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How to identify and manage stress

Stress is a normal part of life and can help us achieve our goals, but too much stress can be a problem for your body and your health.

Some people smoke when they feel stressed. They use smoking to cope with unpleasant feelings. But smoking is not a good stress reliever and there are many problems with using cigarettes to cope with stress. Smoking won’t solve the problem that was giving you stress, and it can also create further stress for your body.

Cravings for nicotine can be strong and when the body begins to experience withdrawal symptoms, this causes more stress on your body.

The best way to de-stress is to become a non-smoker: learn new, healthy ways to cope with stressful situations and take care of yourself without smoking.

So here are some tips on what you can do to take control.

  1. Identify your stressors

What situations cause you stress in your life? Is it anger? Boredom? Joy? Are they a result of things around you or from within yourself?

Think about what you can do to manage these situations. By understanding situations that cause you stress, you can put plans in place to avoid the situation, alter your environment or talk positively to yourself.

  1. Notice signs of stress early

Think about how stress affects your body and where you feel tension. The sooner you identify signs of stress—such as muscle tightness, clenched jaw, feeling irritable or angry, upset stomach—the sooner you will be able to put strategies in place to manage it.

  1. Look after yourself

Eat a healthy diet, focusing on reducing caffeine and sugar.

You’ll also want to avoid alcohol. While it’s a stimulant in small quantities, it is a depressant in larger quantities, and is not an effective way to alleviate stress. Keep yourself hydrated with healthier options, such as water, herbal tea or fruit juice.

Getting enough sleep is also important. A lack of sleep is stressful so will make you feel less able to manage your stress. Try to spend time relaxing before bed, calming down and establish a regular bedtime routine.

  1. Do things you enjoy

Think about what things bring you enjoyment and make you feel good. Some suggestions could be:

  • Listen to your favourite music
  • Have a warm bath
  • Take the dog for a walk
  • Watch a movie
  • Go outside and get in touch with nature
  • Connect with your friends
  • Distract yourself
  • Have a massage
  1. Exercise

When you are physically active, feel-good hormones called endorphins are released in your body. Try to incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine on a regular basis. If you start to feel stressed or tense, go for brisk walk in the fresh air. You’ll come back feeling refreshed and relaxed.

  1. Practise relaxation techniques

There are lots of different things that you can do to relax your mind and body.

Deep breathing exercises:

Breathe in through your nose for a count of three and exhale through your mouth for a count of three. Repeat this for a few minutes, and the tension in your body will begin to ease.

Meditation:

Meditation is a state of focused awareness of the mind and body allowing thoughts to fall away, leaving a deep feeling of stillness and peace. Many meditation techniques involve focusing fully on something—your breath, an object, music or a visualisation.

Visualisation:

Close your eyes and create a place in your mind. As you start to imagine this place, slow your breathing down and stay in this place for a few minutes.

What these things have in common is that they get you to focus on the here and now. It might take some practice to get it right, or you might want to try different strategies to work out what feels right for you.

  1. Ask for support

Reach out to a family member, a friend or ring Quitline to speak with a counsellor about how you are feeling and the challenging time that you are facing. Talking about it and having social support can make a huge difference to your stress levels.

Stress is part of life, but with some time and patience, you can learn to manage it smoke free.

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Over 85 per cent of smokers with a mental illness have tried to quit at some stage. But the smoking rates among this group are still two to three times higher than that of the general population. This Mental Health Awareness Week (7–13 October), we’re investigating how support can help you overcome barriers to quitting. 

People like Teresa Schmuckers demonstrate that giving up smoking can have a significant positive impact on mental health.

“I’m a happier and healthier person without the smokes. If you want to break your habit, you will see it’s one of the best things you will do for yourself.”

Teresa shares her story in a note that she wrote, looking back on her quitting experience

Many smokers worry that quitting will trigger depression or a decline in mental health.

But the important thing to remember is that giving up smoking will make you feel better long term.

Quitting smoking is associated with reduced levels of depression, stress and anxiety as well as improved in mood—so the long-term benefits far outweigh the short-term challenges.

