself to be sad, it invites an even deeper happiness.

  48. Poor Kaitlyn could’ve used this on the Bachelor! ;)

  49. Pinching that little spot on your hand really does work! I cry at any kind of emotion (sad/mad/hormonal/happy) and I heard about this a few years ago, helps a ton :) also for inappropriate laughter biting the inner cheek works.

  50. I discovered an unusual method to stop myself from crying a couple years ago: multi-digit addition problems. As I’m sitting in the chair across from my boss’s desk, I’ll try to add something like 348 + 792 without paper/pencil. I know it sounds robotic and depressing, but it works anywhere!– sad movies, funerals– any time you’re in public and don’t feel like crying in front of people.

  51. Ha! I had that same kind of boss! I learned a lot too, specially how to treat mean people, chill and not let things affect me too much. Now we bump into each other in the street, as he lives near my new job, and we’re like old friends!
    I hope I never have to use the pinch trick, but sounds good :P

  52. @Hevuva: I think crying at work is ok sometimes and doesn’t undermine your professional credibility unless it’s a regular thing. I’ve cried in front of my boss before (once due to a breakup I was going through when he asked me what was up with me, and once because I felt sad for some people in a tough work situation I was in). Both times he was super sympathetic and understanding. Now, if I cried weekly, I think that would be an issue. I think men and women just express themselves differently a lot of the time. Just like it’s not appropriate for either sex to angrily yell at work often, I don’t think it’s appropriate for either sex to cry at work often. Controlling your emotions is an important part of being professional. I just cried in the bathroom stall today lol… I had a good cry, then composed myself and got on with it. Crying is natural and normal but there is a time and place just like with everything else in life.

  53. love that photo so much. another trick: start reciting the alphabet backwards (in your head). it requires enough focus that you’re pulled away from the tear cliff.

  54. I’m such a crier too – it’s unfortunate that we don’t feel we can show our emotions when we feel them but I’m still absolutely in agreement with everyone that it feels completely unprofessional to cry at work.

    I too have a boss who is known to fly off the handle (yay fashion industry) with inexplicable cruelty and no advance warning. I’ll be happy to give this trick a try!

  55. I will have to try this! Johanna, you know what else would be great? A trick for not LAUGHING when you shouldn’t. Laughter is my nervous outlet, and sometimes it comes at the most inappropriate times (read: my father-in-law talking about his will… it’s just so HEAVY and awful and he read portions OUT LOUD and at length!). Do you have any tricks up your sleeve for that?!

  56. I’ve never tried it for crying but this tip actually works for a headache too. Your headache will instantly disappear – but only for as long as you pinch the skin…

  57. Excellent tip! I have many of those moments when I get upset with my kids and I need to relieve the stress. I don’t want to cry in front of them and freak them out! Thanks!

  58. I’ve never tried this tip but I have great success with clearing my throat and swallowing. Something about the throat clearing disrupts the crying reflex! I am a cry-er too and it can be so inconvenient.

  59. Also- immediately blow your nose. Get all of the fluid out of your face! So glamorous. But it helps 100%.

  60. It’s great to read that other women cry as easily as I do. I tear up all time, over happy and sad things, but I only really let myself cry in front of my husband.

    Does anyone else get a horrible headache when they try to hold back the tears?

  61. I love this blog, and have enjoyed reading it for years… But ladies, we should NOT be stopping ourselves from crying! Crying is so vital to our emotional intelligence and well-being. As modern day women, we have been so desensitized. This disconnects us with our natural flow. We should be encouraging one another that it’s ok to FEEL. I understand that there may seem better times to cry than others. And sure, maybe there are more *convenient* times/places to cry, but we should not be perpetuating such a disconnection. To cry is to heal; it is therapeutic. Don’t you always feel better after a good crying session? We cry for a reason! Let’s work on removing the stigma associated with it!

  62. Holy cow I need this! I’ve cried in professional situations a few too many times lately (with grad school mentors) over some major career decisions. It’s so embarrassing, though I must say it’s interesting to see how people respond. One of my “tougher” professors was actually quite sensitive, while my own mentor tried to ask me “Oh is this because of personal problems?” Uuuugh. I see several emotional landmines ahead so I will be putting this to use!

  63. Genius! Sad, but I honestly needed this today. I’m at that burnt out, hit the wall point with work and ready for a vacation! Constant stress can be a lot!

    Kim .. All about Adsense?!

  64. I work in game development and am surrounded by men. When I get super mad, I burst into tears. I’ve had to excuse myself into the bathroom to pull it together. Cannot wait to employ this trick next time that happens!

