by Denise Berger
Boo hoo. Are you a cry-baby? Were you one when you were younger? Have you turned into one since having a baby – you know, the person who tears up at a Johnson & Johnson commercial that features a Shiloh baby look-alike? Or perhaps you are now more sensitive than ever to movies that project the passage of time. The Notebook comes to mind. Well, let those tears roll with pride. William H. Frey II, a neuroscientist and biochemist who wrote the book, Crying: The Mystery of Tears, conducted a study which showed that men cry an average of 1.4 times a month and that women cry about 5.3 times a month. Why are women prone to crying nearly four times that of men? Research indicates that prolactin is the culprit. Prolactin, a stress hormone released via tears, is found to be residing in women’s bodies at a higher concentration and also found to be involved in the synthesis of breast milk.
The upside for women: According to Nomi Kaim in the article, Tearful Serenity: Crying Away the Stress, “emotional tears” in both genders contain 25% more proteins than those tears we secrete on a regular basis that are blinked away or tears from an irritant in the eye. These proteins are actually the prolactin hormones that have been built up to high levels due to stress. So, just as sweat is a secretion of stress due to an adrenaline surge, so are the “emotional tears” a healthy release of toxic stress levels. The downside for women: In the workplace, a woman crying in front of a supervisor and/or colleagues can be perceived as a sign of weakness, even if performance suggests otherwise.
What to do? Elizabeth Pace, author of the forthcoming book, The X and Y of Buy: Why Gender Matters in Sales and Marketing, suggests the following exercises. First, concentrate on breathing and particularly the exhale which is known to relieve stress and lower blood pressure. If you have water near you, drink some. Your body can not both drink and cry simultaneously. Tears are controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system and as Nomi Kaim points out, that system can only operate when there is nothing taking priority in the body. If you are not able to obtain a glass of water easily, don’t despair. Elizabeth suggests looking up and to the left, activating the left side of the brain, the hub for analytical thinking (emotions are processed on the right side of the brain). Elizabeth goes on to point out that one of the best tactics for suppressing emotions is silence. If you find yourself in a highly-charged situation, excuse yourself, recompose and think before you speak. If it is not possible to leave, remain silent until you can discuss the situation without producing “emotional tears” during the conversation.
What do you think? Are you generally composed or do the eyes fill with tears easily? What do you do to hold yourself together in a difficult meeting when your body is crying out to you for release and relief?