The mandate to stay home and practice social distancing has taken something from every one of us- whether that’s a feeling of security, job, paycheck, time with loved ones, even our physical or mental health. We are all different in how we process moments of uncertainty. Stress is the body’s reaction to a change and we have all been affected by serious change over the last few weeks.

Have you found that you are reaching for a cigarette, e-cigarette or chew more often?

It is widely believed that nicotine helps calm you down. It may be that it provides a break at a time when you may not have had one, a distraction when going through a hard time, or just makes you feel better. Rather than helping people relax, smoking actually raises levels of tension and anxiety. Nicotine has an almost immediate and short lived “feel good factor” but it quickly fades. When nicotine is inhaled it reaches the brain within 8-10 seconds releasing the chemical “dopamine” which causes feelings of pleasure and relaxation. However, during these feelings of perceived relaxation, the body is actually experiencing increased stress – blood pressure and heart rate increase, muscles become tense, and less oxygen is available to the body and brain. The feelings of relaxation may just be relief from short-term symptoms of withdrawal from nicotine.

It is impossible to avoid stress, but it is possible to change how we work through stressful situations and our emotions. Being prepared is important. Make a list of situations that make you feel stress and a list of activities you will do when you feel stressed. Remember to use activities that promote your health and well-being and avoid negative coping strategies.

The following are some skills that you can practice in dealing with stress. A simple way to remember these stress control techniques is the four A’s: Avoid, Alter, Adjust, Accept.

Not all stressful situation can be avoided, but it is amazing to see how many stressors can be eliminated simply by avoiding them

  • Do certain people “stress you out?” Limit the time that you spend with them
  • Do hot-button topics upset you? Stay away from sensitive topics

During a stressful time, step back, assess and attempt to change the situation

  • State limits in advance. If you get a phone call from someone who just wants to chat, and you are busy, begin the conversation with “I only have 10 minutes”.

Feeling that you cannot cope with something can be a stressor in itself. Try changing your expectations and standards.

  • Count your blessing. No matter how dire things might seem, take some time to focus on the joys of your life- your family, your memories and your anticipations.

Some sources of stress are unavoidable. You cannot prevent or change stressors, such as the covid-19 pandemic.

  • Look for the positive angle
  • Share your feelings

The thought of quitting nicotine products right now may sound like an overwhelming and daunting task. It doesn’t have to be as we have many resources available. While we are all experiencing trials and tribulations this can be a time for you to take back control of your health and work on a more positive you mentally and physically.

For more information on quitting please contact us or call PA Quitline @ 1-800-Quit-Now