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Nicotine and Caffeine as Stress Relievers

Posted by on January 10, 2014 . .

We all enjoy daily rituals that make us feel comfortable and relaxed. For example, drinking coffee and smoking traditional cigarettes often go hand in hand. 
Keep in mind that one habit can strongly reinforce the other. If you want to quit tobacco, you will need to consider the power of caffeine in your enticement to light up.
There are psychological reasons for desiring to smoke tobacco and have a cup of coffee simultaneously; however, there are very specific chemical factors involved as well. Changing your daily rituals can help you break your addiction to smoking tobacco. 
Addictions usually involve some type of chemical cravings. You want your cravings satisfied to relieve the stress you feel. In short, you need your predicable good feelings.  
For example, nicotine in the bloodstream begins to stimulate one’s adrenal glands. Nicotine affects the level of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter—meaning it is a chemical released by nerve cells with the capability to send signals to other nerve cells. 
Dopamine has the ability to control feelings of reward and pleasure, which wears off between smoking cigarettes. This causes smokers to light up another cigarette to get the pleasure sensation back up. 
Caffeine and nicotine are both alkaloids, and each one stimulates the human body in very specific ways. While nicotine releases adrenaline into a person’s bloodstream, caffeine directly affects the respiratory system, nervous system and heart rate.  
Finding Control Measures
Both addictions involve pleasure sensations coming from the brain, so changing this routine—with coffee and smoking a cigarette coming into mind as a dual stress reliever—will take careful strategies to give up smoking tobacco. It’s easy to learn your own patterns of lighting up, if you pay attention. 
For example: Just anticipating the smell of brewing coffee when you wake up in the morning can easily trigger the craving for a cigarette. Your brain has learned to strongly connect the two pleasures, so it’s hard to separate them. 
You may start reaching for a pack of cigarettes the moment you open the lid on the coffee canister. Knowing this, however, can help you plan ways to stop smoking. You can get a game plan going to succeed in your desire to quit smoking tobacco.
Changing the ritual of smoking—such as the place where you smoke, what you drink when you light up, etc.—will help you win much of the battle. You will need to interrupt the usual pattern, so you can find control versus being on autopilot.  
Review your personal ritual in detail: Do you pour coffee into your favorite mug, for example? Or, do you enjoy lighting up a cigarette and facing the window as sunlight comes in, for instance? 
Ask yourself the following questions:
How can I deal with the cravings?
How can I break the pattern of my caffeine and nicotine ritual?
What methods can I use to relieve my stress, so I won’t need to rely heavily on smoking and drinking coffee to make me feel good?
Switching Small Steps of Your Ritual  
Smoking cessation classes now help participants switch just one small part of the ritual each week—thereby changing how the experience will make them feel. For example, you might begin by smoking a cigarette and drink your coffee 15 minutes after the cigarette is finished. 
The next week, you might sustain this separation of smoking and drinking coffee with a new added change:  You might decide to smoke left-handed versus right-handed. See how this gives a different “feel” to the old ritual you enjoyed for ages? 
If you incorporate electronic cigarettes into your routine, you can begin to learn a new habit and gradually give up traditional cigarettes. A high-quality brand of e-cigarettes can help to liberate you from smoking tobacco. But you’ll need to create a plan that really works.
At first, for example, you might smoke traditional cigarettes only in the morning and switch to electronic cigarettes after lunch. As time goes on, you might use electronic cigarettes 80 percent of the time—until you can use them all of the time.
Once you’re utilizing e-cigs 100 percent of the time, you might decide to drink decaf only. Keep in mind that caffeine and the “memory” of your “caffeine and nicotine” ritual can start tempting you again. If you stick with decaf coffee, you’re moving away from the cravings. 
Warding off Stress in Healthy Ways
It’s hard to resist a pleasurable routine that you’ve planned step-by-step over time—without even realizing how that routine fell into place. For example, you fully know that if you do certain steps in pouring the coffee and smoking the cigarette, this tends to speed up the heart rate slightly and this provides a feeling of elation. 
Who doesn’t like—or even need—a feeling of elation? If you’re feeling a little tired or cranky, this seems like a quick fix for your senses.  In today’s stressful world, most of us are anxious for some stress relief.
However, you can always include healthier stress relievers into your routine such as: walking after work, taking a nice long bath, getting a full body massage, or going to the movies with friends.  
Actively look for ways to give yourself some pleasant, harmonious feelings. Everything from spending time with a pet to eating a warm bowl of soup can help you feel less stressed out.
Understanding more about nicotine and caffeine will help you gain control over them.  They trigger certain chemical changes in the body and speed up one’s heartbeat—kind of like flirting or falling in love. 
It’s critical to take excellent care of yourself, so you don’t feel “down” and completely stressed—or your temptation to yield to caffeine and nicotine will intensify. Working to reduce overall stress does help. A person who is under a lot of stress for any reason will have much less of a chance in giving up smoking cigarettes. 
If you like to sit in your recliner in front of the TV, this can make you crave smoking. By thinking ahead, you can turn to electronic cigarettes to curtail the craving for tobacco. E-cigs will, of course, eliminate second-hand smoke or chemicals that will affect your family members or pets. 
It’s not a good idea to wait until you’ve poured coffee and found your favorite TV show to plan your smoking ritual. Go ahead and begin smoking an e-cigarette before getting in the chair and turning on the TV.
Selecting Dependable Products 
Choose a high-quality brand of e-cigs, so that you can rely upon the e-liquids and working parts of the e-cigs over many months or even years. Buying inferior products may discourage you.  
Traditional cigarettes harm the lungs and introduce toxic chemicals into the body. Too much caffeine can have a dehydrating effect on the body, which interferes with many body functions. 
A woman, we’ll refer to as Katrina, moved to the U.S. from Germany. Katrina helped open a large restaurant. She began to drink coffee and have a cigarette to ease her stress load.  This ritual felt wonderful at first. 
“What’s so terrible about smoking tobacco and drinking coffee at the same time is that I find the smell of both so likeable,” says Katrina. “Together, they are very addictive. For the past year, I’ve used e-cigarettes and I haven’t smoked tobacco in over eight months.”


Health Psych:  http://healthpsych.psy.vanderbilt.edu/2011/CoffeeCigarettes.htm 
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Last update: February 06, 2014
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