The feeling of stress in the weeks immediately following quitting may be a symptom of nicotine withdrawal. This will fade as your body becomes used to not having nicotine, and in the meantime it can be addressed with replacement therapies or quitting medications.

You can get through short-term challenges like stress by speaking to a Quitline counsellor about helpful stress management techniques.

Techniques to manage stress:

  • When you notice negative thoughts, write them down and challenge them.
  • Take notice of your positive or helpful thoughts too. How do they impact on how you feel, and what outcome do they have?
  • Make a list of music for different needs like music to relax, music to boost your confidence or music to dance to. Music can be a helpful way of changing the way you feel.
  • Creating new, more flexible ways of thinking help you break the cycle. You can learn skills that help you to consciously improve your mood.
  • Consider involving your family or a close friend in health professional sessions. This can help to provide another support network in your life to manage stressful times, and develop a collective solution to problems you face.

Quitline can also be your support.

We are here from 8.30 am to 8.00 pm, Monday to Friday—just ring on 13 78 48 or continue to visit www.quitlinesa.org.au.  You can request a call-back if you have a mobile, or request a counsellor you feel most comfortable with.

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When someone quits smoking, often one of the first things they want to know is how long it will take before nicotine will leave their system. For most people, once you quit smoking, nicotine can still be detected in the bloodstream for between one and three days; however, it can still be present for up to 10 days in some people. This difference is due to the way nicotine is processed in the body and can depend on a number of factors, such as on the person’s metabolism, or other medication they may be on. There are a variety of things you can do to speed the process of nicotine leaving your body after you quit.

In an average cigarette, there is approximately 10 mg of nicotine. Of this, only about 1 mg is actually absorbed into the body. Once absorbed, enzymes in your liver break most of the nicotine down to become cotinine. This by-product cotinine can be detected in your body for longer (sometimes weeks) and it is eventually eliminated through your kidneys as urine.

 

Another interesting fact is that traces of nicotine can actually be found in your hair follicles for up to three months!

People often wonder why they still experience craving even after the nicotine has left the body. In fact, it’s because the nicotine has gone that your body is reacting this way—it’s craving the nicotine that is no longer there.

Smoking cigarettes/using tobacco causes nicotine to enter the brain’s reward centre, meaning it makes you feel good for a short time. The process is designed to reward us for positive behaviours like eating and drinking, but often occurs in response to things that are not so good. When you quit smoking – the brain thinks you have removed something good for you. In time, your body will adjust to not having nicotine and the cravings will disappear usually after the first week or two.

You may, however, experience cravings many months or even years down the track. These are normally associated with an emotional trigger such as stress. Once you identify your own triggers, you’ll be able to avoid them, prepare for cravings, and develop strategies to help you overcome them.

Factors affecting processing of nicotine

There are several factors that influence how long it takes for your body to ‘flush out’ nicotine, including

Age

  • Older people generally take longer to remove nicotine.

Genes

  • Research suggests that Asian-Americans and African-Americans may metabolise nicotine more slowly than Caucasian or Hispanic people.

Hormones

  • Sex hormones like estrogen may help metabolise nicotine more quickly. That means that women, particularly those who are consuming estrogen hormones or who are pregnant, will remove nicotine more quickly than men.

Liver function

  • Liver enzymes play a role in metabolising nicotine and the way in which they do that can vary between different people.

Medications

Some antibiotics can speed up nicotine metabolism, while others, like amlodipine (medication for high blood pressure) can slow it down.

Speeding up nicotine elimination

There are several things you can do to speed up the process of nicotine elimination:

  • The more water you drink, the more you urinate to release nicotine
  • Physical activity increases your metabolism. As you burn energy, you also ‘burn’ nicotine as you sweat.
  • Antioxidants boost your metabolism and fibre can also help remove toxins, so look for foods like oranges and carrots

Nicotine replacement

Using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can increase your chances of quitting by 50 to 70 per cent. If you opt to use NRT, you will still have detectable amounts of nicotine in your body until you cease all nicotine exposure. The positive news though is that you will not be exposed to the thousands of other toxic chemicals present in tobacco smoke.  NRTs come in a variety of forms, providing you a way to slowly reduce your nicotine intake until you are ready to give it up for good.

