• Ursula Rose

Do you smoke to cope with stress and anxiety?

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

Contemplating life without cigarettes may seem quite scary or at worst frightening. Like a parasite, smoking brilliantly weaves itself into your self-identity till feels like an inevitable part of who you are and what you do.

When you try to quit cold turkey or use nicotine replacement products, this only addresses the chemical side of smoking. The psychological and emotional dependency on smoking to ‘feel better’ or become mentally calmer is still active at a subconscious level. This is why many ex-smokers who quit in conventional ways still experience strong ‘cravings’ on a daily basis months and even years after coming through nicotine withdrawal.

Smoking actually does the very opposite of what most smokers think it does. Nicotine is a stimulant that raises your heart rate and blood pressure, artificially inducing all the physiological symptoms of anxiety. Nicotine makes you feel anxious and then tricks you into believing you need to smoke again to restore the lost inner calm. This is called the 'nicotine trick'. But the relief is only ever temporary, which is why you get caught in the never-ending addictive cycle.

The mind will always seek to interpret physical anxiety sensations, so it can end up displacing the underlying anxiety produced by smoking onto external issues, such stress, relationships or even just standing in a supermarket queue, as one of my clients reported!

‘Then why does smoking seem to relax me?’

The sense of ‘relaxation and calm’ from smoking is partly generated by dopamine release in the brain which rewards you with a feel good boost or sense of relief from the tension of withdrawal each time you smoke. Taking long slow breaths when you inhale also slows the heart rate down. Then there's the tendency to step outside of stressful situations to smoke (such as work), which creates a distraction. The ritual of lighting up and taking the first draw produces a kind of ‘trance’ state that provides further distraction by bringing your awareness into the present and away from past or future concerns (helping you forget all about the health consequences of smoking for those precious few minutes!).

As if that’s not enough, nicotine simultaneously hijacks the learning, motivation and reward centres of the brain, so in effect strengthening any learned association between daily activities you pair with smoking such as having a morning coffee. These activities can begin to feel incomplete without smoking simultaneously.

‘So how can hypnotherapy help?’

Hypnotherapy is gentle, respectful and enjoyable. You are awake, if drowsy, with complete self-control throughout your session. Many people fear hypnosis but it’s actually a natural ability we all possess that can be harnessed incredibly easily for personal change.

Hypnotherapy can immediately collapse the addictive cycle of chemical and psychological dependency on smoking, so that the urge to smoke is neutralised. So there are no cravings or withdrawal symptoms to resist or fight against and no sense of missing out on pleasure. In fact, some of my clients can't even recall what it felt like to smoke!

Hypnotherapy can also eliminate anxiety caused by the smoking loop and help you reduce and control any genuine underlying anxiety you may have. Techniques for stress and anxiety control are always incorporated into your quit smoking hypnotherapy session.

So there’s nothing to ‘give up’ or ‘give in’ to - just an overwhelming sense of feeling great!

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