To mark Stress Awareness Day, we’ve taken a look at stress and smoking and how to find new ways of coping with life’s challenges without a cigarette in your hand.
We all have different ways of coping with stress and for many smokers, lighting up a cigarette provides an instant sense of relief.
This dependence on smoking to cope in stressful situations can make it particularly difficult for smokers to quit the habit.
Some believe that without the crutch of a cigarette, they will crumble when the going gets tough. What many smokers don’t realise however, is that in fact smoking is the cause not the cure for stress. Nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms cause feelings of anxiety, agitation and stress among smokers.
What appears to be a feeling of relaxion when they smoke is merely a temporary respite from nicotine cravings which then resume, shortly after the cigarette has been stubbed out.
It’s a vicious circle which can be very difficult to break. However, with the right support in place it’s possible to cope with stress without a cigarette in your hand.
Breaking the cycle
Step one is the to quit the habit. There’s no quit smoking method that suits everybody and its’ important to find the right method for you.
Research has shown however that trying to quit through will power alone is not the best method of stopping smoking, with only 3 in every 100 smokers able to give up this way.
You can double your chances of smoking by using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and have an even greater chance of giving up for good if you also receive behavioural support.
To find out what support will suit you best, contact NHS Wales Help Me Quit service which provides free smoking cessation support.
If you have relied on smoking to deal with stress then it is important to find new ways of coping – or you may be tempted to relapse.
Here are some stress busting suggestions:
Looking after yourself won’t stop stressful events from occurring but it will enhance your ability to deal with those situations. Make sure you get enough sleep and that you have a healthy diet. Avoid overindulging in alcohol or and try to reduce the amount of caffeine you drink. If you feel good physically then this will affect your state of mind.
When you exercise your body releases natural chemicals that help to improve your mood and reduce stress levels. If you are in the house feeling overwhelmed then head out for a walk or a jog. You’d be surprised by what an impact that can have on your mood.
Don’t struggle with stress alone. Share what is on your mind with friends and family. If you are dealing with particularly difficult challenges, it may help to speak to a trained counsellor.
Stress can be caused by worrying about the future. Life is unpredictable and it’s natural to fear what’s around the corner. Mindfulness is the practice of focussing on what is happening right now and it can have a real impact of stress, anxiety and depression. A good way to start is to set aside a time every day when you slow down and focus solely on you breathing, how you are feeling and your immediate surroundings.
Sometimes the best way to cope with stress is to distract yourself from whatever you are worrying about. Why not take up a relaxing hobby that you can pick up easily at home and do whenever you are feeling tense or just to relax in the evenings. Some people find knitting, crochet or puzzles beneficial. Others enjoy gardening or baking. Anything that keeps your mind and hands busy can encourage mindfulness, lower stress levels and also help with cigarette cravings.