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How to deal with stress without smoking

Understanding why you or those around you smoke is the first step towards quitting. Once you have identified the reasons why you smoke tobacco, you can start to consider the reasons why you want to quit smoking and work towards a healthier, smoke-free lifestyle. Equally, taking the time to understand the reasons behind your loved ones’ smoking may help you to empathise with their situation and you can think about how you can support them.

Here are some of the most common reasons why people smoke:

They’re addicted

One of the biggest reasons why people smoke is because they have become addicted to nicotine - a highly addictive substance. With this in mind, it’s important to remember that there are smokers who may wish to quit or have already tried but have struggled to deal with withdrawal symptoms.

When someone smokes, nicotine can reach the brain within as little as ten seconds, initially improving mood and concentration as well as relieving stress and tense muscles. These feelings are only temporary and the person will soon experience cravings and withdrawal, continuing the vicious cycle of smoking. 

When a smoker goes without nicotine for a certain period of time (the timing may depend on how often they usually smoke) they will start to experience withdrawal symptoms including:

  • Feeling irritable 
  • Feeling anxious 
  • Feeling depressed 
  • Craving cigarettes 
  • Experiencing attention deficit or being unable to think clearly
  • Having issues falling or staying asleep
  • Feeling more hungry or putting on weight

These symptoms can occur within just a few hours since they last smoked which is what drives them to light up another cigarette; essentially, smoking both fuels and suppresses their symptoms. 

There are a number of substitutes for smoking for those who are trying to manage their cravings such as Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) which is a type of medication designed to help you wean off of nicotine. If you or someone you know is looking to stop smoking, it’s important to remember that their addiction to nicotine could make the process challenging (in fact, according to GOV.UK, two thirds of smokers say they want to quit but attempt to do this unsupported which isn’t as effective. Those who do get the right help for their efforts are three times more likely to successfully quit) and so it is worth getting support from healthcare professionals. Whilst fighting the addiction of smoking is hard, there are ways to manage cravings effectively to keep yourself and others on track. 


To manage their emotions

Many people who smoke do so in a bid to manage negative emotions such as stress or anxiety and can become reliant on it. Whilst smoking can temporarily provide a sense of relief, it can in fact increase anxiety and depression (Mental Health Foundation) in the long run as a result of cravings and withdrawal. 

Interestingly, people with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression or schizophrenia are more likely to smoke than the rest of the general population and also tend to smoke more heavily (NHS). This is an indication of how reliant many smokers are on cigarettes for their emotional state of mind and highlights that there could be a deeper meaning behind their habits; this is why it is so important for us to talk about why ourselves and others might smoke so that any mental health problems can be handled carefully and effectively. 

According to the NHS, studies have shown that by quitting smoking, people can benefit from the following:

  • An improvement to mood and a better quality of life
  • Less feelings of anxiety, depression and stress 
  • The dosage required for some medicines treating mental health can be reduced

Why not check out our blog on how to deal with stress without smoking to get some ideas on healthier ways to manage feelings such as stress. 

It has become part of their routine 

If someone has been smoking for a long period of time, it may have become part of their daily routine or associated with certain activities. For example, if yourself and a colleague take smoke breaks together at work, this will have become a social event which occurs in both of your day-to-day routines, whether you realise it or not. Breaking this pattern can be tricky once it has become an established pattern, especially if there is a social aspect to it but there are ways to ease into a healthier routine. 

Someone in their household smokes

According to the health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), if someone's parents, siblings or other household members smoke, they are approximately three times more likely to begin smoking themselves. Secondhand smoke presents many risks to others but the potential it has to convert non-smokers to smokers is of significant concern.

To fit in with social groups

Some people may take up smoking in order to fit in with their peers. In some cases, young people may experience peer pressure to try cigarettes as a way of showing their independence or rebelliousness. Whilst they may not intend to continue with smoking in the long term, nicotine is very addictive and young people may find it difficult to stop. Smoking socially is of course not only limited to young people, anyone could feel the urge to smoke alongside their friends or accept a cigarette (particularly if they are in a smoking area) with the view that everyone else is doing it therefore they should too or else they will appear out of place. To summarise, smoking could be seen as an act of performance but it is important to remember that smoking can become an addictive habit which has both health and financial costs.

Looking to stop smoking? 

If you or someone you know living in Dorset wants support in quitting smoking, we’re here to help!

Here at LiveWell Dorset, our goal is to keep you and your loved ones healthy and we have a friendly team of professional advisors and coaches who can offer their advice and support to try and smoke less. Simply register or have a chat with us today to start your journey to become smoke-free.


"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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