April is Stress Awareness Month, and one article1 in particular brings attention to the association between stress and smoking. Here we present some information about stress, smoking, slips, and relapses, along with some quick tips on how to cope.
Anecdotal evidence over a number of years has supported the theory that stress experienced by a former smoker can sometimes lead to a slip or relapse.1 There is some speculation in the scientific world as to whether smoking itself is related to stress – due to the stimulant properties of nicotine.1 During the first few weeks after quitting smoking people report anxiety, withdrawal symptoms, and irritability -- each hallmarks of both stress and withdrawal from nicotine. It has been shown that those who maintain abstinence from cigarettes are more likely to report a gradual lowering of stress over time.1 Therefore, there is a strong relationship, although not necessarily a causal one, between smoking and perceived stress.
No matter where a person is in their quit journey, professionals can support positive coping mechanisms and stress reduction.1 Smokefree.gov has an entire page on coping with stress without smoking.2 Activities range from mindfulness to more chemical-related changes (e.g., reducing caffeine [another stimulant]).2
Now is a great time for individuals to use the cessation tools available to them -- the Maryland Tobacco Quitline, websites (such as smokefree.gov, MDQuit.org, cdc.gov) cessation apps, support groups, therapy -- all of these are great aids for making a plan to quit smoking.
Remember: a slip is not a relapse!
- Cohen S, Lichtenstein E. Perceived stress, quitting smoking, and smoking relapse. Journal of Health Psychology. 1990; 9(4):466-78
- NIH. (n.d.). Coping With Stress Without Smoking. Retrieved from https://smokefree.gov/challenges-when-quitting/stress/coping-with-stress... Connect: March Edition - 32719&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Eloqua