When you hold back your tears, this is what happens

Maybe it's a commercial about animals in need, an intense argument, or seeing a loved one after a long time apart. The urge to cry is your mind and body's stress response, but you might try to hold back your tears. Many people say they're sorry if they start crying, thinking maybe it's an inconvenience to others. Crying can be caused by a range of emotions, including joy, grief, sadness, or anxiety, according to Livestrong.

When you feel the urge to cry, your brain has started your fight or flight response, making your heart rate increase, your breathing change, and boosting blood flow to your muscles. You need to release those tears to get yourself back to a calm and relaxed state. Crying is a self-soothing behavior, according to a 2014 study published in Frontiers in Psychology, and you could remain in a stressed state if you hold back tears.

Your tears contain the hormone corticotropin, which is a natural painkiller and helps regulate stress levels, according to Headspace. That's why you feel better after a good cry. If you hold back tears, it will negatively affect your decision making and concentration and can lead to low energy, a nearly constant lousy mood, and lack of pleasure in life.

How to pause crying

Instead of holding back the tears, try pausing the response so you can return to them later. Maybe you're at work, or somewhere you don't want to draw attention to yourself. You can temporarily hold back the tears, but you'll need to let them out later in the day. 

Livestrong recommends using a thought-stopping technique like visualizing a stop sign to signal your brain to pause crying. Accept the feeling and say to yourself that you want to cry now but can't. 

Take deep breaths to help yourself relax without the bout of crying, or flip the script. Tighten your muscles, clench your fists, and tighten your jaw to heighten your stress response. These reactions might help you hold back your tears.  

These techniques are so you can stop yourself from crying in an inappropriate situation, but you have to let them flow at some point. Make plans to let those tears out in a place where you feel safe doing so. You will feel so much better after you cry because you're releasing those stress hormones and allowing your mind and body to return to a relaxed state. Crying is better for your health than you realize, and sometimes, it's okay not to be okay.