I’ve always heard that one of the biggest appeals of smoking cigarettes is because they supposedly help relieve stress. My smoker friends are constantly telling me that breathing in a steady stream of nicotine helps them calm down, relax and feel stress-free for at least a few minutes. In fact, one of the main reasons people start smoking to begin with is to help with anxiety. But guess what? Everyone is apparently wrong, according to a new study.
A recent British study on 500 smokers discovered that smoking doesn’t relieve stress – quitting smoking relieves stress. Researchers studied 500 smokers before and after they quit and found that the people who quit had less stress than those who tried to quit but failed. Bam – another reason you should never start smoking. Or, if you’re already a smoker, this is another reason why you should quit.
Look, I totally understand the idea that smoking helps you feel more relaxed. But I understand even more how quitting can actually help you feel more relaxed, not to mention better about yourself. I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but I was a big social smoker when I was in college. I was never addicted and I very rarely smoked a cigg on my own, by myself – it was mostly when I was out with friends and they were all puffing away. But after a while, I started to believe smoking cigarettes calmed me down, and I started smoking more often. Whenever I was upset, angry or feeling super anxious, I would reach for a cigarette because I thought they made me feel better.
Looking back, I realize that the cigarettes weren’t making me feel better. They were actually making me feel really light-headed and kind of out of it, which is never a good thing, and I associated that with feeling more relaxed. What was making me feel better? The few minutes of peace and quiet I got while smoking – not the cigarette itself.
When I made the decision to stop smoking entirely a few years ago, I instantly felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. Not only are cigarettes extremely bad for your health, but they’re also really expensive! When I was smoking, I was constantly worried about what I was doing to my lungs or how much I was spending on packs of them. Also? I was always stressed over whether or not my parents were going to catch me. Once I stopped, I felt so much better about myself. So I can completely understand this study and I definitely believe that it’s true.
I know the idea of cigarettes can be alluring to some people, especially if you think of them as a stress reliever. But girls, trust me, there are so many other ways to get rid of stress that are fun and aren’t threatening to your health. The idea that smoking a cigarette is calming you down is all in your head. If you ever feel the urge to smoke a cigarette to deal with your anxiety, try something else instead: take a walk, scream into a pillow, do some yoga, play a video game. Anything but smoking. How many more times do we need to be told they aren’t doing us any good before we stop smoking them entirely?
Do you smoke cigarettes? Have you ever smoked them? Do you think they really do relieve stress? Tell me in the comments.