When considering a time to quit, many tobacco users often first pause to consider what stresses they are dealing with at the time, and attempt to “time” their quit attempt around those stresses.
For example, I often hear patients say that they wish to “get through” this particular difficult situation, or stressful time, first prior to quitting. Their reason being that, for as long as they have been smoking, the cigarette has been a chief coping skill for handling the stress in their lives, and so they want to wait until the stress passes prior to quitting.
However, the opposite is really true: Those that have quit smoking, often find that they feel less stressed after quitting.
Read on to see why -
First let’s consider why some feel that the cigarette is the key for their stress management:
When experiencing an urge or craving to smoke, the nicotinic receptors in the brain, which crave nicotine and so cause the withdrawal symptoms that are all too familiar, simply will not be satisfied until the user begins to smoke again.
Therefore many, understandably, think that the cigarette worked well in taking care of their stress. However in reality, smoking actually re-introduced more stress, for that bolus dose of nicotine in which the cigarette is uniquely designed to deliver to the brain in 7-10 seconds, reactivated those receptors again. In fact, causing “stress” on the body.
Not only does the neurochemistry of the brain become re-set in this way, but those that quit smoking often notice that their entire lives become less stressful as there is no longer the urgency and anxiety associated with the cravings and urges to smoke, and the need to find a place to smoke where no one will see them. Yes, their lifestyle can indeed be calmer, and less stressful, as they find themselves able to engage more fully in a hobby, play with their children or grandchildren, or attend social gatherings, without needing to take time away from them to smoke.
While the path to quitting is very individualized, some pleasant surprises are often noted by many of those who have quit smoking. So it is important to be open to the many possibilities of what a smoke-free lifestyle could be.
Surprisingly, quitting smoking could be the stress management tool that many who smoke have been looking for!
Barb Dallavalle, MA, LP
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