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Kate started smoking a few cigarettes here and there when she was in her 20s. But it became harder and harder to give up, and in the end, she found herself smoking 40 cigarettes per day. In 2018, Kate celebrated 100 days smoke free thanks to Quitline.

“I was struggling with my breathing in the cooler months, and I found for the first time in my life that I needed a puffer. That was my motivation to call Quitline to help me quit for good.

Now, 100 days on, my lung capacity is getting a lot better. I’ve taken up swimming, which is something I never would have been able to do before. I’ve been getting outdoors a lot more and working in the garden. I’ve also discovered a love of food, which helped initially to distract me from smoking and has now become an enjoyable hobby.

There have certainly been tough times. After meals and social occasions were my triggers. But when you’ve got Quitline behind you, you know that you’re going to get through them. I know that staying on the path will be a challenge, but it’s one I feel I’m ready for.

Recently, my nephew leaned over to his mum and said in a low voice “it’s good Kate stopped smoking, now she won’t die”. That moment really hit home for me that there are so many people relying on you, and you’ve got to take care of yourself. I’m so glad that I built up the courage to quit, and would recommend Quitline to anyone else thinking of quitting―it’s a great feeling.”

– Kate C, 62

 

Are you starting to feel the fitness consequences of smoking?
There’s no better time than now to make the phone call that can help you quit and let your body start repairing.
Call Quitline 13 78 48 to speak to a trained counsellor.

 

Did you follow the Quit With Haydo campaign? In late 2017, following an on-air challenge from his colleagues, Triple M radio show host Haydo gave up smoking for good.

His words of advice?

“Smoking’s one of those things that is a battle, but believe me, it gets easier.”

After making a series of attempts throughout his 25-year smoking history, this time Haydo enlisted some extra help, through Quitline and the My QuitBuddy app.

At the time of filming, Haydo had achieved some huge milestones.

He was 149 days smoke free, and $1,763 richer. And the best part? The publicity of the campaign encouraged others to quit too. Through opting to #quitwithhaydo, any member of the public sitting on the fence was encouraged to call Quitline 13 7848 and quit too.

 

 

 

 

 

149 days is an achievement. And it starts with making one decision.

Haydo says what worked for him was taking it day by day, week by week.

“Genuinely don’t look past the first week. Tackle that on its own, because that is a beast in itself. And if you happen to slip and light up for whatever reason, that’s fine. You’re human. Even Quitline will tell you that. Fall off the wagon, get back on.”

Speak to a Quitline counsellor today, or recommend this service to a friend.

 

 

Since first taking up the habit at just 15, Anne had tried quitting several times throughout her 50-year smoking history. But it wasn’t until she first called Quitline in 2017, that she found a strategy that worked for her. Anne has now been smoke free for over 12 months.

“Quitline was a regular support for me and the weekly calls were enough to make me reflect on how I was feeling and deal with things. Just having someone who cared and wanted to check up on you made all the difference. The website was also a great help too—the signs and the motivators really kept me going.

My health was my main drive to give up for good. My mum was a smoker as well and gave up just before she had her heart attack. The doctors said that it was related to her smoking, and I began to also have similar symptoms. I remember one time during a family trip to Tasmania we went for a walk up a hill and I really struggled. I was also taking medication for a heart condition and decided enough was enough.

As a grandmother, I also want to be able to run around with my grandchildren and make the most of every minute with them. My smoking was getting in the way of that happening.

It took me a number of tries before I called Quitline and asked for help and it made all the difference. No matter how many times it takes, it’s important to not to give up. I’m now happier and healthier and have more energy to play with my grandkids. If I can do it after 50 years, anyone can!”

 

Are you starting to feel the health  consequences of smoking?
There’s no better time than now to make the phone call that can help you quit and let your body start repairing.
Call Quitline 13 78 48 to speak to a trained counsellor.