Coping With Stress From Trauma When You Quit Smoking

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The emotional effects of large scale trauma like losing a home to fire or catastrophic weather events can put a person in a mental state where picking up a lit cigarette seems like the right thing to do. 

As smokers, we always treated stress with nicotine. We used it to calm us, and we thought it helped us deal with difficult issues more efficiently. That's not true, but we self-medicated with nicotine so often, the response (and associations) became ingrained. Significant stress can bring urges to smoke up to the surface, even for those of us with a lot of smoke-free time under our belts.
If you find yourself craving a cigarette as a result of tension over a large-scale event, use the tips below to keep yourself on track. 

Coping With Trauma Smoke-Free

  • Seek support. Spend time with family and friends. Share your feelings and concerns openly, and let others help you cope. We all feel better when we support one another.
  • Get back to life as usual if you’re able to. Routine can be soothing to raw nerves.
  • Revisit your list of reasons to quit smoking. They are no less true today than they were before the traumatic event.
  • Get enough rest. Lack of sleep increases stress and compromises your ability to maintain sobriety. If you’re suffering from insomnia, try some tips to help you get some sleep.
  • Recognize rationalizations. If you’re engaging in elaborate mental somersaults trying to justify why you should smoke, you’re stuck in junkie thinking. Pay attention to your thoughts – don’t let yourself stray into dangerous territory.
  • Reward yourself. Declare TODAY as a milestone in your recovery from nicotine addiction and do something nice for yourself. Acknowledge the tremendous value of what you’re doing by quitting smoking. Rinse and repeat tomorrow.
  • Get some exercise. Go for a walk and burn off some of that stress you’re feeling. Not only is it good for you, but exercise is a great way to manage cravings to smoke.
  • Focus on TODAY. Set small goals and you won’t feel out of control. Don’t worry about never being able to smoke again. Think about the day you have in front of you and resolve to make it smoke-free. Don’t let tomorrow intimidate you today.
  • Honor your grief. Take the time you need to cry and mourn the loss you feel. Rather than push aside the enormity of what has happened, let feelings come and deal with them, one at a time. It will help you recover more quickly.
  • Use distraction to help you cope with individual urges as they arise. Most urges to smoke are 5 minutes or less in length. If you can find ways to take a mental detour, you'll be able to diffuse cravings before they have a chance to grow.
  • Get away from it all. Take a break from the TV news for a while. Go to a movie or immerse yourself in a good book.

Smoking won’t make anything in your life better. It won’t relieve stress, and it won’t fix problems.

Urges to smoke as a result of stressful situations can and will happen occasionally as you recover from nicotine addiction. We spent many years smoking, and it only makes sense that events, especially those that produce dramatic emotional responses will also bring about thoughts of smoking. It doesn’t mean you need to smoke, and it doesn’t mean you’re going to fail. It simply means you have triggered an old way of responding to stress.

Each time you navigate your way through stress smoke-free, choosing options other than smoking to deal with your tension, you’re reprogramming old habits and responses.

Give yourself time and smoking will lose its power to attract, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Remember, cravings to smoke are not commands. They’re only thoughts. You don’t have to act on them.

Don’t let hard times reawaken the addict within. Honor the precious gift that life is by doing all you can to nurture your own.

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