From everyday worries and responsibilities to pressures that come and go, stress is something we all deal with in our lives. However, people who smoke have a particular way of coping with stress. Cigarettes, and the nicotine they contain, actually help to relieve anxiety by releasing powerful chemicals into the brain. That’s why when you quit smoking and begin to experience nicotine withdrawal, you may be more aware of stress than before when you smoked.

Many people report that stress is one of the main reasons why they smoke in the first place, and likewise why people relapse into smoking once they have quit. If you can anticipate stressful situations that may tempt you to slip, you can create an action plan ahead of time for how you will handle them. While nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) can be an effective short-term solution, it’s important to begin finding new ways to deal with stress in your life.

How to Deal with Stress when Quitting, and Beyond

  • Understand the main sources of stress in your life (job, family, etc.) and the signs that you are experiencing high levels of stress. Signs of stress may include headaches, sleeplessness, or irritability. Knowing what these stress factors are will help you begin to deal with them, and will also help others to support you.
  • While you are quitting, try to avoid stressful situations as much as you can. Pick a time to start quitting when you know you will not be under a great deal of stress. This will make it that much easier to start out strong and break the habit.
  • Physical activity is an excellent way to relieve stress, boost your confidence, and alleviate the depression sometimes associated with quitting. If you have not been physically active for some time, be sure to consult a doctor before trying anything too strenuous.
  • Be sure to get enough sleep and make time to relax each day. Prayer, meditation and relaxation techniques can all be effective ways to help deal with stress.
  • There are a variety of resources available that offer creative ways to handle stress. Look into self-help books that offer new tactics or consider a stress management class where you can learn and share your ideas with others.

Read about nicotine withdrawal and what you can do to help ease the symptoms.

Smoking Fact

Of the 45.1 million adults who were smokers in 2005, an estimated 70 percent said they wanted to quit smoking.