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How to deal with stress without smoking

Stress isn’t easy to deal with and it’s something that many of us will face day-to-day. In moderation, stress can actually benefit us by motivating us to reach our goals and take on our daily challenges. That said, too much stress can actually have the opposite effect and if you’re a smoker, you may find yourself reaching for your cigarettes as a coping mechanism, making quitting smoking even harder. 

In fact, The Independent reported that added stress relating to COVID-19 led more UK smokers to “stress smoke” and 10% of ex smokers who had already quit took up smoking again to deal with the strains caused by the pandemic. This indicates the extent to which many people in the UK rely on smoking as a means of managing stress, however, it is only a temporary fix and can lead to health issues further down the line.

If you’re looking to stop smoking, learning how to deal with your stress and manage it more effectively is actually a key part of the process. In this article we’ll share some alternative ways to deal with stress without smoking, so you can improve both your physical and mental health. 

Our top tips on how to deal with stress without smoking 

Learn how to breathe and take some time out 

There are many different breathing techniques which can really help you to relax. If you’re feeling stressed, try the following breathing exercise (this can be done standing, sitting or laying down, wherever you are):

  • Get yourself comfortable. If you’re lying down, keep your arms by your sides with your palms up and allow your legs to be straight; if you’re sitting, place your arms on the chair’s arms; if you’re stood up, keep your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart from each other. It may also help to close your eyes. 
  • Take a deep breath in through your nose and feel the air flow down towards the belly. 
  • Don’t rush and try to pay attention to your breathing, focusing solely on that. It might help you to count to five in your head but if you find yourself struggling, don’t force yourself to breathe longer than is comfortable for you. 
  • Once you have finished inhaling, avoid holding your breath and allow the air to flow out of your mouth slowly (again, you could count to five if this helps). 
  • Continue to breathe with this technique for a few minutes or until you feel more relaxed and clear headed. 

Exercise

If you’re feeling your stress levels build up or you’re struggling to concentrate, try to and do something active. When we exercise, our body releases endorphins which elevates our mood and can reduce stress. If you don’t have much time to spare or can’t engage in a more intense physical activity, don’t worry - something as simple as a short walk can really help us to clear our minds. 

If you’re able to, yoga is an excellent form of light exercise which can relax the body as it encourages you to focus on your breath, stretch to alleviate tension and relax. You can even follow online yoga tutorials specifically designed to combat stress - why not give this twenty minute yoga practice a try?   

Talk to someone

You don’t have to face your worries alone. Try to reach out to a friend, family member or support group such as ourselves and others know how you’re feeling. If people are made aware of your struggles, they will be better able to support you. Those we trust can offer us reassurance and just talking about our concerns can help us to better understand the problem. 

Focus on what’s happening now

Try to really ground yourself and focus on the matter at hand - nothing else. When we start to feel anxious or stressed we can easily allow ourselves to worry about other issues, overthink the situation or even predict problems that haven’t even happened. This can leave us feeling incredibly overwhelmed and unable to problem solve as we struggle to concentrate. As hard as it might be to let go of something niggling away in the back of your mind, take a minute to ask yourself whether what you’re feeling stressed about is actually happening and if it’s something you realistically have control over - if it isn’t, you shouldn’t be stressing about it. 

Enjoy a warm bath

Who doesn’t love unwinding in a nice warm bath after a long day? Allowing yourself some time to sit in the tub is a great way to put your mind at ease because when we bathe in warm water, we can relieve muscle tension and soreness. Ensure that the water is at a comfortable temperature which is safe to soak in and lay back, closing your eyes also. 

Get a massage 

If you know a friend or partner who can help, ask them to massage your neck, shoulders, scalp or face to relieve stress. Even just ten minutes could really help to work out any tension. 

Do something you enjoy

Spending time on a hobby allows you to take your mind off of whatever is bothering you. Whether music, painting or getting out in nature is your thing, allow yourself time to enjoy what you love most. 

Drink water 

When we’re dehydrated, our cortisol (stress hormone) levels increase and causes our heart rate and blood pressure to rise. To balance these chemicals, you should drink more water when dealing with stressful situations and aim to take a few sips of water every fifteen minutes or so.

Avoid drinking caffeinated drinks

Sometimes we feel that caffeinated drinks will help us to be more productive and if we are stressed about work or getting something done quickly, we might decide to grab a coffee or energy drink. Whilst caffeine can make us feel more alert, it can also leave us feeling jittery, anxious and more stressed. Try to drink less coffee throughout the day and switch to water or decaffeinated options to prevent yourself from becoming more tense. 

Ensure you are getting enough sleep

Not only can insufficient sleep leave us feeling stressed, low in mood and not performing at our best, it can also lead to serious medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. According to the NHS, the right amount of sleep for the majority of us is around eight hours of good-quality sleep (this means that we are uninterrupted) but some of us will need more and others less. If you feel fatigue throughout the day, it could be a sign that you’re lacking in quality sleep. 

To improve your sleep, try to avoid the following:

  • Using your phone late at night
  • Drinking caffeinated or alcoholic drinks late in the day
  • Exercising within two to three hours before sleeping
  • Smoking (we can support you with this!)
  • Eating too late in the day

If you’re struggling with your sleep, consult your GP or feel free to contact us for advice. 

Does smoking make you stressed? 

According to the Mental Health Foundation, smoking can in fact increase anxiety and tension. Whilst nicotine can give you an instant sense of relief, the fix is temporary and you’ll eventually experience withdrawal cravings. These cravings can cause stress in themselves but it’s important to understand that the act of smoking itself isn’t what relaxes us, it’s the fulfilling the need of an addiction that does. If we allow ourselves to continually give in to an addiction, the stress-smoking cycle will continue.

Looking to stop smoking? 

If you live in Dorset and you’d like support to stop smoking or you know someone who does, we can help!

With a team of professional coaches and advisors on hand to guide you each step of the way, you can learn how to combat stress without smoking and shake the habit with LiveWell Dorset. Simply register or have a chat with us today to start your journey to become smoke-free. 

Lynette

"The LiveWell team are amazing. Every time I speak to them, they are so helpful. Having someone on the end of the phone is an amazing boost."

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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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