For most smokers, it’s common to light a cigarette when they are feeling down, nervous, anxious, or stressed out. Smoking can seem like it helps you calm down, at least for a little while. Because you’re used to depending on a cigarette when you’re stressed, more stress leads to an increase in smoking. If you find this happening to you, you probably are a stress smoker. Some of the common situations that trigger stress includes:
Lengthened lists of things to do
While lighting one up may be your first instinct, smoking can leave you feeling more stressed than you already are.
Why Smoking Causes Stress
The calming effect of smoking is caused by nicotine, a mood-altering compound present in tobacco. Though it makes you feel more relaxed, there are several negative reactions caused by nicotine within the body:
An increase in blood pressure
An increased in heart rate
Constricted blood vessels
A decrease in oxygen available to the brain and body
Nicotine enters your bloodstream and travels to your brain, where it releases several neurotransmitters including dopamine, the primary reward chemical in the brain. This creates a temporary positive feeling in your brain but when the effect subsides, you actually end up feeling worse than before you smoked. Along with all the chemical changes, there is a long of list of diseases and ailments that are caused by smoking.
How To Cope With The Urge To Smoke
If stress is your primary trigger for smoking, you should try to reduce stress generating factors in your life. Just using your willpower may not be enough to curb the urge. One of the best strategies is to substitute smoking with an effective form of relaxation and to practice it often. Try these strategies to suppress the urge to smoke.
1. Deep Breathing And Meditation
If you’re stressed and are thinking about lighting one up, here’s what you should try:
Find a quiet place.
Close your eyes.
Control your breathing.
Place a hand over your stomach.
Slowly inhale to feel your stomach rise.
Exhale to feel your stomach contract.
2. Practice Visualization
While it looks simple, visualization is an effective technique that is used by many psychologists to instantly relieve tension and anxiety. Here’s how you can use it. Take a few moments to sit in a chair or lie down in a quiet room and close your eyes. Imagine yourself in pleasant, calm surroundings. Imagine the sounds of water, the warmth of the sun, and the smell of sand, grass, or fresh air, or another calming scenario. This will take your mind off smoking and make you feel good without nicotine.
3. Take A Walk
As silly as it sounds, taking a walk can help you feel relaxed. A quiet stroll lets you organize your thoughts or do some problem-solving. Or you could just disconnect from the problems at hand and focus on your surroundings so that you can get back with more clarity.
4. Practice Yoga Or Tai Chi
If you’re constantly stressed about something, you should consider doing mind-body practices like yoga or tai chi. Yoga can help reduce anxiety and stress that is trapped in the body by flexing muscles that are stiff. Tai chi, with its relaxed pace, brings a greater degree of awareness and balance throughout your body. While body practices focus on body movements, they have proven mental and emotional benefits.
5. Exercise Regularly
You may not be able to go to the gym every time you feel like smoking but exercise has an overall positive effect on how you feel. Exercise does not have to mean pumping iron at the gym. Pick an activity like brisk walking, bike riding, or swimming; something that you enjoy. Do it for at least 30 minutes per day, five days per week. Physical activity boosts your endorphins, which are the neurotransmitters that make you feel good. Soon, you won’t have to rely on nicotine for you to feel great.