Stress and Smoking

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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.