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How to deal with stress when you quit

We all get stressed and we all have different ways of dealing with it. If you smoke, it's tempting to have a cigarette when things are tough. Try these strategies next time you're stressed out and craving a smoke.

Nicotine makes stressful or difficult situations worse

  • Nicotine causes your heart rate and blood pressure to spike. Your heart has to work harder making it difficult to fully relax.

  • When you haven’t had a cigarette for a while, you experience nicotine withdrawal. A big part of nicotine withdrawal is feeling stressed and irritable. 

  • Then when you do have a smoke, the nicotine relieves those cravings and gives you a brief hit of dopamine, a brain-reward chemical.

  • But then the cycle begins again as your heart rate and blood pressure spike. 

  • Within six weeks of quitting most people say their mood is better and they feel less stressed than when they smoked.

Tips for dealing with stress without smoking

If you’re worried about how you’ll handle stressful situations without cigarettes, take a look at these ideas – which would work for you? 

  • Make time to do things you enjoy It might be curling up on the couch and binge watching your favourite show, or getting soil under your fingernails. Whatever you enjoy, allocate time to do it. 

  • Get physical Doing something active every day is good for your physical and mental health and you don’t have to bust a gut to get the benefits – even getting out and going for a walk is great for relieving tension and pushing through a craving. 

  • Learn to say ‘no’ Saying ‘yes’ to help out is a natural response, but sometimes you can over commit yourself, and then it becomes stressful to fit everything in. Work out what’s really possible and then cull the rest. It will free up time to do the things you really enjoy. 

  • Breathing exercises and meditation You might find breathing exercises and meditation useful, but then again they might not be for you, but you won’t know until you try. 

  • Speak to someone Sometimes just venting with a friend is enough to make you feel less stressed, but you could also try talking to a doctor or a professional counsellor. Don’t forget Quitline counsellors are qualified counsellors who can provide you with more ways to deal with stress and anxiety. 

  • Try these 5 relaxation techniques!

3 step exercise to reduce stress

Step 1: list the feelings and situations that make you crave a smoke. Do you get an urge to light up when you’re: 

  • Stuck in traffic? 

  • Stressed about work? 

  • Concerned about your finances? 

  • Upset with your partner? 

  • Frustrated by the kids? 

Step 2: Think of how you could handle these situations without a cigarette. 

  • If you’re at home, you could watch a DVD, read a magazine or even take a few minutes of time out in your bedroom. 

  • If you’re at work, go for a walk around or make yourself a snack or cup of tea.  Anything you can do to remove yourself from the situation that’s making you want a smoke is helpful. 

  • If you’re in traffic, play some music or radio – something different to what you usually listen to – or have a mint ready to pop in your mouth. 

Pair these new smokefree strategies with the triggers you listed in Step 1. Visit our strategies section to get some ideas how to best deal with triggers.

Step 3: Call the Quitline for some bonus support. 

Our friendly Quitline counsellors are trained experts and can provide practical tips and strategies to help you resist cravings and stay smokefree. People who call the Quitline are also more likely to succeed at quitting. Call 13 7848 or request a Quitline callback.

Breaking habits
Calming down
Dealing with stress
Managing cravings
Staying quit

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