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Smoking and stress

Health Adviser at Bupa Health Clinics
31 July 2020

Smoking is known as one of the most harmful things we can do to our physical health, but research has found that it can also increase our stress levels too. In this video I’ll talk you through the connection.

Stress is our body’s automatic response to dealing with an unexpected event. It’s also known as our fight or flight response and it can sometimes leave us with symptoms of headaches, dizziness, palpitations or nausea, similar to when we withdraw from nicotine.

People who smoke regularly sometimes believe that it’s a quick fix to their stress levels. However, it does not solve the underlying cause.

Nicotine withdrawal can increase someone’s heart rate and blood pressure over time, making that individual even more stressed in any situation. To break this cycle, identify the times when you’ve felt stressed and smoked and then find the solution without the cigarette. For example, you can add more exercise to your routine. That could be going for a walk or run during your lunch break instead of to smoke. You can also change your diet, having a healthy nice balanced diet including plenty of fruit and drinking water. And it’s also about reducing your caffeine, alcohol and refined sugar intake to help with those cravings.

You can also try mindfulness, yoga or meditation for those stress levels or trying a new hobby.

The key message is that progress does take time and you need to be patient. While quitting immediately has had some success, the most effective method and four times more likely to help you quit is to use expert support or even a good support group at home. Stopping smoking will help with lowering stress levels in the future and it can also be beneficial for mood, anxiety levels, sleep and your lung and heart health too.

Katie McMillan
Health Adviser at Bupa Health Clinics

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Health information

At Bupa we produce a wealth of free health information for you and your family. We believe that trustworthy information is essential in helping you make better decisions about your health and care.

    • Mental Health Foundation. Smoking and mental health. www.mentalhealth.org.uk, last updated May 2016
    • Harvard Health Publishing. Ask the doctor: Can a nicotine patch boost my blood pressure? www.health.harvard.edu, last updated June 2019
    • Imperial College London. Support to help you stop smoking. www.imperial.ac.uk, accessed July 2020
    • NICE CKS. Smoking cessation. cks.nice.org.uk, last revised March 2018
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