Holiday stress can make former smokers relapse; here are ways to keep that from happening

People often smoke when they are stressed, and despite the famous holiday song that claims “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” the season often brings stress that makes many former smokers relapse.

Smoking doesn’t really relieve stress, even though many smokers believe it does, The Cleveland Clinic says on its website. In fact, it actually causes a great deal of stress to the body.

The reason smokers think it relieves stress is because nicotine, the mood-altering drug in tobacco, causes the body to release a chemical called dopamine, which creates an initial sense of calm in the body. It also makes the body crave this sensation again and again. “This is a cruel illusion,” says the website, because even though the body feels calm, it is really under a great deal of stress. Blood pressure and heart rate increase, muscles become tense, blood vessels constrict and less oxygen is available to the body when you smoke.

Kentucky has many former smokers; 26.5 percent of adults in the state smoke, down from 29 percent two years ago, according to America’s Health Rankings. The NYU Langone Medical Center offers these tips to help those who have quit stay smoke-free:

  • Remind yourself of the reasons you quit in the first place.
    Write down the top three reasons you quit smoking and put them somewhere you can see daily.
  • Make an action plan for how you are going to handle your holiday triggers. Have a plan for every trigger.
  • If you feel the urge to smoke, don’t give in, and remember the 5Ds:
    Delay. Drink water.
    Do something else.
    Deep breathe.
    Discuss feelings with a friend or family member.
  • Reward yourself for staying tobacco-free.

If you relapse, take the immediate steps to get help.
Talk to your health-care provider about nicotine replacement therapy. Quit Now Kentucky also offers one-on-one counseling for tobacco users who are ready to quit using tobacco products, call 1-800-784-8669.

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