You know smoking is bad for you. You might have even tried to quit. But then, something stressful happens and the only thing you can think about is lighting up. Well, think again. That cigarette may not have the calming qualities you think it does. Studies have found that in reality, the opposite is true. Smoking causes long-term stress levels to rise, not fall. In fact, the only stress smoking relieves is the withdrawal between cigarettes.
A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry recently confirmed this effect. Five hundred smokers were followed for 6 months after quitting. Those who quit successfully experienced “a marked reduction in anxiety” at 6 months follow up, whereas those who failed to quit were found to be more anxious. A similar study in 2010 of 469 smokers found the same result. Prior to quitting, most of the smokers reported using cigarettes to cope with stress. However, those who quit had 15% lower stress levels than those who did not quit after 12 months.
Throughout the day, smokers are repeatedly going into nicotine withdrawal. Blood nicotine levels fall rapidly between cigarettes, often resulting in anxiety, agitation and irritability (ie. stress!). After quitting, these episodes no longer occur. Smoking raises nicotine levels and relieves the withdrawal symptoms. It’s easy to see why smokers feel that cigarettes relax them, but really their brain has been fooled into thinking they do.
Over time, the brain learns to associate smoking with stress relief and smokers start to use smoking to cope with other types of stress as well. Additional stress is sometimes created by the guilt or shame of smoking and worry about negative health effects. Nicotine does have a temporary calming effect, but it is also a stimulant, releasing adrenaline and other chemicals, which increases feelings of anxiety further.
In the days after quitting, anxiety can temporarily increase due to nicotine withdrawal. However, medication meant to help people quit as well as counseling can help. In the long term, mental health usually improves, especially in people with pre-existing mental illness. Many studies have shown improvements in anxiety, depression and general mental wellbeing in ex-smokers. Luckily, there are natural solutions for stress relief that don’t come with the health hazards of smoking.
Vital B Plus from Dr. Newton’s Naturals is the ultimate stress-fighting vitamin. Did you know that stress is often a sign of vitamin B deficiency? Vital B Plus combines potent doses of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B8, B9 and B12 with powerful antioxidants (vitamins C, E and manganese). The nutrient-rich capsules also promote more restful sleep and adrenal health. So, instead of lighting up that cigarette, reach for Vital B Plus instead!