Monday, August 4, 2008

Dealing with Stress and Strong Emotions When Quitting Smoking

Smoking offers the illusion of going through life with the least amount of pain and the greatest amount of pleasure. Smoking seems to lessen negative emotions and heightens positive experiences. So when a smoker quits, negative emotions seem to be worse and positive emotions, not quite as fun.
Quitting smoking is like losing a best friend. In the past when experiencing stress or emotional turmoil, a smoker usually reaches for a cigarette for a calming effect. A cigarette helps relieve sadness or the blues. When happy a cigarette helps celebrate the moment. The cigarette has been there through everything. It never talks back, never fails to comfort, and always provides pleasure and gratification. Who wouldn't want a friend like that? Who wouldn't grieve the loss of this friend or experience depression, anxiety or even hostility when that friend is taken away?

Smokers associate strong emotions with smoking. Without the cigarette smokers often don't know how to cope with strong emotions when quitting. They also may experience more negative emotions when quitting, so it is a two edged sword. They don’t have the one coping mechanism that has worked in the past and can relapse when experiencing strong emotions.

Smokers think the answer to this dilemma is to have "just one" cigarette but that will trigger off a relapse because the smoker underestimates the power nicotine has over their brain. Instead, the first question should be-"What is it that I really need?" The answer is not a cigarette. Emotions affect us physically and mentally. Does your body need attention--to vent with exercise or to relax with a bubble bath or a massage? Do you need to emotionally vent by talking to a supportive person or to chill with relaxing music or take your mind off of whats bothering you and go see a movie? The answer to the question, "What is it that I really need?" will be what has been missing in the smokers life that he or she replaced with a cigarette and the answer will be different for each smoker and will vary depending on the circumstances.


Mz Diva said...

Man, that was a deep article! Its like it was written just for me! I am trying to get with the fitness program as I have gained a lot of weight since I quit and have not wanted to admit that some of the weight gain was from "emotional eating." Thanks for posting as usual.

Anonymous said...

I can relate to that article. I've always known that I wouldn't always be happy with my partner and now I've stopped smoking it's as if the curtain has been raised on my feelings and I'm not happy at all!

VJ Sleight, Queen of Quitting said...

Give yourself some time. Just quitting smoking can increase depression, which may have nothing to do with your partner. Just know that what you are going through is time limited. Once the smoke screen is gone, you can better assess your emotions. Good luck!

Renee said...

Thank you for all your wonderful advice & tips. It came up in a search for "stop smoking strong emotions," the point I'm dealing with now.

I stopped cold turkey nearly 2 months ago. I had quit for 16 years (cold turkey also), then went back for 9. The first month truly wasn't so bad. Now I'm dealing with lots of emotions becoming unmasked. Each time, I just quickly think, "it's not a cigarette I want, it's peace (or serenity or a hug). I can give that to myself without a cigarette."

So far, this has worked.