When my mom called at 9 a.m. on July 5, 2012, I immediately knew something was wrong. It was 6 a.m. her time and she knew not to reach out to me at the beginning of the work day.
“Roxy ran away last night,” she said of my 13-year-old Jack Russell Terrier.
“Why would you tell me this at work?” I said in between sobs.
“She’s your dog. You deserve to know.”
At that, I was bawling in front of the entire office, too devastated by the probable loss of my childhood pet to care about professionalism. This wasn’t the last time I’d choke up at work, but I’ve picked up a few tricks along to way to handle myself in a more discreet manner. As embarrassing as it can be, a lot of people find themselves crying in front of colleagues at some point, whether for work-related reasons or personal situations that they just cannot leave at home. If you have to shed some tears on the clock, do it, but here are some suggestions for going about it without totally losing face.
1. Excuse yourself and head to the bathroom
How else do you think the ladies of Mad Men get through tough days at the wildly sexist ad agency? Take a moment for yourself in a stall before cleaning up and getting it together in front of a mirror. Wash your face with cool water, wipe your mascara, smile at yourself in the mirror. You can do this.
2. Grab a treat
Maybe your idea of a treat is a Pumpkin Spice Latte (hello, fall!) from Starbucks or an Oreo milkshake. Go with the snack that will bring you the most joy in that moment. You’ll return to the office in a slightly better mood and armed with food that’s going to take care of you.
3. Take a quick walk
Clear your mind and indulge the fresh air. Do not call or text anyone and re-hash the situation, which will only make you feel worse. Just try to feel your body moving and get your mind off what is making you feel sad.
4. Take a deep breath
If you feel an unstoppable sob coming on, try taking slow breaths to allow yourself to calm down. Look up at the ceiling while you breathe and focus on one point for 10 seconds. You’re still going to feel sad, and you might have a few drops rolling down your cheek, but anything is better than totally losing it at the worst possible time.
5. Remember that you can have one massive cry later
Save the big show for later because you’ll have the entire night to wail away if needed. A good cry can be really cathartic, but trust me, the office isn’t the place to have the full-on experience.
6. Focus on work
Throw yourself into a complicated project, answer emails you’ve been avoiding, do the most annoying brain-encasing thing on your to-do list. It will make you feel better, at least temporarily.
7. Take a quick, bad-ass selfie
At your desk, or in the hall, capture a picture of yourself handling yourself, just being strong and together. It will help remind you that you can pull it together and overcome anything.
8. If all fails, cry under your desk
If anyone asks, just say you thought there was an earthquake.