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The Truth About Smoking and Stress

Reaching for a cigarette to cope with stress is common, but did you know that smoking causes stress?

Many people use smoking as a way of dealing with stress and feeling better. And there is a good reason for this: it’s due to the addictive nature of smoking.

Nicotine – the addictive element in cigarettes – releases feel-good chemicals in the brain. For regular smokers, our brains come to expect constant doses of nicotine and we experience withdrawal symptoms when we go without for a while. This causes feelings of stress or irritability, which are relieved when we light up again.

So, the feelings of relaxation from smoking don't happen because smoking relieves stress, but because addiction to smoking causes it. Yet we come to associate smoking with improved mood, which reinforces the habit. The relief we get from having a smoke don't last for long, and the stress-smoking cycle continues.

Doing things differently

In the time it takes to have a cigarette, what if you could do something else that would relieve your stress? Deep breathing, going for a walk or chatting to a friend could all be helpful alternatives. What’s more, the effects will last for longer and you’ll be taking a step towards breaking the smoking habit. These options also offer further benefits to your physical and mental health, so it’s win-win.

More information about other ways to cope with stress can be found on the Smokefree website.

LiveWell Dorset is here for your health and wellbeing. If you're looking for advice and support to give up smoking, register or contact us to find out about the help available in your local area.


How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

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