Is quitting smoking giving you the blues?
Quitting smoking might lead to some temporary anxiety, especially if you're already feeling a bit vulnerable.
Smoking can be an important social crutch or stress reliever for some people, however, research into smoking and stress has shown that instead of helping people to relax, smoking actually increases anxiety and tension. Research also suggests that the more you smoke the more likely you are to develop a mental illness, the more likely you are to feel anxious or depressed and the more likely you are to use more drugs and alcohol which will make things worse.
And if you already have a mental health problem you’re more likely to be a smoker, smoke more heavily than the general population and as a result more likely to suffer ill health as a result of this. Sometimes smokers who suffer from mental health problems feel that there's nothing they can do about smoking except continue but this isn’t true. With the right help and support many people quit and the benefits are enormous.
You will feel much healthier and better in yourself and you will have more energy. Sometimes after quitting you may be able to reduce some of the medications you are on under the supervision of your GP because tobacco smoke can affects how medications are absorbed by the body. But most importantly you will feel proud that you have conquered your addiction to nicotine and have taken the most important step possible to ensure you have a healthier, longer life.
Here are some things you should know about your mental health while you quit smoking:
- Be aware. Depression and anxiety are a common symptom of nicotine withdrawal. If you are already suffering from depression and anxiety, it is possible that these conditions may worsen for a few weeks after you quit. Be strong - this will pass, and once it does, you’ll be so glad you still decided to quit.
- Be prepared: Before you quit, identify the stressful situations that normally prompt you to smoke. Have a plan for different actions you could take in these situations, that could reduce your stress, without reaching for a smoke.
- Healthy body, healthy mind. We all know the benefits of exercise are pretty massive. This is especially important for when you’re quitting smoking. It will keep you occupied and keep your mind off stressful situations. Even a brisk walk once a day can be a huge help.
- Structure your day. Have a plan for how you’re going to spend your day. It’s important to get up and out of the house, and this can be a big help on days when you’re feeling a bit low.
- Hang out with other people. If you start to feel low, being cut off from other’s will make this way worse. Make sure you stay in daily contact with family or friends.
- Treat yourself. You know all that money you’ve saved from quitting smoking? Spend that on some treats for yourself. This has the added bonus on improving your mood if you’re feeling the blues.
- Seek help. If feel you’re not coping, seek help from a professional. Your GP will be able to advise you on both quitting smoking and treating depression. For some low cost options, check out this page.
Getting help and support to QUIT smoking
- Visit Quit.ie for tips on how to stop smoking.
- Call the Quitline Freephone no 1800 201 203 to talk to someone who understands and can help you quit.
- Check out the Quit Facebook page to read stories from others who have quit smoking and to share your own.
- Check out SpunOut's articles on quitting smoking