How to avoid stress smoking this holiday season

12:34 PM, Nov 21, 2017
9:54 AM, Dec 12, 2018

The holidays can be a stressful time, especially when you’re trying to quit tobacco. It’s well-known that stress can trigger the urge to smoke. (In fact, stress is among the most commonly cited reasons for smoking relapse1.)


Although it may feel like smoking calms the nerves, the exact opposite is actually true.

Consider what happens to the body when you smoke. When nicotine from cigarettes or chew reaches your brain, it stimulates the release of dopamine.


This powerful, feel-good chemical, which is at the root of nicotine addiction2, masks the biological stress being caused to the body. While the brain perceives a feeling of relief, your blood vessels constrict, which reduces the amount of oxygen and blood in your muscles and brain3, thus increasing your heart rate and blood pressure.


Over time, this cycle can lead to chronic heart conditions.


Becoming aware of your tobacco habits (when, why, and in what situations you use tobacco throughout the day) and learning to manage triggers, like stress, is key to kicking the addiction for good.


It’s not at all unusual to feel stressed during the holidays. For many, it’s a season of long to-do lists, family gatherings and social pressures, all of which can all lead to feelings of anxiety, stress and depression. With patience, self-kindness and the right tools, there are ways to manage these feelings—and keep from using tobacco again


Make a game plan


Acknowledge that the holidays are a stressful time. What can you do to make things easier on yourself this year? How might you prepare ahead of time?


A little preparation can go a long way in reducing your stress level. Think through some ways to save time and money, such as setting a budget, freezing foods ahead of time, opting for a gift exchange with a set spending limit, or organizing a potluck.


Consider if you be around people who smoke this holiday season. If so, plan and rehearse your response to being offered a cigarette. Have a list of tools to distract you if you sense a craving will ensue.


Know your triggers, plan accordingly


Perhaps it’s a big meal, or an upcoming holiday party where you know there’ll be alcohol. Be prepared with a way to keep your mouth or hands occupied, such as a piece of chewing gum or a rubber band worn around your wrist. Continue to remind yourself why you chose to quit tobacco. Recruit some support from family and friends. You might even consider avoiding high-risk situations altogether.


If you want more ideas, check out our list of quit tips from former smokers.


Get support

Quitting is challenging at any time of year, but when times get tough—especially around the holidays — a Quit Coach can help you brainstorm ways to feel more comfortable. Studies have shown that having the support of a Quit Coach doubles your chances of quitting for good.


Free Quit Coaching lets you connect with an experienced Quit Coach on a weekly basis to discuss your reasons for quitting, strategize against triggers, and stay motivated and smoke-free this holiday season.


Get matched with a Quit Coach — completely free of charge — by calling 800-55-66-222, texting “NO SMOKE” to 74097* or by signing up online.


Happy, healthy holidays from ASHLine!


*Message & data rates may apply.


1. Buczkowski K, Marcinowicz L, Czachowski S, Piszczek E. Motivations toward smoking cessation, reasons for relapse, and modes of quitting: results from a qualitative study among former and current smokers. Patient preference and adherence. 2014;8:1353-1363. doi:10.2147/PPA.S67767.
2. Herman AI, DeVito EE, Jensen KP, Sofuoglu M. PHARMACOGENETICS OF NICOTINE ADDICTION: ROLE OF DOPAMINE. Pharmacogenomics. 2014;15(2):221-234. doi:10.2217/pgs.13.246.
4. Dinges, D. et al., Cumulative Sleepiness, Mood Disturbance, and Psychomotor Vigilance Decrements During a Week of Sleep Restricted to 4 – 5 Hours Per Night, Sleep. 1997 Apr; 20 (4): 267–277.


5. Leproult R, Copinschi G, Buxton O, Van Cauter E. “Sleep loss results in an elevation of cortisol levels the next evening.” Sleep. 1997;20(10):865–870. [PubMed]
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