Smoking and Stress

Relax


Usually at Neurotrack we don’t break the fourth wall, but I want you to know that the person writing these words is a former pack-a-day smoker who has been smoke-free now for nearly a quarter of a century. I understand firsthand the ways in which feeling stressed out leads to wanting to pick up a cigarette.

But if you are a smoker, I’m personally urging you to please reconsider this habit. Not only because it’s bad for your lungs and heart blah blah blah, you’ve heard it all before, as had I. The reason we are asking you to quit reaching for a cigarette when you feel stressed out is because, while the chemical rush of a cigarette seems to provide a quick hit of stress relief, your nicotine craving between cigarettes is actually increasing your overall levels of stress. And stress, we know, can lead to cognitive decline.

Moreover, what hurts your heart (and lungs and the rest of your body) hurts your brain. We know there’s an overlap between vascular disease and Alzheimer’s. So next time you feel a craving for the “time out” of a cigarette, take time out instead to meditate. Or to go for a quick walk. Or to step outside and just be. Breathe in, breathe out: clean air, not air clogged with smoke. And if you mess up and smoke a cigarette anyway, please cut yourself some slack. Nobody’s perfect. Keep saying to yourself, “I’m trying. I want to quit. This is a hideous habit, but I will succeed.” Utilizing the techniques discussed here, along with other smoking cessation methods, can help you complete your final goal. It took me over a year to quit. I’ve never once looked back.

References

  • Attems, J., & Jellinger, K. A. (2014). The overlap between vascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease - lessons from pathology. BMC Medicine, Vol. 12. doi: 10.1186/s12916-014-0206-2
  • Childs, E., & de Wit, H. (2010). Effects of acute psychosocial stress on cigarette craving and smoking. Nicotine & Tobacco Research: Official Journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, 12(4), 449–453. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntp214
  • Parrott, A. C. (1995). Smoking cessation leads to reduced stress, but why? The International Journal of the Addictions, 30(11), 1509–1516. doi: 10.3109/10826089509055846
  • Richards, M., Jarvis, M. J., Thompson, N., & Wadsworth, M. E. J. (2003). Cigarette smoking and cognitive decline in midlife: evidence from a prospective birth cohort study. American Journal of Public Health, 3(6), 994–998. doi: 10.2105/ajph.93.6.994
  • Tang, Y.-Y., Tang, R., & Posner, M. I. (2013). Brief meditation training induces smoking reduction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America,110(34), 13971–13975. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1311887110