Smokers have long turned to cigarettes as a way of handling stressful situations. The problem with this, however, is that far from helping with stress and anxiety, smoking actually puts added stress on the body, contributing to increased levels of tension.
If you’re one of the many smokers who worry about coping with stress after you quit, you may need to find new ways to handle anxiety and tension once you stop.
Learn to identify the cause
Tackling stress begins with identifying its underlying causes. When experiencing stress, it’s helpful to try to locate the cause, and determine whether anything can be done to practically address it . If it’s something you can’t control, or something that will simply get better with time, try your best to let it go, and understand that life is full of ups-and-downs.
That said, if an aspect of your life is continually causing stress, consider whether you’ve been taking too much on, or whether you can prioritise things in a more effective way. Often, stress can be mitigated before it even arises.
One way to help identify the causes of stress is to keep a journal. By documenting the moments that you experience stress, you’ll begin to notice themes and patterns, both in the causes of stress and your responses.
Another way to identify the cause of your stress is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness simply means being fully present in the moment; being aware of what we’re doing and where we are. In practice, it involves paying closer attention to what’s happening in your mind and body, as well as to what’s going on around you.
The benefit of being “mindful” is that we can become more aware of our thoughts and feelings, helping us to notice signs of stress, anxiety, and tension more acutely. Being more aware of our stresses helps us to take more control over them, resulting in reduced levels of stress and anxiety.
Exercise benefits the mind just as much as the body. A proven antidote to stress, anxiety, and depression, physical activity reduces stress hormones and boosts endorphins, resulting in clearer thinking, and a sense of relaxation. What’s more, exercise has been shown to improve sleep, which in turn helps to combat stress.
Even if you don’t have time to hit the gym, or go for a run, it can be helpful to simply take a brief walk when experiencing stress. This will help to clear your mind and remove yourself from your stress triggers.
Practice relaxation techniques
Deep breathing is a simple yet effective relaxation technique that can be practised anywhere. By taking slow, gentle breaths from the abdomen, you will inhale more oxygen, making you feel less tense, and reducing anxiety. To get the most from the technique, continue breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth for between 3-5 minutes.
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is another helpful technique for relieving tension. Based on the idea that physical relaxation creates mental calmness, PMR involves tensing each muscle group for around 5 to 10 seconds, before quickly releasing the tension. After you’ve tensed and relaxed a muscle group, try to rest for around 10 to 20 seconds before moving on to the next one.
When practising PMR, it’s important to maintain deep and regular breathing throughout the process until you’ve got through each major muscle group.
Get support from others
Connecting with other people can go a long way toward feeling less stressed. Engaging with others can help you to work through the sources of your stress, and see things from a different perspective. Just as important is the fact that connecting with others helps us to know that we’re understood.