All people experience the effects of stress in their everyday lives. The causes of stress vary from managing daily routines, children, jobs, and finances to relationships, fatigue, illness, transition, and loss. Many people who smoke believe that smoking a cigarette helps them deal with stress. Surprisingly, once they quit, they often report less stress. It is the very nature of addiction and the cycle of withdrawal that is part of the culprit in this belief.

Nicotine cravings are stressful. Each time you satisfy your craving with more nicotine, you are perpetuating a cycle of craving that keeps bringing you a false sense of relief. As the months and years go by, people establish a strong belief that their smoking brings the relief they need. Going outside to smoke seems to give people a break, time away from demands, a reward at day’s end, or something that fills the void of boredom. And yet, smoking rarely solves the problems beneath the stress.

While positive ‘eustress’ contributes to vitality and overall well-being, the pressure of dealing with problems can increase stress hormones in the body. These stress hormones (such as epinephrine/adrenaline and norepinephrine) cause physical changes like increased heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar that can help prepare a person to dodge a perceived threat. However, chronic stress can also give rise to problems in the immune, digestive, fertility and urinary systems, as well as predispose people to headaches, viral infections, insomnia, and mood imbalances.

Without healthy coping tools for stressful times, people may resort to riskier choices like using alcohol or tobacco, or physical inactivity. Since we cannot always control the external circumstances of our lives, learning to manage HOW we respond to them feels more empowering. You can train yourself to develop healthy coping tools that will strengthen your resilience and capacity to rise to the occasion of challenge. With some of these coping tools on board, you may even find that you are able to elevate your sense of personal power and agency in your life.

84% of adults in the US do not smoke, and these adult non-smokers also deal with stress. It can help to imagine how they may be responding to daily stressors without lighting up.

Strategies + Approaches:

Emotional and social approaches that may help to manage your stress include:

Quick Tips:

Feeling stressed? Here are few tips to help: