Feeling Stressed?

You May Want to Put Out That Cigarette

Ask Floridians why they’re lighting up and one answer you commonly hear is that smoking relieves stress. You know the dangers of smoking and the benefits of quitting, but the false sense of relaxation from a cigarette can be reason enough to keep puffing, especially when you’re stressed or under pressure.

Smoking isn’t just harsh on your body; it’s cruel to your brain. You may think you’re feeling calmer and less stressed during and right after a cigarette, but it’s just an illusion. In reality, your body is experiencing quite the opposite effect. Smoking increases your blood pressure and heart rate, tenses your muscles, contracts blood vessels, and reduces your blood oxygen level.[i],[ii]Basically, smoking increases the stress level of your body.

The usual stress in your everyday life, when combined with a chemical addiction to nicotine, heightens stress instead of lowering it. Smokers need nicotine to maintain normal mood and suffer tension and stress between cigarettes.[iii],[iv] When you quit, nicotine withdrawal and recovery symptoms may feel unpleasant. But these are common and only temporary.

Moreover, the health consequences of smoking are enough reason to feel stressed. About half of long-term smokers die from diseases caused by their tobacco use.[v]For every person who dies from tobacco use, about 30 suffer with at least one smoking-related illness.[vi] Cigarette smoking can cause 16 different types of cancers and can cause lung diseases including COPD, emphysema and bronchitis. Smoking can also cause coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S, and can lead to stroke.[vii]

Dealing with Stress

Here are some tips on dealing with stress:

  • Take a break. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, take a healthy break from what you’re doing whether you’re at home or at work.
  • Deep breathing.Instead of inhaling toxic smoke, try fresh air. Step outside and take slow deep breaths. Close your eyes and then breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. You will feel your body relax.
  • Exercise. Get moving to increase endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals, which naturally boost your mood. Exercise also decreases stress hormones. Even a short walk will help you to reduce your stress and improve your health. Exercising can also help you quit smoking and make it easier to quit.
  • Take care of yourself.Especially during stressful times of the year, it’s important to take good care of yourself. Remember to eat healthy balanced meals, drink lots of water, and get enough sleep.
  • Make time for yourself. Sometimes it’s difficult to follow tips one through four with a hectic schedule. Keep your days organized and on track, whether it’s with a to-do list, a planner or whatever works for you.

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[i]Institute of Medicine. Secondhand Smoke Exposure and Cardiovascular Effects: Making Sense of the Evidence. Washington: National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, 2009

[ii]U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2010

[iii]Parrott, A. C, & Gamham, N. J. (1998). Comparative mood states and cognitive skills of cigarette smokers, deprived smokers and nonsmokers.Human Psychopharmacology, 13, 367-376.

[iv]Parrott, A. C, Garnham, N. J., Wesnes, K., & Pincock, C. (1996). Cigarette smoking and abstinence: Comparative effects upon cognitive task performance and mood state over 24 hours. Human Psychopharmacology,11, 391-400.

[v]U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A Report of the Surgeon General: How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: What It Means to You. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2010

[vi]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Cigarette Smoking-Attributable Morbidity—United States, 2000. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2003;52(35):842–4 [accessed 2012 Jan 24].

[vii]U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking —50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014