How to Control Tears and Stop Crying
We have all been in a situation where we suddenly find the tears welling up in our eyes and realize that we are going to embarrass ourselves by crying in public. Even if the tears are simply spilling over and we can wipe them away, it is simply not done to "lose control" in this way, and we feel bad about it. It could be at work, out on a date, or at the cinema sparked off by a scene in a movie. Even "tears of joy" at a wedding or christening may take us by surprise and turn on the waterworks, as the expression goes.
What are tears and why do they cause us such social confusion? Those are questions that scientists are beginning to answer. How can we stop them from causing us public embarrassment and concern to the people around us? Well, people use different methods to manage that, and I’ve been asking around so that I can share those methods with you.
What are Tears?
If we go back to the very little learned at high school about tears the answer is that tears are a fluid produced by tear glands. Although we think of them as a salty solution—have you ever stuck your tongue out and tasted one?—they are actually a mix of chemicals in the form of mucous, oil and water. The vitamins and minerals contained in this secretion help to maintain the health of the thin, transparent membrane, the conjunctiva, by keeping it moist. One of the important constituents of tears is an enzyme called lysozyme, which kills bacteria.
How do Tears Work?
The process of tear secretion, lacimation, is simple. The fluid is spread across your eye by your eyelids when you blink, which is why we blink to wash away our tears. Tears help to remove, foreign substances from the eye, as do the eyelids and eyelashes.
Different Functions of Tears
Basically there are three types of tears serving slightly different functions. The first, already discussed, are those which are the common lubricant which help to keep the eye healthy and is secreted at the rate of up to one gram every twenty-four hours. Next we have tears which are a reflex action, again as a form of protection, to irritants such as dust, tear gas, onion, coughing, or even sunshine. Finally, and the one which is such an embarrassment to us all and which we would prefer to suppress are the emotional tears that occur sometimes when we least expect them and make us feel vulnerable and out of control.
5 Tips to Help you Ward off the Tears
These are preferred ways of getting a grip when you really do not want others see you in an over-emotional state.
- Deep breathing: it works for anger by giving you time to think, slowing you down and allowing you to reason yourself into a better frame of mind. It works because it slows down your heart rate and relaxes you, possibly one of the reasons why people who smoke feel that taking a deep pull on a cigarette calms them down. Unfortunately drawing on a cigarette is taking noxious chemicals into your body but breathing in when overemotional increases the amount of oxygen you are taking in which is beneficial to you physically and mentally. Breathe deeply through the nose and out through the mouth; count if need be because that will release your focus from what is disturbing you.
- Linked to the above; if you fear becoming hysterical and are in a state of anxiety you might find that breathing into a paper bag is helpful. Once more the rhythm assists and in this case you are taking in increased carbon dioxide which causes a calming, drowsy state.
- If you can focus on a mental image that induces a feeling of happiness and peace this is a proven method of calming your mind and holding back the tears. This technique takes time to master and I imagine that in the extreme it can be a form of meditation, but that is not something you are suddenly going to do at the office!
- Something I have never tried and have no wish to experiment with is self-inflicted physical pain, of a minor kind I hasten to add. Press your thumbnail into the tip of your first finger. It is a tiny unperceivable action, invisible to others around you but it works in two ways; firstly by distracting you from what is actually bothering you and secondly by forcing part of your mind to concentrate on the physical action.
- Try swallowing hard; by doing so you effectively squeeze your tongue up against the soft palette, constricting the throat and preventing tears.
The Root Cause of Crying
If you can’t stop crying perhaps you need to have a good weep to release the tension. Restraining emotion can lead to greater stress so if the option is available to you just find a place to let it all out and cry. If you are at home the bathroom is a good place, you can turn on the shower so that the noise will hide your sniffles, or wails if that is the case!
Seriously though there are different reasons for crying and you need to recognize what it is that ‘starts you off’. It could be something in a movie that sparks off feelings of empathy, or reminds you, consciously or subconsciously of a person or event in your life; even something far back in your childhood can have emotional repercussions.
If you suddenly find you are crying a lot it could be something you need to discuss with your family, friends or partner. In this case the longer you hold back the more difficult it will become to do just that and it indicates a deep dissatisfaction with your situation. If you really have no one you feel you can talk to it is time to see a doctor who might recommend you to seek help from a specialist or an organization.
Another possibility is hormonal changes within your body of which you are otherwise unaware. Again that is something you should check with your doctor.
Emotional Crying Investigated
Although crying had always been seen as a means of relieving stress it was Dr. Frey, a biochemist and director of the Psychiatry Research Laboratories at St. Paul-Ramsay Medical Center who first called emotionally induced tears “psychological lamination” and through research discovered that tears which were emotionally induced had a higher protein content than tears which were a result of irritation. Dr. Frey’s theory that tears help rid the body of potentially harmful substances that are caused by stress is now supported by indirect evidence. '
"We should comfort people without telling them to stop crying,'' Dr. Frey observed. ''They do stop crying when they're comforted.'' (Jane E Brody, New York Times August 31, 1982)
In Times of War Popular Songs Helped People to Repress their Sorrows
Hiding Your Tears
A stiff upper lip and keeping your emotions hidden has always been the English way, as can be seen by this old marching song that was first published in London in 1915 at the time of World War I. This version shows that it was still popular in 1942 during the Second World War. In today's modern society showing emotion is perfectly acceptable although still not appropriate in many situations. Many animals prefer to lick their wounds in private and human beings are no different. However, if the situation, whatever the situation, becomes unbearable, we sometimes have to show how we feel, and there are times when it is beneficial to others to see that you are upset to the point of tears, otherwise how will they know how affected you are? So if you really can't hold back and you need to vent your feelings, do not feel embarrassed or ashamed, just remember that at some time or other everyone has felt that way. Likewise, when you witness others in the throes of irrepressible emotion remember how you feel at a time like that and be responsive to their needs; they will appreciate your sensitivity as you would theirs.