Smoking and Anxiety: The Connections
People often associate smoking as a solution to reducing anxiety and stress. When someone is faced with a stressful situation, they tend to pop outside for a quick cigarette to help keep them calm. Once this becomes a habit, it can be hard to stop, and so it will be a form of self-medication. However, smoking cigarettes can actually be the cause of our anxiety and it can significantly affect our mood for the worse.
If we want to reduce the amount of anxiety that we feel, we need to assess our health, mentality and life so that we can make a change. Smoking being one of the lifestyle choices that can cause such mental health issues. Although quitting smoking isn’t easy to do, more often than not quitters reap the benefits of a smoke-free life.
Please keep reading to learn more about the connections between smoking and anxiety. As an expert in studying the mind, I am aware of the best ways to stop smoking and how small changes can make such significant changes.
Anxiety and Smoking
Contrary to the belief that people smoke to prevent and manage their anxiety, a new study suggests that heavy smoking can increase a person’s risk of developing certain anxiety disorders in late adolescence or early adulthood. It has been suggested that increased anxiety may be due to the effects of the nicotine on the brain or the diminished oxygen levels in smokers. But, because we believe that smoking reduces our anxiety, we keep smoking more in an attempt to reduce these feelings, and so we become trapped in a vicious cycle that we can’t escape from.
Our anxiety can potentially worsen the heavier a smoker we become. Our dependence on smoking and nicotine becomes intertwined with our anxiety; the more we smoke, the higher our anxiety levels rise; and the higher our anxiety levels rise, the more we need to smoke.
Not only can you improve your mental health when you quit smoking, but your physical health too. See below for my advice on the most effective ways to give up nicotine.
Ways to Stop
Quitting smoking is notoriously hard, and many people often fail, falling back to their bad habit after a matter of days or weeks. We have the ‘social’ smokers, the chain smokers and the ones that need a drag when they are in a situation that either causes them stress or discomfort. Researchers from Oxford and Cambridge Universities have even found that if you quit smoking, you are more likely to feel less anxious; this means that it is vital that you stop smoking if you want to benefit your mental health the best that you can.
If you want to increase the likelihood of you quitting smoking for good, you need to replace your bad habit with a healthy alternative so that you can see a positive change in your mood and health. For instance, taking up a new hobby that relaxes you such as yoga or swimming can relinquish stress.
When we exercise, the brain releases endorphins, that are also known as ‘happy hormones’; these boost our mood and reduces the anxiety that we feel. Exercise also serves as a great distraction from the desire to smoke. As our mood and health improve, we are greeted with this new lease of life that we didn’t experience when smoking; smoking can lead you to feel worn out easily and fatigued, whereas quitting and leading a healthier lifestyle can boost your energy and happiness levels.
One of the first things that you should do when trying to quit smoking is identifying the things which make you want to smoke, such as situations, feelings and people which cause you stress. People often smoke as a way to reduce the stress and anxiety that they feel, so try and avoid situations where you smoke most often. Once you identify these situations and feelings, you can ensure that you’re not put in this situation in future so that you don’t feel the need to pick up a cigarette again.
Therapy for Anxiety
Therapy can help you to quit smoking by helping you come to the realisation of its effects. During the process of quitting smoking, your anxiety might feel like its spiking, leading you to assume that you need to smoke to remove these feelings; this is just your mind and body reacting to the sudden loss of the nicotine. By seeing a therapist, they can help you stay on track during this process, as well as help you to work on your mind while doing so.
Speaking with a mental health expert in regards to your anxiety can help you understand the reasoning behind you feel a certain way, creating links to past trauma, situations or people, for example. Understanding why you get anxious can help you avoid these triggers in future, and begin a self-recovery journey. Over time, with the advice and guidance given by your therapist, your anxiety can be alleviated further and further.
How long you need to work with a therapist is all dependent on the severity of your anxiety and how often you feel that you need to check-in with them if you experience episodes or moments of weakness. Even when you feel like your anxiety is manageable, you can still return to ensure that you maintain this positive mindset.
Check out my website today to learn more about my services as a therapist and how I can help you understand the connection between anxiety and smoking With my tried and tested advice, expert knowledge and focused support, you can be on your way to a healthier and happier mindset.