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It is common for people to think that smoking is a way to calm your nerves and deal with feelings of anxiety. But the truth is, nicotine can cause anxiety symptoms or make them worse.
Some of us believe that smoking seems calming. But nicotine also ramps up blood pressure and heart rate, two physical symptoms that can mirror anxiety. Studies have shown that smoking actually increases anxiety it simply does so after the cigarette's effects have worn off which, inevitably compels a smoker to smoke yet again...In fact, the most common cause of anxiety in those that use cigarettes to cope is withdrawal. The effects of nicotine last a very short time, especially as you become accustomed to it, and so minor withdrawal symptoms start often throughout the day. One of those symptoms is anxiety, so while nicotine reduces anxiety after it's smoked, it then increases anxiety more than you would suffer without nicotine later, forcing you to go back and smoke again. Now, you're smoking to relieve the anxiety caused by smoking - and around and around we go!

Also, smokers with a history of anxiety disorders are less likely to quit, often because nicotine withdrawal symptoms can cause or worsen anxiety symptoms temporarily only to smoke to relieve - not the underlying anxiety - we never get to that - just to relieve the anxiety caused by smoking. It's like a loan shark! The interest gets paid first and you never touch the principle!
The other, forgotten reason that nicotine contributes to anxiety is because it essentially replaces your own natural ability to cope. Stress coping, a.k.a. resilience is a mental skill. When you don't use it, you lose it. Smoking numbs anxiety but it doesn't actually help you cope (since nothing you take for anxiety is true "coping"), and so your ability to cope with stress without nicotine gets worse. That's why so many people turn back to nicotine when they're stressed - their minds and bodies don't know how to deal with even minor amounts of stress without it. Anybody who has been through the diet yoyo or the exercise yoyo can relate. Any little "reason" can distract us from our newfound skills.
There's another wicked anxiety trap - we develop anxiety about smoking related illnesses, how your job is affected by your smoking, relationships based on and compromised by smoking, etc. But these are all secondary anxiety causes. We all know that smoking shortens your lifespan, damages your organs, and can have a negative effect on nearly every part of your body, not to mention your mind and spirit.So it should come as no surprise that smoking can contribute to anxiety as well. But smoking doesn't just affect anxiety in the brain. It also affects anxiety in the lungs.
It's the lungs that may contribute to some of the worst anxiety symptoms. Smokers are generally aware of how much they're putting their lungs at risk for cancer and damage because of smoking. But you may not be aware that your damaged lungs may affect your breathing.Those that smoke may start breathing faster or less efficiently than those that don't smoke. Faster breathing can cause hyperventilation, which is when the body breaths out carbon dioxide too quickly. Carbon dioxide is necessary for your body to function properly. Smokers can also hyperventilate from coughing too often, as this may cause accidental fast breathing.Hyperventilation is one of the most common triggers of panic attacks and severe anxiety symptoms, such as chest pains, rapid heartbeat, light headedness, and shortness of breath. These feelings often trigger intense anxiety (and further hyperventilation), which can be extremely difficult to manage and may cause the development of an anxiety disorder (most commonly panic disorder). Then we have anxiety because we have anxiety.
Speaking for myself, anxiety and panic attacks are embarrassing. They seem to come out of nowhere for no reason and my whole body shakes uncontrollably whether I'm with family or at home or conducting my daily business. The more embarrassed, the more I worry, and the cycle becomes completely out of my control. I can't even physically escape because I can't drive safely so I have to be vulnerable and admit to colleagues, strangers, as well as family that I'm caught in a panic attack and need a quiet calm place to bring myself back under self control. I feel like it will last forever - that time becomes infinite in my panic - but it's an illusion. Panic attacks don't have to last more than a few minutes - because I can take control back!
Due to the withdrawal symptoms of nicotine, when you quit smoking you may also start to hyperventilate, which may lead to further anxiety that could cause you to feel like you need to smoke again. In addition, smoking in general changes your lung health to such a degree that you may have developed poor breathing habits already that are going to be exacerbated by the way your lungs feel when they're free of cigarette smoke. That's why you should be prepared for these feelings before you quit smoking, and make sure you have a support system in place to help keep you away from cigarettes.
If anxiety is making you fear smoking cessation or keeping you in the relapse loop, start with the basics - breathing! The second that you begin to notice anxiety, focus on your breathing and make sure that you are breathing very slowly, exhaling much longer than inhaling and inhaling through your nose while exhaling through your pursed lips. The very act of smoking taught us to mouth breathe. Inhaling through your mouth causes hyperventilation and rapid breathing which causes anxiety. Breathe deeply rather than shallowly. Put your hand on your belly and breathe down to where your hand is. Feel the diaphragm expand and contract. Not only are all of the body mechanics correct for relieving anxiety, you also gain a sense of control - "I know this is anxiety. I know it is uncomfortable but I am in control and by breathing correctly it won't last long."
Smoking Cessation hasn't cured my anxiety but unlike smoking - it doesn't contribute to it. Now my anxiety is caused almost exclusively from COPD. But I have through the process of smoking cessation learned resilience = coping skills and although I dislike anxiety attacks, I know that they are temporary and that I am in control.
Neve Ever Give Up! Your Life is worth it - YOU are worth it!


