A young man stands in the centre of a group of friends with his eyes and head down.

What to do if you cry in public (and why it's okay)

  • 3 min read
  • 19 October 2018

Author: Beth

Topics mentioned: self-care, reaching out for help

About: Crying in public can happen to anyone, but can often leave you feeling vulnerable and alone. Beth shares why it’s okay to let it happen.

When the tears are coming

We’ve all been there - that awful feeling that tears are on their way, and you’re in a public place.

When tears are coming, it’s often impossible to stop them, which, if you are sat at home, wrapped in a blanket with some chocolate to get you through it, is absolutely fine. I love a good, long cry - it is so cathartic. But what on earth do you do when the tears come and you’re in public?

We should embrace the tears when they come, not try and hide them!

Embrace the tears

I’ve cried in plenty of public places, like on the train or in a long queue. It’s completely normal! We can’t always regulate our emotions, and I’m a firm believer that crying is really helpful. We should embrace the tears when they come, not try and hide them!

Once I cried when I was at the bank. It was really, really awkward. The cashier was shocked. I was shocked. The people in the queue were shocked. Why on earth was I crying? I needed to stop, quickly, but my body was LOVING releasing the tension and stress of the last few months and it wasn’t going to stop. Instead I was ushered away, given a private side room and left to cry in peace as I counted the money I had brought with me to the bank.

Often, a really small thing triggers my tears. A staff member being a bit rude, something unexpected happening, overhearing something that brings back bad memories - they can all happen at any time! We can be embarrassed about crying about something so small, but of course it is not the real reason. The cause of my tears is often something bigger, that I might have been ignoring or juggling for a while, but it is the small inconvenience that causes the tears to actually roll down my cheeks.

We can’t always regulate our emotions, and I’m a firm believer that crying is really helpful.

So what do you do when you cry in public?

If you have a mental health condition, you’ll know how completely horrible it feels when you can’t cope. You feel helpless, isolated, vulnerable, and you wish that there was someone around who understood. Except, if someone approached you and tried to help, you would probably feel even more mortified and want even more to run and hide – I know I would.

So what on earth do you do when you are crying in public? I know how scary and embarrassing that is, so below are my tips.

  • Don't panic

    No one is annoyed, angry or staring at you. Stay as a calm as you can.

  • Take a deep breath

    This will help calm you down and stop the crying. If you want, you can try a breathing exercise.

  • Ask someone if you can go somewhere private

    When I cried in the bank, the bank staff were only too happy to find me a room – it's much better customer service than to leave someone crying!

  • Make plans to get home (or to a safe space) ASAP

    It doesn’t matter how many things you had wanted to get done that day, nothing is more important than looking after yourself. Get home, get in your pyjamas and put Netflix on - no more social pressure to contend with!

  • Don't beat yourself up

    Mental illness strikes at the most inconvenient times and it happens to all of us! You might think “I failed, because I cried on the train and everyone saw”. Instead, think “I cried on the train today because I was understandably overwhelmed. Despite that, I still managed to cope with the situation and get to my destination, so that was a successful journey”.

Crying is a natural human response

Believe me, you are not the first person to cry in public – at work, out shopping, at a friend’s house, there are so many “inappropriate” places to cry and everyone has already cried there so you are not the first! Join the crying club with pride and accept that it’s a natural human response to pressure.

Be proud of yourself – you are so brave.

More information and advice

We have tips and advice to help you find the support you need. Take a look at our guides.

Where to get help

However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.

  • The Mix

    Free, short-term online counselling for young people aged 25 or under. Their website also provides lots of information and advice about mental health and wellbeing. 

    Email support is available via their online contact form.

    They have a free 1-2-1 webchat service available during opening hours.

    Opening times:
    4pm - 11pm, Monday - Friday
  • Childline

    If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.

    Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.

    Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.

    Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.

    Opening times:
  • CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)

    Provides support to anyone aged 16+ who is feeling down and needs to talk or find information.

    Free webchat service available.

    Read information about the helpline and how it works.

    Opening times:
    5pm - midnight, 365 days a year

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