Millions of smokers partake in the habit because they feel it calms their nerves. While smoking may provide temporary relief from anxiety, the anxiety you’re relieving is usually associated with your nicotine withdrawal. So, in a sense, you’re smoking to calm the anxiety from not smoking; which isn’t addressing the anxiety in your everyday life.
This vicious circle is why many smokers can’t quit. Nicotine addiction is a powerful enemy and one that can keep you hooked to cigarettes and tobacco products even when you know they’re slowly killing you. Ditching cigarettes is one of the best personal health decisions you can make this year.
So, what is it about smoking that actually makes your anxiety worse? Let’s take a closer look at smoking’s effect on mental health.
It’s 3:30 pm. You’re about halfway through your shift, but your next break isn’t until 5:00. You’re watching the minute hand slowly tick by, seemingly mocking your pain as it inches its way toward another completed hour. It’s already been early an hour since your last cigarette, and the withdrawal is starting to kick in. You’re tapping your foot, your heart is beginning to race, and you can’t focus…you need nicotine, and fast.
If this situation sounds familiar, you’re already addicted to nicotine. Nicotine addiction happens quickly, usually within just a few weeks of regular smoking. After years of it, you can become fully addicted to one of the world’s most addictive chemicals and can’t go a few hours without it.
When you haven’t had nicotine, your anxiety levels will go through the roof. Your brain starts to panic, searching for ways to get the fix it needs to feel normal again.
Anxiety can develop from a number of things in everyday life. In order to pinpoint what’s bothering you, you’ll need to take a closer look at the potential sources of anxiety in your life. You might even discover that some of these factors caused you to pick up smoking in the first place! Many people use smoking as a crutch to handle stress, anxiety, trauma, and more, but it really just makes things worse. You’re not actually dealing with the problem(s).
Some common anxiety triggers are:
- Relationships: this doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship. Any relationship you share with another person that makes you uncomfortable or stressed can trigger anxiety. This could be parents, siblings, co-workers, neighbors, or even the mailman.
- Trauma: unaddressed trauma can cause anxiety and other complications. PTSD is an anxiety-based illness that comes from past traumatic events. It can cause flashbacks, hallucinations, racing thoughts, and more.
- Caffeine: that’s right, your morning coffee might just be increasing your anxiety levels. Caffeine is a stimulant, and too much of it can cause the mind to race, heart rate to increase, and more.
- Finances: who hasn’t been stressed about finances at one point or another?
- Work: this is perhaps one of the biggest anxiety triggers for Americans, especially when around 85% of Americans hate their jobs.
Identifying the source of your anxiety can help you address it in a healthier way, as opposed to picking up a smoking habit to calm your nerves. You’re not actually calming anything but your addiction, so the entire purpose of starting smoking to begin with is pointless.
Let’s not forget that smoking can cause its own anxiety aside from nicotine withdrawal. Smoking has been linked to hundreds of conditions, including heart disease, hypertension, lung disease and cancer, stroke, heart attack, and more. Imagine having the threat of these often fatal conditions looming over your head every time you smoke.
We all know that smoking is harmful. It’s everywhere. On billboards, ad campaigns, and public health awareness reminders. It’s dangerous and toxic to more than just personal health. Smoking also pollutes the air, the environment, and can damage non-smokers’ lungs.
Knowing that you could be another drag away from lung cancer is enough to give anyone anxiety. The financial and physiological impacts of a condition like cancer are far-reaching and can destroy your life…all that for a drag on a cigarette.
Many smokers are making the decision to move away from smoking while keeping their nicotine habit. Options like e-cigarettes and tobaccoless dip and even CBD vape pens offer viable alternatives without thousands of toxic chemicals.
There’s never been a better time to give up smoking, and the sooner you do, the better. Taking back years of your life by giving up smoking will be the best decision you ever make, and you’ll notice a decrease in your anxiety once the habit is gone for good. Improved mental and physical health, a more full wallet, and peace of mind? There’s no time to lose.