3000 DOF

Posted by Thomas3.20.2010 Jun 6, 2018

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Oh, how I wish we could always keep this in mind! I get in dark moods. I get taken down by illness on a regular basis. I'm very introverted which is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing lies in knowing myself profoundly - perhaps that is the curse as well, come to think of it! 

This moodiness - chronic anxiety and depression along with COPD - came with it's own challenges of grief. Grief is a natural part of the Recovery process in breaking the chains of Nicotine Addiction. Good Grief! To come to acceptance of the fact that despite - no, because of - my illnesses, both physical and mental I am not just "good enough." I am uniquely special and worthy of Self-Compassion and Self-Love.

As I pulled back the layers of denial and isolation, followed by anger - at people, myself, at society, even at God - for the natural consequences combined with a torturous upbringing, I bargained with my Soul and my Lord to be released from being who I am. I would have given just about anything to change so many things that cannot be changed. The past cannot be redone. 

Then piece by piece, time and time again I repeated these steps - each time securing acceptance, even seeing the blessings and finally, offering gratitude to God, not for the evil in the world but for the Lord's mercy that provides wisdom, understanding, compassion and peace of spirit to those who have been touched by it. Like peeling an onion, layer by layer, memory by memory, emotion by emotion, belief upon belief - living Life on Life's terms

.....and discovering the Rainbow that is the Gift of LIFE!

The Journey continues....


The Dream Cigarette

Posted by Thomas3.20.2010 Jun 5, 2018

Enthusiasm and excitement overwhelm me! I'm finally going to do it!  

I get a hit of dopamine with every thought of anticipation: counting my money, getting into the car, driving to the gas station, buying the smokes and a brand new lighter in my favorite color, putting down the money and picking up my treasure. I want to make it extra special so I'll go to my patio with my large glass of iced tea next to me. Put my feet up smell the fresh cut grass, trees, and flowers in the garden. Then I pick up the pack, tap the bottom, carefully remove the cellophane, pull out the cigarette, stroke it, smell the tobacco. I get my my lighter out and now, I'm so excited my hand shakes a bit - I'm almost there!

I put the cig between my lips and even pretend to toke it a time or 2. It's time! I'm really going to do it - I'm going to have my first smoke in 8 years - WOW! I can just imagine the high I am about to feel!

I flip my Bic and......

UGH! It doesn't smell good after all! In fact it's disgusting! But I spent so much time and mental effort talking myself into this! It will get better in a second! Puff! Oh, the gross taste hits my clean mouth and rolls over my teeth and down my throat! *Cough*cough* My stomach starts flipping, What was the Big Deal?

Guilt! Shame! Disgust! Nerves! What the f*** was I thinking?

Yet I keep smoking! I'm not going to waste so much money for nothing! Toke!

Oh, what will I tell my wife? Oh Gosh, my Son will be soooo disappointed!!

My cheeks turn bright red and hot! I feel like a little kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar!

And BecomeanEX! I can't possibly go there and tell them what I did. And why? I can't even explain it to myself! Why? Why not? Oh yeah, those millions of reasons why not hit me like a brick!


And I wake up, the dream turns to ashes and like Scrooge, say "Freedom! I'm Free! Thank you, Lord, I am FREE! Not One Puff Ever! Never ever no matter what! Praise the Lord! It was only a dream!"

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But I won't cave in to Addiction!

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