  65. Can we talk more about crying at work? I really, really hate when it happens to me. Usually, I’m safe in a closed bathroom stall. But recently (thank you, pregnancy hormones) I started crying in the middle of a tough conversation with a coworker. I think: my boss (a male) would NEVER cry at work about something work-related. OTOH, my friends who have female bosses who they’ve seen cry report that they feel more comfortable around them, that they feel like their bosses are more empathetic. Can you be a respected female professional and also ever be caught crying at work about work?

    Thanks for the trick, Joanna! I will definitely try that next time.

  66. Oh I hope this works. I cry all the dang time, most often when i really dont want to. I feel like a 7 yr old and it’s very frustrating. Thanks for this!

  67. How is it that your posts are so in tuned with what is going on in my head? I was just thinking this morning of what a crier I am in so many situations– good or bad. Thanks for the tip for when I really need to keep my cool!

  68. Oh my goodness! I can’t wait to try this. I cry at everything. What is worse is I also cry when I’m angry! I hate that because I think it makes me look weak! Its hard to try to tell someone off while tears are running down your face. Grr!

  69. I cry every now and then, the location is not a problem …. and I hate it !!
    I will definitely try this, I hope it will help … thanks for sharing this trick : *

  70. Funny you should post this! I was just crying in my work bathroom about an hour ago (nothing to do w. work and I’ll be fine). I will try this tip! Thanks <3

  71. kaley, it’s interesting because i’ve heard the tip to hold a crying baby up to the mirror and then they stare at themselves and stop crying. maybe it’s human nature to get kind of shocked out of it!

  72. I do math in my head–works every time. Something about using the more logical side of your brain distracts you from the more emotional side. I’ll find numbers in my line of sight–even look at the time–and add, multiply, divide. I’ll give this trick a shot too!

  73. I needed this at work the other day when I cried because someone else got yelled at! That was a bit embarassing.

  74. Amy, I did the same thing! But my boss is a lady and she crys all the time too, about anything, good or bad so I don’t feel weird about it. I think it only made me more human to her :) Now, in front of my co-worker? Noooooooooo!

  75. THANK YOU!

  76. I have always been a cry baby, everything makes me cry .. I even cry from being happy.
    But these days, still adjusting to widowhood, I try very hard not to cry at least once a day .. I feel like it is aging me .. I would much rather laugh once a day.

    ps – Nothing I do stops me from crying lol

  77. Thanks for this tip! I wish I’d known this on Friday last week! For the first time in almost eight years, I nearly teared up in front of a co-worker while we were meeting at my desk. Would have been completely inappropriate, so I said, “I might cry now.” He said, “no, don’t do that!” I promptly turned in my swivel chair and faced the other direction. Then he said he’d come back in 15 minutes and closed the door. I called him five minutes later and said, “It’s cool. Let’s meet.” He apologized for asking the non-work related questions that prompted this, and I apologized back because I should be able to keep it together. Has never happened to me before at work, and I hope never happens again in my lifetime! Not that type of cry anyway!

  78. Avy, me too. You have to find the right trigger.

    These days, I wait until I’m alone and watch one of the good-cry episodes of Parenthood.

    During one bad breakup, I used to have some specific songs I’d listen to in the car during my commute. I’d bring cold, wet washclothes in a plastic bag and my moisturizer and makeup so I could clean up in the parking garage.

  79. when i start crying and can’t stop, i take pictures of myself. i always look so melodramatic and pathetic that i’m laughing within seconds.

  80. This is great! I only started crying after I had my son, and occasionally it gets pretty embarrassing. I will pinch liberally going forward. Now if only there were similar trick to keep myself from being sarcastic at the wrong moments!

  81. i wear my heart on my sleeve and cry so easily! even about good things. i’m forever tearing up :) and this really works for me.

  82. Oh my goodness- what an interesting trick! When I was going through a really awful breakup, I stopped myself from crying by drinking something cold through a straw. It changes your breathing and you get to sip something delicious. Works every single time for me!

  83. My trick is to drink a glass of water, stops it like magic.

  84. If I only learned this trick earlier.. I lost my cool in front of my boss last week and ended up tearing up in his presence.

    Not cool. Or professional. Sigh.

  85. D says...

    This is genius! I can’t wait to try it… I’ve had a very difficult year with lots of drama, bad bosses and general cry-inducing events. I even had a customer shout at me until I burst into tears on the shop floor. I cry when I’m angry, when I’m sad, when I really want to punch my husband for doing something stupid.

    If stopping my reflexive crying is as easy as this, I owe you quite a bit Joanna!