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.
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, making things worse.
Smoking and mental health
If you already have a mental health difficulty you’re more likely to be a smoker, smoke more heavily than the general population, and as a result, be more likely to suffer ill health.
Both cigarettes, rollies, and vaping contain nicotine, a highly addictive psychoactive drug that disrupts brain chemistry. Nicotine dependance has negative effects on the brain and mental health. When you first quit smoking or vaping, withdrawals can be difficult, but after that passes, your mental health, and health generally, can see huge improvements.
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 can be enormous.
There can be many benefits to quitting once you get through the withdrawal period, such as improved mental health, better sleep, more energy, better health outcomes and a longer lifespan.
Looking after your mental health when quitting
Here are some things you should know about your mental health while you quit smoking or:
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 before they get better. Be strong – this will pass, and once it does, you’ll be so glad you still decided to quit.
Be prepared for how you will cope with the withdrawal period. 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 when you’re quitting smoking. It will keep you occupied, and give your brain chemistry the boost it needs while going though withdrawal. 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 others will make this worse. Make sure you stay in daily contact with family or friends.
Look after yourself and treat yourself well. The withdrawal period from nicotine can be difficult, and breaking unhealthy habits is hard, so treating yourself to something good for you can help.
If you feel like 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
Disclaimer: There is more than one way to quit smoking. You may need to try a few different things to find what is right for you. For advice and support on quitting, visit SpunOut.ie/QUIT