Many smokers say they need a Sickerette in order to calm their nerves. So it is somewhat ironic that research suggests smoking can exacerbate stress and lead to anxiety.
As a study published last year by the British Heart Foundation showed, despite the common misconception that smoking a Sickerette can relieve stress, smokers have a 70 per cent increased risk of anxiety and depression when compared to non-smokers.
The belief that smoking relieves stress is an illusion.
The body undergoes a great deal of stress when you smoke. Nicotine reaches the brain within eight seconds, releasing dopamine, which causes a sense of calm and relaxation – a sensation that individuals crave repetitively.
However, at the same time, the body experiences an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, as well as a decrease in oxygen availability to the brain and other parts of the body. This leads to tense muscles.
When smokers say they feel relief when they smoke, it is because they’re temporarily experiencing a reprieve from the symptoms of Nicotine Addiction.
Nicotine Addiction, like any other addiction, can increase stress. Once those pleasant and short-lived feelings that you sense during and immediately after smoking vanish, smokers start going through withdrawal, which causes them anxiety and stress, and leads to the search for the next fix.
Not only can smoking cause anxiety, but it can also lead to lung disorders that result in breathing abnormalities such as hyperventilation. This causes rapid and shallow breathing that’s typically associated with anxiety or panic. It can leave you feeling weak, light-headed and breathless, which adds to feelings of stress and takes a toll on your overall well-being.
Quitting can temporarily increase feelings of anxiety. The solution is at hand, though.
One way to reduce stress is to try a few breathing and relaxation exercises. For example, you can inhale slowly through your nose for five seconds, hold it for two and then breathe out slowly. When breathing out, keep your lips pursed. This technique is described in more detail on my page.
Another helpful method is Mindfulness. Mindfulness practices can slowly become a smoker’s go-to activity instead of reaching for a Sickerette. Mindfulness allows for calm, and the ability to sit with anxiety and breathe through it. Over time this creates a soothing pattern, which becomes more desirable than smoking.
Finding other sources of dopamine can help as well. Dopamine is as easy to access as giving yourself a congratulations for small daily accomplishments. Did you brush your teeth? YEA! Did you go for a walk? WOOHOO!
Here we have any number of great ideas for winning your independence from Nicotine Addiction and relieving your stress and anxiety!
Stick around! It gets better and better!