Could smoking be making you stressed?
Many smokers use smoking to help them deal with stress, but could the habit be making you more stressed than you realise?
Did you know having a cigarette here and there to calm your nerves could actually be contributing to increased stress levels?
These days, it’s common knowledge that smoking is harmful to your health. It can damage your body’s organs, shorten your life span and cause you to have difficulty breathing.
Yet many people still turn to cigarettes during times of stress, without realising that the act of smoking may actually be associated with increased stress levels.
Smoking and stress
Being a smoker is actually stressful. In the time between cigarettes you may become irritable and moody.
Plus, the fact that there are fewer designated smoking areas around, restricting your ability to smoke, can also make you anxious.
So, in the minutes before having a cigarette you’re stressed. You could be thinking to yourself, “I need to smoke, but I can’t find a place to smoke.” It’s only once you have found a spot and finally have a cigarette you seem to calm down, but there is more to the story. In fact, smoking only appears to relax you because it relieves the unpleasant feelings of withdrawal.
Nicotine causing stress
Smoking also triggers release of, a “brain-reward” chemical in your brain called dopamine which creates heightened levels of awareness and calm.
Many smokers mistake this for being a relaxing effect and a mental health benefit.
However, smoking actually increases your pulse rate and blood pressure, making your heart work harder.
Bupa’s National Medical Director, Dr Rob Grenfell, says, “The false sense of calm your body feels masks the dangers of smoking on your body.”
Importantly, smoking may not be helping your initial feelings of stress.
“Those feelings are still present, now masked by the sense of calm you feel, and your smoking may be causing more harm than good to your stress and anxiety.”
Other ways to relax
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Finding ways to relieve your stress without smoking can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. You can find simple ways to relax and let go of your stress, and eventually your smoking habit.
Taking a break can make a huge difference when trying to deal with a stressful situation.
Exercise such as a quiet walk in the park or simple relaxation techniques can be wonderful ways to decompress, and best of all, these activities are free. You may choose to sit on a beach looking at the sunset or learn how to meditate.
Even though stress is an unavoidable part of your life, smoking doesn’t have to be. Knowing that any short-term benefits smoking provides for stress are actually covering up long-term negative effects will hopefully make you consider alternative ways to relax.