How to stop crying on the job?


Hi everyone!

I am a behavioral health tech and am applying to nursing schools. It has been a real pleasure reading your posts. I have learned so much from them.

When a patient shares her struggles and is crying, all I want to do is to cry with her. Of course I know I shouldn't and I try my best not to. The time I tear up the most at work is during group therapy sessions. The patients are all sharing their hard times and everyone is sniffling. So far I have been doing math problems in my head to distract me. I also find yawning helps. What ways have you found helpful to stop your tears while working?

My family has always told me I am too sensitive for the psych field and too sensitive to be a nurse, but I can't think of another other job I'd want than a psych nurse. I know I can prove them wrong and any tips or tricks from you all would greatly help!

Thank you for reading this. Take good care!

allnurses Guide

Hygiene Queen

2,232 Posts

Okay, the doing the mental math is a great idea... you do what you gotta do to reign in those tears.

The yawning, on the other hand... not so much.

Think about how it would look to you, as a patient, to see the person-- to whom you are pouring your heart out to-- is yawning.

Not very therapeutic.

I can't say that I've been on the verge of tears.

I guess I'm good at compartmentalizing and I don't cry easily.

I'm curious to see other's suggestions.

I just wanted to suggest that yawning may not be the best method.

Also, the longer you are exposed to these types of stories, I wonder if you won't be able to handle it better as time goes on.

I'm not saying you'll become heartless, but perhaps these stories won't reduce you to tears so readily.

TriciaJ, RN

4,295 Posts

Specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory. Has 42 years experience.

It shows you're very empathetic, which is a great quality for a nurse. One way to stave off the tears is to look up just by rolling your eyes upward, briefly. Just be careful you don't look like you're rolling your eyes at what is being said. I think after you've heard enough sad stories, you'll be a bit toughened. Then you can express caring and empathy without getting drawn into the sadness. Good luck!

Davey Do

1 Article; 10,249 Posts

Specializes in Psych (25 years), Medical (15 years). Has 44 years experience.

I can really appreciate a Psych Tech who's going into Nursing. Good front line experience. I also appreciate the fact that you're Researching the Field, for example, by reading through the Threads on the Psych Nursing Forum. Good for you, dokhtarshirazi!

There's both good and bad in being a sensitive Individual in the Nursing Field. It's good that if we can empathize with our Patients. Empathy is an understanding of another's feelings, which is a positive attribute when assisting the Patient toward a Threrapeutic Goal.

However, sympathy means to share in that feeling, and that can be very Taxing to Our Own Emotional Health. I sense there is sympathizing going on here.

Okay. If I were experiencing Emotional Upsettedness whenever I spoke to a Patient about an upsettng situation, I'd have to find the Root Cause. I would seek Professional Services to identify, and deal with, that Root Cause

There's a Reason why an Emotional Situation another Individual is experiencing, with whom we have a Professional Relationship with, results in triggering a highly Emotional State in us.

Unresolved Issues, or Current Personal Problems could be a Root Cause. In other words, if we are inappropriately experiencing or feeling another's Emotional Pain, it's because we aren't dealing with our own Emotional Pain as well as we should.

The Hospital where I work has an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) and I have sought the Services of a Therapist PRN. Even when I don't have Problems or Issues to work out, I still see the Therapist a couple of times a year for a so-called "15 Thousand Mile Check Up".

Good Luck and Best Wishes to you, dokhtarshirazi!

allnurses Guide

Hygiene Queen

2,232 Posts

Thank you Hygiene Queen! :) How long have you been a nurse? Did it get easier to control your emotions with time?

I began as a CNA in a nursing home about 25 years ago. I coped with difficulties by sternly reminding myself that "this is what I signed up for" and to "suck it up". I guess I'm pretty brutal with myself, but that's what worked for me. I really wanted to display the professionalism that I admired in others and that meant learning The Poker Face. In other words, I nipped it in the bud early on.

I was a psych tech for about 7 years. I made it a point to keep myself focused on the task at hand and I was very conscious of my own affect (which is very important). If something does start to tug a bit at my heartstrings (like I hate seeing a child put in restraints!) I try to focus more on the task at hand and not thinking about emotions.

I have been a nurse for almost 3 years (still in psych).

Oh, boy! I guess what I'm saying makes me sound hard and cold. I'm not! :sorry:

Thank you TriciaJ for the positive advice. I will try the eye rolling, but will be very careful when doing it :)

Davey Do, thank you!!! I agree, I need to empathize without sharing the feelings, but I've never thought it in those terms before. Thank you for helping me clear things up. Are you a nursing professor? You sound like you'd make a great teacher. :cat:

Hygiene Queen, Thank you again. And no! You do not sound hard and cold. You sound very professional which is exactly what I want to be. I look up to you and really want to follow your path. Three years as a psych nurse, what is your favorite part of being a psych nurse? Do you think you will stay in psych for a long time?


142 Posts

Has 12 years experience.

On the light side I wonder if your a water sign? ?

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allnurses Guide

Hygiene Queen

2,232 Posts

Hygiene Queen, Thank you again. And no! You do not sound hard and cold. You sound very professional which is exactly what I want to be. I look up to you and really want to follow your path. Three years as a psych nurse, what is your favorite part of being a psych nurse? Do you think you will stay in psych for a long time?

I'm fascinated by personality disorders, I love observing people and I love medication teaching.

I do work on a very challenging unit (geri-psych) but it's good combination of psych and medical and I've learned so much.

You cannot ever ever ever talk me into working in a medical hospital, so Psych is where I'll stay.


1 Article; 202 Posts

Specializes in Psychiatry, Mental Health. Has 35 years experience.

I was thinking about this and wondered if you received any training on how to observe during group sessions. If you keep your professional mind busy observing the patient who is talking and the patients who are listening (noting their affect, their body language, their facial expressions, their respiration, any skin color changes, evidence of restlessness or discomfort, just for a start) you will probably find that the words you hear, the stories that are being told, become just one more piece of information about the patient, one piece of information among all the rest.

Carefully observing all the patients is part of it; observing your own interior world is the other. Note how your emotions change, memories that may come up for you, fears, fantasies, all of it. When observing yourself, it is primarily so that you can become adept at keeping your own "stuff" from interfering with your care of the patients. (You deal with it on your time.)

This is the best way I've found to stay professional without sacrificing appropriate empathy. It takes practice, but if this is the field you want for your career, may as well start, right?

Good luck! :up: