Cope with stress

Many people have a perception that smoking helps them deal with stress. After people quit, stress is often rated the number one reason that they go back to smoking. It’s therefore important to understand the association between smoking and stress, so you can find better ways to handle stress after quitting.

Stress and smoking

While the causes of stress are different for everyone, stress is a normal part of life and is difficult to completely avoid. But contrary to popular belief, smoking does not actually relieve stress, and in fact inflicts more tension and anxiety on the body.  When someone smokes, the nicotine reaches the brain, which releases the feel-good chemical dopamine. This causes feelings of pleasure and relaxation, which the body craves over and over. 

In reality, when you smoke, your body is actually experiencing increased blood pressure, heart rate, less oxygen and muscle tension. The perceived feelings of relaxation when you smoke are in fact relief from nicotine withdrawal in between cigarettes. 

Remember, smoking can’t solve the problem that’s giving you stress. But knowing what causes stress in your life can help you come up with a plan for relieving stress in more positive and healthy ways. 

Tips for coping with stress
Smoking and stress are part of a vicious cycle that keeps many people trapped from moving forward. Finding new ways of managing stress is vital for your long term quit success.

Find what works for you

Ask yourself, aside from smoking, what you do when you're upset to calm down. How do you take care of yourself when you are feeling less than your best? Some people find that going for a brisk walk, doing deep breathing exercises, or talking to a friend can help manage stress.

Address stress at the source

Try to address the source of stress itself, as well as coping with it. Any part of your life can stress you out-- work, relationships, financials -- and concern around your smoking might compound the stress in other areas of your life. Seek to address those problems directly and find solutions.  Managing stress in your life will reduce the urge to smoke.  

Get the support you need

Try not to deal with stress on your own. The most important factor in coping with stress is to reach out for support. Share your feelings with people in your life to help you through stressful times and keep you on track with your quit. Remember our Quit Coaches are available to help find ways to deal with stress that will work for you.  

Manage cravings and withdrawal

On top of work, family, and every day stress, quitting smoking is itself a stressful process. If withdrawal to nicotine is what’s causing your stress, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about quitting aids, like nicotine replacement therapies or prescription medications, to help reduce withdrawal symptoms and manage the stress. To deal with stress that comes from cravings, try the 4Ds.