Someone posted a question in a Facebook group at the weekend asking for help with managing stress at work.

The gist of the question was “How can I stop crying angry tears at work?”

Now, I’m not a medical professional, and these articles focus on giving my opinion based on my knowledge and experience. I believe angry tears differ from other types of crying.

Recognising Tears

When I feel sad, I may cry sad tears. This can sometimes be helped by soothing or supportive comments and actions from others.

Often, tears of anger follow the resolution of an event. When I’m angry, the tears are usually “it’s passed, I’m safe to release this emotion.” And often, this is best done “alone” or in a space I feel comfortable.

We’ve talked a bit about Anger before, and there are definitely positives to the usual advice: Move away from the situation. Figure out what the “trigger” was. Identify the likely future issues may be and problem solve them.

But the tears themselves are a normal physical response that your body is allowed to experience.

Managing Physical Symptoms

I like to separate the behaviour from the physical symptom: Crying is a behaviour. We cry. It’s an action. Tearfulness, however… the tears being made, filling our eyes… that is our body responding physically.

Lowering our stress level is really the main long-term control we have beside distraction and letting those tears come when it’s easier for you (i.e. at home for example.) So beyond the distraction / flee the situation in the moment, let’s look at the simplest changes we can make to minimise reaching that point in the first place. We’re aiming to lower the baseline so our body can manage more stress than it currently can.

The 0 to 10 Scale

If we get out of bed late, get frustrated at our alarm clock and fill ourselves with coffee before rushing to work. Let’s say we then get cut up by another driver and are late for a meeting… we might already be at an 8 or 9 out of 10 before 9.30am on a stress scale.

Equally, if you notice your mood worsening or stress rising as the day wears on, so that by 3pm, you’re practically angry with your own coffee cup, this might be a sign of physical agitation. We cannot stop these symptoms entirely, but managing and minimising them is in our control.

Now, from a cognitive-behavioural theory, we control our bodily reactions with our thoughts and behaviours. I’m going to leave the thoughts for another day, but the behaviours gives us a little list of things to tweak.

As with everything, these are merely a sample of ideas to try out: find what works for you. 

Helpful Behaviours

Things which may help to keep your body at a lower stress level (so it’s not too close to tears before you even reach that trigger moment) include: –

  • Reduce caffeine/ alcohol.
  • Make sure you eat regularly.
  • Drink water.
  • Try meditation or mindfulness.
  • Put on positive upbeat songs.
  • Play a mental game on your phone… Anything that will give your brain a break and stop those thoughts from taking over.

Without going into the details, caffeine can give our body the physical sensations it associates with anger: thus priming you to respond with anger more likely to a situation.

Similarly, spikes in blood sugar and blood pH can influence how we feel physically, so food, water and even the speed of our breathing can have a big impact over the course of a day.

Too Long; Didn’t Read

Angry tears at work?
– Physical anxiety = more tearful and more prone to physical anger responses, so anything that calms the body / keeps stress levels low can help.
– For example: stay at a 3/10 so those 2 points of RAWR don’t cause an eruption, compared with being at an 8/10 where those 2 points would = boil over.

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