Tips for when you're on the verge of tears at work, and need to keep it together
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried at work in my lifetime.
Countless has a nice ring to it
- Jaime Lannister, Game of Thrones
I cry in the workplace a lot. I’ve sobbed heavy tears in the workplace bathroom, I’ve had my eyes well up during meetings with my boss…I once openly sobbed in front of my CEO while pretending I was instead having a laughing fit so he wouldn’t think I was mentally deranged.
(Spoiler - he still thought I was nuts)
There are many different reasons for crying in the workplace, a few of which I’ve mentioned in my blog post about the best places to publicly cry.
But today I want to talk what to do when you’re about to burst into tears in the workplace.
And like the ragingly narcissistic blogger I am, I’m going to use yours truly as an example. Because today has been a day for me, and I had to use nearly all of these techniques to get through it.
So let’s take it from the top, after you get into work, sit down and realize that you are in a sub-par mood and you could already cry at the drop of a hat.
Caffeinate yourself to get happy
The best suggestion here is to march your weepy body right out of the building, and grab a caffeinated beverage somewhere nearby. But some of us are piss poor, and draining our already small bank account only adds to the tears, so grab some free workplace coffee if that’s easier for you.
This reason I’m suggesting this comes from a science fact, so you know that it works. Caffeine stimulates the production of dopamine, (our ‘make you happy’ brain chemicals) and is actually classified as a psychoactive drug for this reason. Isn’t that crazy?
At any rate, start your day with some caffeine and see if that can lift you a few degrees out of your slump.
Text 3+ people about how you’re feeling
Today I texted my sister, my two best friends, and I called my dad. (I’m serious when I say that today was a day). Everyone made me feel infinitely better, but one of my friends confided in me so much that I burst out into surprised (I thought I would be miserable the entire day) loud laughter.
I was texting Lila* about how I was teetering on the edge of tears, and generally just feeling depressed about work and life.
Maybe it’s just because my period is coming, I had said.
Hormones are no joke, she responded. And then she hit me with this.
Lila: In February I told Dan* I was going to kill myself. Because I wasn’t invited to a coworkers bday lunch. LOLOLOL
Me: LILA HAHAHA it’s tragic but I’m dying with laughter
Lila: Now I laugh. But I was so depressed, it was the day before my period.
Me: I know…I feel like I can cry at the drop of a hat when that happens
Lila: I was running to the Thames river to jump. And Dan grabbed me.
Me: HAHA WAIT ARE YOU SERIOUS.
Lila: I don’t think I was actually gonna do it. But I wanted someone to feel bad for me.
First of all, god Lila is basically my soul mate.
And I know it sounds tragic and dark (and it is, because our emotions can become our reality) but man if I didn’t laugh. There’s something about commiserating that feels wonderful, and when I imagine Lila trying to jump into the London river after not being invited to a lunch I just can’t help but crack up and hopefully you get a kick out of it too.
Also, the reason I suggest texting 3 or more people is that sometimes people don’t respond, or they give shitty comfort. Up your odds by texting at least 3 people, and then you know at least one of the responses will bring you relief.
But my friend was right about the power of hormones, which brings me to my next point…
Blame your sadness on your period
Just say you’re on the rag! And if you’re not the rag, you’re pre-rag which means that technically you are PMSing. (Okay, not technically, but whatever). And if you’re a man just say fuck it all to hell, it’s 2019 and you’re PMSing too, baby!
Or just say that your hormones are out of whack. There are hormones in our meat and deodorant and sunscreen I mean honestly it’s a wonder that we can keep it together on a daily basis what with all the toxins we ingest.
Pretend you have allergies
Many times I have been crying at work, and needed to pull it together before a big group meeting. So I’ll shuffle over to the medicine cabinet at work, wipe my eyes, and carry around a box of Allegra or Claritin with me all day.
Don’t take the medicine out of the box, just carry it around - name brand facing out - the entire day so everyone assumes your red nose and blotchy eyes are the product of pollen.
This is a little bit harder to pull off in the dead of winter, but I’ve done it before. Just tell people you’re allergic to a winter allergy, or blame it on being allergic to dust. Did you know people can be allergic to dust? They can! And dust is fucking everywhere so just blame your allergies on that.
Embody a psychopath (stay with me here)
Have you seen the show Killing Eve? I technically haven’t, but I’ve seen enough YouTube clips of it that I basically have, and I’m obsessed.
The main character is this beautiful Russian assassin who can switch accents at the drop of a hat, disguise herself as different people, and above all else, is a completely deadly killer who lacks any empathy at all.
In real life, I would think this is fucking sick. But it’s Hollywood, so I’m hooked and impressed and yes, I’ll say it, a tiny bit turned on. I mean look at her.
So if you’re in a 1:1 with your supervisor, or presenting to a group of people, and you need to feel better fast, channel our Russian psychopath. (And check out some clips of her here and here if you need help).
Pretend to be her. Steely, cool, calm, collected. You’re not even yourself. You’re not Shannon, trying to talk to your supervisor about how your work is overwhelming. You’re Villanelle, talking to her newest target undercover and presenting an image to them that can help her succeed.
Let it out, and cry in the bathroom
Sorry, this one should be further up the list! Have you gone into the bathroom yet and cried? Gone outside and walked into a deserted alleyway and sobbed? If not, just let it out.
And then splash water on your face after until you look normal.
Today I went into the unisex bathroom, cried, then splashed water on my face while still crying, and kinda choked on the water as that happened. Honestly it was so pathetic and pitiful that I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and couldn’t help but burst out laughing.
So if you need any reassurance, just know that at least one person (hi) has been in your gloomy shoes before.
Make a big show of slamming your knee into your desk
And then promptly burst into tears after your knee makes contact. You can chalk up your sadness to the physical pain, and no one will be the wiser!
Talk to your trusted co-workers, and even your untrusted ones
Believe me when I say this, everyone has cried at work. Or at least come really damn close to it. And 50% of the time, when you reach out to a coworker about this, they’ll surprise you with some perfect comfort.
My coworker once saw me looking glum, asked what was wrong, and after my two sentences proclaimed, “we’re grabbing a drink” and took me across the street for - my favorite - a glass of dry white.
If you’re not super close to anyone you work with, you can just ease into it with a “man I feel so off today, I wonder if mercury is doing that thing where it makes people feel weird”. Everyone will respond with some form of a “oh yeah, same here”. And if anyone responds with “actually, I feel great!” then fucking don’t talk to that person. They sound like a nerd. And totally unhelpful.
Honestly, we all love to complain so just go up to someone who looks glum and be like “hey, how’s your day going?”. Odds are 25% of your office is also in a current slump, so just commiserate with them.
And personally, a special shout out to my beloved coworker Clara who after hearing about my bad day today slacked me saying, “if you're free and want to wine and whine after work.... let me know!”. She is an angel sent from heaven, no one can convince me otherwise.
Are there any ideas you have for holding off tears at the workplace? Let me know! I doubt my days of crying are behind me haha, so I’m always looking for more tips.
And lastly, a sappy little hug from me to you! It’s always a weirdly horrible feeling when you’re at work, or out in public, and need to keep it together despite everything in your body saying go crawl into bed and have a good sob!
Just know that where there’s misery, there’s company! And tomorrow is a new day.