Smoking for Stress Relief
All people experience stress from time to time and they cope with it differently. For many of them cigarettes are great “helpers” which are claimed to calm down the nerves and to relax. As one of the old-time heavy smokers said, “Cigarettes are just adult pacifiers. You stick ‘em in your mouth when you get stressed.” At the same time Dr. Allen Carr, the author of Easy Way to Stop Smoking, thinks, “Smoking to relieve stress is like drinking alcohol to get sober.”
Tobacco Research and Invention Program has singled out three major reasons why smokers go to cigarettes at stressful times:
1. They think that smoking gives them a much deserved break.
2. They feel a sense of camaraderie because smoking is usually done in a group of people.
3. They feel relief because smoking eliminates nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
Smoking in stressful times is based on common beliefs, not on scientific facts. There is no proven evidence that nicotine eases stress. For example, there have been studies on exercises and they actually help with stress in evident way: physical activity increases the production of endorphins, known as stress fighters, natural pain relievers, or hormones of happiness. There has been no evidence of the same in smoking. In fact, studies show opposite results: smokers usually have higher levels of stress than non-smokers.
People with higher levels of stress go to a cigarette for help, but it will only reduce stress level to normal, but not eliminate it. Soon after smoking, there will be a need for another cigarette because the level of stress rises. If the body will not receive a dose of nicotine, the stress will affect even more with the combination of withdrawal symptoms: dryness of the mouth, nausea, irritability, insomnia, coughing and many others.
Unfortunately withdrawal symptoms cannot be recognized by many smokers. In the beginning they come in a very light form: a smoker might experience hunger or mild anxiety. After some time the symptoms get stronger and more numerous. When a smoker lights up a cigarette, the feeling of anxiety and restlessness disappears which leads to the thought that smoking relieves stress, although in reality it deals with the nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
Only when a smoker can see these facts and distinguish stress from nicotine addiction power, he or she will have a desire to quit, understanding that there are many ways to deal with stress, and smoking is not one of them. It is hard to find the will and strength to quit, because there will be a conflict between the two parts: one is addicted and wants to reach for a cigarette because nicotine withdrawal symptoms are too strong; the other one is the common sense and willpower which have to be strong enough and fight knowing that smoking is unhealthy and it does not eliminate stress.
While trying to quit smoking, a person can seek for healthy ways to cope with stress:
• It has been mentioned above that exercises increase the production of endorphins, reduce anxiety and alleviate stress. Try to exercise at least 20 minutes every day.
• Find positive side in changes and challenges. They are given to make us stronger and improve our abilities, but not to ruin us.
• Do not worry about things you cannot influence or change: weather, war in a far away country, past events.
• Ask for help from people who can support you: family, friends, specialists.
• Do not set goals you cannot achieve. Let there be smaller goals, but you can rejoice every time you succeed.
• Eat well-balanced healthy food and allow yourself to get enough rest.
• Relax in any way that is best for you: try various meditation techniques, yoga, massage, listening to calm music, watching peaceful and happy videos.
• Have a hobby which could make you forget about stress, conflicts and any negative emotions.
• Socialize with people in other ways than smoking: have a cup of coffee, if you need a break at work, talk to people about bothersome events to relieve stress.
- Stress and Smoking Cessation
- Not Stopping Smoking, So What’s Your Excuse?
- Are There Effective Treatments for Tobacco Addiction?