Feeling stressed? You’re not alone. Now, more than ever, due to global events and unrest, people are feeling the strain of stress and anxiety. Indeed, stress levels have soared because of the global pandemic and anxiety is sky-high. 

When you’re feeling that way, is your first reaction to light up? If you smoke to calm down, then you might be what’s termed ‘a stress smoker’.

Indeed, stress-related to the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have affected smokers in different ways  – yes experts have already done research into it. While the double-edged relationship between COVID-19 stress and smoking isn’t quite clear yet, what is true is that, with the threat of contracting COVID-19 and becoming seriously ill, smokers should have more motivation than ever to quit. So with this in mind, here are 5 tips for help stop smoking because of stress. 

KNOW THAT IT’S CYCLICAL

Homer Simpson could have as easily been talking about smoking when he said, ‘’here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems’’.

It’s a physiological paradox; smoking does not actually relieve stress. In fact, it may leave you feeling more stressed. As the Healthline highlights “many people who smoke do so because they believe it calms them down. This is because nicotine is a mood-altering drug and it seems to smolder feelings of frustration, anger, and anxiety when it’s inhaled.” Interesting stuff, indeed.

However, while you may think that smoking makes you feel calmer, it’s actually increasing your blood pressure, heart rate, tensing muscles, constricting blood vessels and decreasing oxygen to the brain and body which, in turn, may impair your ability to cope with stress. When you next reach for a smoke to calm that stress, remember that it may, in fact, cause more of the same feelings. 

KNOW YOUR STRESS TRIGGERS 

‘‘Just one, ’cause I’m stressed’’. But, why are you stressed? 

If you’ve delved into advice on giving up smoking in any detail, then there’s every chance that you’ll already be conversant in a few buzzwords surrounding the topic. Even if you aren’t, we’re sure you’ll have experienced ‘triggers’, even if you haven’t yet defined the term. In short, a trigger is something that prompts you to pick up a cigarette and makes you want to smoke. 

Many people smoke when faced with stressful situations, and certain triggers exist which can exacerbate attempts to give up. Learning to recognise what makes you feel stressed can be the difference between succumbing to another cig and giving up. 

Keep a diary of such triggers; when you experienced them, how you felt after them, what you did which was successful (or didn’t work) to defeat them…you get the picture.

USE NATURAL STRESS RELIEF TECHNIQUES 

Put bluntly, smoking isn’t a long term stress reliever. Indeed, having some puffs on a cigarette won’t solve the problem that is causing you to feel stressed.  

Instead, let’s focus on what will. Fortunately, there are various tools at your disposal to address that feeling of stress and burden: 

  • Breathing exercises: A simple but highly effective tool for reducing stress and anxiety is our breath. Conscious breathing can be hugely effective in helping you to keep calm in a crisis. Or even, simply, in a moment of unattributable stress.
  • Regular exercise: Helps to improve your mood, reduce stress, boost energy, and improve self-esteem. Physical activity is absolutely critical to emotional wellbeing. In fact, exercise may even be more effective in treating mental issues than medication, according to recent research.  
  • Sleep more: When we suffer from stress and anxiety, our sleep can often suffer, as we lay awake tossing and turning, or light up another cigarette out of the window. Sleep can actually be a powerful antidote to stress and, in turn, your smoking habit.  

SWAP IN LESS HARMFUL ALTERNATIVES

For some, the full-throttle change of daily indulgence to abstinence-based recovery can be a shock too harsh to bear. As such, it can cause more stress. Indeed, cravings for nicotine can leave you feeling stressed because your body begins to go into withdrawal, making you restless and irritable. 

Opting for an intake of nicotine in a different form can make kicking the cigs, step-by-step, manageable. One such way that many have chosen to leave the habit behind is by replacing cigarettes with an electronic alternative, or ‘vape’. Studies have suggested that the long-term effects of vaping are far less harmful than smoking cigarettes – you can browse indejuice and other sites to find a suitable substitute. 

However, be aware that vaping is not entirely risk-free, and the fluids still contain harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke, although at lower levels. Other nicotine replacements are effective, and more medically approved too. These include gum, nasal spray, lozenges or an inhaler.

THE BOTTOM LINE

If your stress acts as a trigger for smoking, remember that it may, in fact, be making things worse. Giving up smoking can lead to a whole host of benefits, in terms of your physical, financial and mental health, all of which will feed back into your stress levels in a positive way. 

The NHS offers a whole range of dedicated services designed to help you stop smoking which you should check out.