If there’s one thing the past year has taught us, it’s that pandemics are stressful.
So it’s perhaps no surprise that around 30% of people who smoke have revealed they’ve been smoking more to deal with the uncertainty of everything, and 10% of quitters have lit up again since the Covid outbreak, according to a Mintel report.
As well as being bad for our health, research shows smoking isn’t a great way to self-medicate – while nicotine creates an immediate sense of relaxation, smoking actually increases anxiety and tension overall, and cutting it out can be beneficial for managing stress.
Need a new stress strategy? Try these simple ways to reduce tension quickly, without having to rely on cigarettes…
1. Try box breathing
Breath can have a huge impact on the way we feel. Box breathing, also known as ‘square breathing’, is a type of relaxation technique that can help you return your heart rate to its normal rhythm.
You can use the technique anywhere – you simply need to breath in to the count of four, holding your breath for four counts, and then exhale for four.
Completing a few rounds of box breathing can be a highly effective technique for resetting your breath when in a stressful situation. Apps like Breathwrk and Calm can guide you through it, plus other useful breathing exercises.
2. Light a candle
After a long, stressful day, sinking into a hot bath surrounded by the cosy glow of candlelight is very wise. Candles are known for their soothing, healing properties, and their gentle flicker can have a calming effect on our brains.
Aromatherapy candles are particularly useful in stressful situations, with essential oils like lavender or eucalyptus creating a calming environment to help boost your mood. Plus, it makes your home feel like lovely, make-shift spa – and you still get the fix of flicking your lighter on.
3. Write it down
When was the last time you put pen to paper? Journaling is considered an effective tool for helping manage mental health as it can help us problem-solve our worries and put them into perspective.
As well as brain dumping what you’re stressed about, studies have found that quickly writing down a list of things you’re grateful for can help you switch your mindset and focus on the positives in life. And it’ll occupy hands searching for a cigarette.
4. Try EFT tapping
Tapping or ‘EFT’ is an alternative therapy thought to help relieve stress – and it could be useful for calming yourself down in the heat of the moment. It involves tapping specific meridian points on the body to help relieve tension. The Tapping Solution app is a good place to start.
Prolonged stress can also be a serious health concern, so it’s advisable to speak to your GP if you’re struggling to manage your worries. Your doctor can also point you in the direction of your local quit smoking services, should you need further support.