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Getting ready? Here are some tips and strategies to manage stress

Quitting can be really stressful, especially in the first few weeks. How will you get your me-time when you quit?

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is about being in the moment. It's about being fully present without judgement and with compassion. It involves focusing on what is happening right now, your 'moment-to-moment' experience.

Mindfulness exercise: 

  • Focus your attention on your breathing or the feeling of the sunlight on your skin. 
  • You will find that the mind will be distracted by thoughts of the past (I forgot my lunch), the future (What should I do after work?) or noises and sensations in your body (Why is my nose suddenly itchy?). 
  • Respond to these thoughts without judgement and with self-compassion. Tell yourself it happens to everyone. 
  • Note the thoughts have occurred and return your focus to the present: your breath.

Mindfulness is a skill. It takes practice. If you use mindfulness for a few minutes you will likely notice better awareness of your thoughts and feelings in the moment. You may feel calm. Persist for longer and it can have more benefits. It can be very useful when you've got a craving for a cigarette. You can tailor it to different situations where you would have smoked. 

Speak to a Quit Specialist or your doctor about mindfulness apps, a counsellor trained in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, or a free online course. Monash University offers a free course. Or request a Quitline callback

Stress management

If you are experiencing a very stressful time in your life it can be helpful to speak to your doctor about referral to a stress management group or a counsellor. 

Everyone is different so you need to find what works for you. You might want to try these ideas the next time you’re feeling stressed:

  • Make time to do things you enjoy. It might be curling up on the couch binge watching your favourite shows, or getting into the garden or the tool shed. Make time for the things you enjoy. 
  • Get physical! Doing something active every day is good for your physical and mental health. You don’t have to bust a gut to get the benefits – even a walk is great for relieving tension. 
  • Learn to say no. Saying yes to everyone is a natural response. But sometimes you can over commit yourself and it can become stressful to fit everything in. Work out what’s possible and then cull the rest. Free up time to do the things you really enjoy. 

Breathing exercise

The key to relaxed breathing is your stomach. 

  1. Draw the breath in by pushing your stomach out and letting your chest move up (try not to move your back) then breathe out by pulling your stomach in and letting your chest drop a bit.
  2. Breathe in gradually through your nose as you count to 5 and take in as much air as you can.
  3. Hold your breath to a count of 10 (if you can last that long) then let it out gradually. (As an alternative you can let it out in a rush, through your mouth.)
  4. Concentrate on how your body feels, particularly as the air comes out. You should feel your body relaxing.
  5. Repeat (if you have time) – 3 is a good number of repetitions to aim for. With each breath you should feel a little more relaxed.

Muscle relaxation

This is part of a technique called Progressive Muscle Relaxation where you tense and relax all the muscle groups in your body.

  1. Pick one or two muscles – it’s best if they’re in places that are feeling tense (but any body part will do).
  2. Sit or lie comfortably. As you take in a deep breath tense the muscles you have chosen e.g. make your hands into tight fists, or lift your shoulders up high and tense your neck. Hold your breath and hold the muscles tight for the count of 10 (if you can last that long).
  3. Let go as you breathe out. All-the-while focus your mind on what you are experiencing, the tension while tensing and the flow of relaxation as you let go. Notice the way the body parts become limp and loose. Breathe slowly for a few seconds while you enjoy this relaxed feeling.
  4. Repeat this with as many parts of the body as you have time. Doing each tense-then-relax cycle twice is also good. Also, try listening to Quit’s Ten Good Ways of Relaxing audio. A Quit Specialist can also take you through a brief relaxation exercise. Request a Quitline callback. 

Speak to someone

Sometimes just chatting with a friend is enough to make you feel less stressed. 

Our Quit Specialists can also provide you with tips to deal with stress. Request a Quitline callback.

If things are particularly tough, chat to your doctor about a referral to a stress management group or a counsellor. 

With time, you'll learn new ways to take time-out and deal with stress. 

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