Have you ever had a bad day at work that resulted in your smoking nonstop on the way home? Or, have you ever had an argument with someone that led to smoking more than usual? Your increased stress affected how much you wanted to smoke.
By taking a look at your lifestyle and understanding more fully what affects you in a given day, you can break the tobacco addiction a lot faster. Resources such as electronic cigarettes can assist in this goal as well.
Many people crave cigarettes, food, or alcohol when their stress escalates. Stress hormones in the body trigger the craving for body chemistry to change via tobacco. A couple of cigarettes smoked back-to-back can seemingly take the sting out of stress.
To gain control of stress, it helps to think ahead. You don’t want to wait until you’re overly aggravated to manage your emotions. It’s tough to change your attitude or actions once you feel extremely upset.
Stress management experts say that it’s much easier to manage stress in small steps. It’s important to think ahead in order to do this, because fast fixes seldom work.
For example, a nurse we’ll refer to as Rebecca was very anxious about a new co-worker we’ll call Angie. Angie, says Rebecca, lacked critical skills in specific medical situations.
“What made matters worse was that Angie is the hospital CEO’s niece,” says Rebecca. “I didn’t want to offend her.”
Rebecca finally knew, however, that she had to approach Angie. She ended up asking Angie if she was open to a few tips for improving her skills. Luckily, Angie was very receptive to advice, and Rebecca was able to coach her on a number of issues.
“If I’d just reported Angie to my supervisor, I think stress would have escalated for all of us,” Rebecca emphasizes. “When I made the problems seem easy to fix—and I asked Angie if I could give her some input—this didn’t intensify the stress.”
By learning why certain changes or strategies help to empower you, you can see the connection between feeling stressed out and craving tobacco. When you feel less in control, you’ll crave tobacco—which you can instantly access by just lighting up.
Keep in mind that some studies show that electronic cigarettes can help reduce short-term cravings for tobacco—especially when stress is higher than normal. The stimuli of puffing the electronic cigarette and just holding it offers satisfaction without the lung-damaging smoke of a traditional cigarette.
The American Association of Public Health Physicians, according to research posted on Wikipedia, has issued statements that nicotine-containing products such as electronic cigarettes are preferable to smoking tobacco. Switching over to electronic cigarettes is one step in the right direction to conquer the smoking addiction, says the AAPHP.
Let’s take a look at some stress-reducing strategies that will reduce the desire for tobacco as well. Consider these tips:
Learn to respond versus react to tough situations. Instead of allowing our emotions to overtake us, it’s better to think things through in order to give an intelligent response. This way, we keep ourselves from spinning out of control. You might say, for example, “Yes, I’ve gained five pounds over the holidays. But, I will get back to my healthy eating plan.” Don’t beat yourself up and start feeling depressed about the extra weight. If you do, you’ll trigger cravings for tobacco.
Work to create a more harmonious schedule. Sure, you might have to run wide open to work two 16-hour days each week. But do hire someone to help you clean house, so you can relax for a few hours on Saturday or Sunday. Or, do grocery shopping during the week instead of on busy weekends. Lack of time can make anyone feel stressed—and more likely to reach for a cigarette.
Do something nice for yourself. If you constantly bend over backward to help your family, co-workers and friends, this can backfire. If you neglect your own needs to always help others, you will crave soothing and inner peace. A cigarette can become as tempting as a delectable chocolate dessert. Ask yourself what you can do to pamper yourself.
Why Stress Triggers Tobacco Cravings
There are many reasons the chemicals in tobacco temporarily counteract stress. However, much of the overall “feel good” experience of smoking is an emotional response to something familiar. The brain feels calm as your body processes the chemicals in the cigarette. The brain also feels happier because a familiar act of comfort is taking place in your world.
Most of us enjoy “comfort foods” associated with dishes such as lasagna, chicken soup, and ice cream. Part of the reason foods like this are comforting is that they typically have a high-fat content. Fat causes certain hormonal changes in the body that soothe and calm down our nervous systems. However, if we ate low-fat lasagna, we’d probably still feel comforted because we’d associate the taste with feeling good.
The habit of smoking has conditioned our emotional and neurological responses to feel “satisfied” after we light up and smell the tobacco. A person smoking a cigarette is anticipating certain feelings, so the ritual of smoking—from the first moment of lighting up—signals the brain that certain feelings are forthcoming. Stress gives a person who smokes an excuse to do what’s comforting.
This vicious cycle can be broken if stress is managed in the first place. Learning to manage stress is simply learning to become more aware of what gives you a sense of control. After all, stress is often defined as anything that causes you to feel out of control—a sick baby, a barking dog, a job layoff. Taking back personal control over your emotions will keep stress at bay.
If you’re trying to quit smoking, make it a practice to plan your day without too much stress. During the first week, don’t volunteer to drive your mother to three doctors’ appointments. Don’t let your teenage daughter have her friends over for a loud pajama party on the weekend you’ve decided to quit smoking by going “cold turkey.”
It’s critical to avoid stressors as much as possible until you quit smoking. While side-stepping stress altogether is impossible, you can say no to added volunteer work, difficult chores at home that do make you feel stressed, and people coming over who upset you. You can’t leave the planet, but you can space out the stressful events and people so you can maintain more inner harmony.
During the first two weeks of smoking cessation, explain to your family that you need some extra room to avoid stress. After that, try to pick and choose difficult chores, activities, or commitments so you can space them out appropriately. This way, you won’t begin to crave a cigarette every 15 minutes.
Every person trying to quit needs a support system, so enlist a friend to coach you and encourage you. Preferably, this friend will be someone who’s personally conquered smoking. Ask this person if you can call or text when the going gets rough. Your friend’s role will be talking you through the temptation to fall off the wagon and resume smoking.
If you do mess up, and smoke way too much, don’t beat yourself up. Vow to get right back into your smoking cessation program without getting stressed out about your failures. Move forward with as little stress as possible and speak to yourself in encouraging ways to ensure you’ll achieve the goal to cut tobacco out of your life.
Switching from traditional cigarettes to electronic cigarettes is a proactive step you might wish to try. This change will help ensure tobacco doesn’t rule your world—especially when stress is a problem. If you have electronic cigarettes on hand when your stress levels go up, you’ll have a good substitute in place to resist smoking tobacco.