Stress is the most commonly reported relapse trigger among new and long term quitters. Stress happens to everyone, but how you manage it can literally save your quit, and your life!
The Stress/Smoking Connection
Most smokers lit up at the first hint of stress, setting into motion a lifelong pattern of smoking in response to stress. This constantly reinforces stress as a smoking trigger, year after year! Even worse, it ruled out any chance for effective coping tools to be identified or practiced. This leaves the newly quit with little clue how to deal with stress. Most quitters smoked for so long, they do not recall what they used to do when stressed. A lifelong absence of emotional coping tools, combined with a strong association to smoking when stressed, requires new coping tools and behaviors that actually domanage stress effectively.
The truth is, smoking never managed stress. It caused it and masked it. What? Yes indeed: smoking caused stress through a constant cycle of crave, fulfill crave (smoke), crash (nicotine decline) and crave. If you felt better after smoking, it is only because you were stressed about needing a smoke fix in the first place.
Smoking also masked stress in your life. Chances are good that instead of identifying what you were feeling, needing, wanting or working through whatever was really going on with thought and action, you merely smoked and went back to whatever you were doing. That allows stress to wreak havoc with your system.
Stress Damages Your Body
Stress that goes unmanaged leaves a person feeling overwhelmed, even hopeless. Anxiety and depression often result from ongoing stress. Stress creates a 'fight or flight' response that negatively affects the system in many ways. The release of adrenaline elevates blood pressure and cortisol reduces digestion and increases blood sugar levels. Stress damages your heart, reduces immune system response, alters sleep patterns, increases fatigue, insomnia and lack of energy, reduces memory, prevents mental focus and even alters the brain!
Face Your Fears
When you feel fear, is there really a life threatening event in the right now, or are you going down the rabbit hole of 'what if' scenarios? Did you know most 'what ifs' never happen? And yet, many people stress their lives away as though it did. Instead of dwelling on end-of-world thinking, take action. Do what can be done right now, and then let go of the rest. It takes practice, but letting go of imaginary outcomes will change your life in many wonderful ways.
Attitude of Gratitude
We all have things to be grateful for. If you focus on all that is good in your life, you will see good in your life! You'll also naturally draw more good towards you. Next week, we will talk about ways to manage stress like a pro. Until then, keep going and KTQ!
Vikki Q CTTS - M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist