Dealing With Anxiety While Stopping Smoking

11 February 2022

Dealing With Anxiety While Stopping Smoking

For many people smoking is a crutch, something to lean on that will take the edge off feelings of stress and anxiety. In fact, this is often why people take up the habit in the first place: to reduce anxiousness and better handle stressful situations. It’s understandable then that anxiety is one of the most common negative feelings associated with smoking cessation.

So, how do you prevent anxiety from flaring up while you go through the process to kick the habit? The simple answer is that you can’t. However, there are ways that you can reduce the level of anxiety that you feel and better manage negative feelings when they arise.

Why is Smoking Addictive?

The main ingredient in tobacco is nicotine, a chemical well-documented to have strong addictive properties. Nicotine reaches your brain within seconds after inhaling, causing the release of dopamine which is a naturally-produced chemical in your body. Dopamine gives you a short-lived happiness high while at the same time reinforcing your subconscious belief that smoking gives you pleasure.

These pleasant feelings are enough to distract you from your concerns and anxieties, but the nicotine effects wear off after minutes, and those feelings of stress and irritability return. You inhale once again, and the vicious cycle starts afresh. Your body adapts to the intake of nicotine over time and you’re likely to smoke more frequently or need stronger cigarettes for the same pleasant feelings.

Stopping smoking is harder for some people than for others. A lot has to do with the reason for smoking in the first place. If you smoke in social situations, it may simply be a case of breaking the link between smoking and socialising. However, if you smoke to cope with emotions and anxiety, you may find the cessation process more challenging.

The Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal

Every smoker experiences some temporary negative effects when they stop smoking, but the extent varies from person to person. Some people experience very few while others fight a daily battle during withdrawal. These symptoms appear not because you’re giving up the action of smoking, but because you’re cutting out the nicotine that your body has come to rely on.

Some symptoms that you may experience from nicotine withdrawal are food cravings, sleeplessness, a short temper and the jitters. However, the most common of all are anxiety and stress.

Anxiety and Stress during Smoking Cessation

By stopping smoking you are effectively removing the mental crutch that you rely on to manage negative feelings. Not only must you now learn alternate ways of coping with day to day challenges without relying on a chemical substance, but also navigate the temporary stress and anxiety that comes with smoking cessation.

Thankfully, the anxiety you experience while stopping smoking is a temporary hurdle and one that is manageable. These are some of the measures you can implement in the run-up to and during the cessation process to alleviate the negative impact of the accompanying anxiety.

Schedule a date

Know when your last cigarette will be. While some people can make a spontaneous decision and stop there and then, most smokers need time to get to grips with the idea and prepare to stop. Set a cessation date that doesn’t coincide with any stressful occasions, like a work presentation or a large family event. Be realistic and don’t look too far ahead. You don’t want to lose the momentum of your decision by choosing a date weeks away.

Identify the triggers

What is it that makes you smoke? Do you light up in stressful situations or only when socialising in a pub? Identifying these triggers and either avoiding them or learning to cope with them is key to successful cessation. It’s impossible to completely alleviate all triggers from your daily routine, but you may be able to replace the action of smoking with another less addictive activity.

Make small lifestyle changes

Stopping smoking is a step towards better health, and by implementing other healthy changes to your lifestyle, you can lessen the effects of anxiety during nicotine withdrawal. A nutritious diet and regular exercise promote better sleep, and you’ll wake each morning feeling refreshed and energised, ready to tackle the challenges of the day without smoking and less inclined to anxiousness.

Up your water intake

The benefits of drinking more water are twofold. It acts as a natural cleanser, flushing out the toxins and hydrating you from the inside out. It also gives you something to put into your mouth other than a cigarette. For some people, the physical action of smoking is hard to give up. Keep a water bottle handy and each time the craving hits, take a glug of healthy, life-giving water rather than a drag of a bad habit.

Have more “me time”

Find other ways to de-stress and to release the debilitating tension that builds up. While this is a personal choice, you could opt for one of the following:

  • Book a massage – A full body massage isn’t always practical, or affordable, but even a neck and shoulder massage goes a long way to releasing tension.
  • Have a long soak in the bath – Set the atmosphere with scented candles, or just lay back with some calming music. Whatever your preference, you’ll feel more relaxed and infinitely less stressed afterwards.
  • Walk in the fresh air – A walk in nature is an amazing pick me up. It promotes positive feelings and has the added benefit of improving your circulation and overall fitness.
  • Meditate – Meditation teaches you self-control and is a popular method of relaxation. It can restore your focus during anxious moments, and promote feelings of calm to keep you centred. It provides you with the tools you need to manage your response to stress and anxiety.
  • One day at a time – During the cessation process, focus on today and not what might happen in the future. Looking too far ahead and worrying about a life without smoking as your crutch will undoubtedly increase your anxiety. Focus on today and tomorrow will fall into place.

Last thoughts

Stopping smoking is a series of small steps towards a larger goal. Each day brings new challenges and facing these head on without smoking to hep you can be daunting. Some days will be easier than others and you may even slip up along the way. By setting an end date to your bad habit and implementing healthier ways to alleviate anxiety and stress, you can navigate smoking cessation with minimal disruption.

Need some extra help? Cognition offers hypnotherapy in Horsham, book a free, no obligation chat with us to see how we can help you.


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