One of the main reasons smokers and vapers feel they can’t cut nicotine out of their lives is because of the sense that it helps them manage stress and anxiety. People who talk to me or who come to see me to quit smoking with hypnosis in Holborn say that in order to stand a chance of becoming truly smoke-free (or vape-free), they’d need to have an unshakable plan in place to help them cope with stress to replace the role of their cigarettes or vapes. Sometimes they’ve tried to quit by themselves and even been successful, but as soon as something stressful or difficult happens, they find themselves reaching for the cigarettes or vape again. ‘It wasn’t the right time to quit’, they tell me, ‘there was too much going on’. They say this even though their relapse happened months months after they stopped smoking. ‘Perhaps it was the right time to stop smoking, because you did for a while!’, I’ve pointed out once or twice. ‘Maybe it’s just that the ups and downs of life are difficult to get through if you’re a non-smoker’. They usually agree.
Recent non-smokers tend not to immediately feel like non-smokers – they feel like smokers who are trying hard not to smoke. They hope that with the passing of time and continued abstinence, they’ll eventually get to a point where they have truly realized the mindset of a happy, stable non-smoker and know they’ll never smoke no matter what life throws at them. But realistically, how long is this?
The truth about nicotine addiction: body ‘stress systems’
Nicotine affects the same core bio-chemical systems in the body that send appropriate levels of hormones and neurotransmitters in response to what’s happening around us and inside us. For example: we will feel a rise in stress levels from both an intense day at work and also just being hungry. Stressful times in life prompt smokers and vapers to reach for their vice as a way of relaxing, unwinding and coping. But what they tend not to realize is that withdrawing from nicotine also causes stress and anxiety in the body, and the only thing that temporarily relieves this stress and anxiety is…you guessed it – smoking or vaping. The body registers that stress levels have decreased and the nicotine addict feels better. But actually all that has happened is that withdrawal from nicotine has been delayed a little while, and the smoker will feel stressed again as soon as the nicotine starts leaving the body again a few minutes later.
The stress and anxiety relief a nicotine addict feels when they smoke or vape isn’t truly stress or anxiety relief, it just temporarily wards off the stress of nicotine withdrawal – which you only experience because you smoke or vape! Every time someone smokes or vapes, they feel what a non-smoker feels like all the time.
But because the body can’t easily distinguish the various sources of accumulated stress, the smoker or vaper really feels that smoking or vaping eases stress and helps them relax. The stress system in humans in ancient, and is the same system that would have alerted our ancestors to the possibility of being eaten by a tiger. Most of us don’t live with these fears now, but the body doesn’t know that. Essentially, the smoker’s brain presents them with two options: would you like to marginally increase your chances of getting a disease sometime far in to the future, or would you like to not be eaten by a tiger right now?
The body and brain remember this false feeling and powerfully associate it with ‘stress relief’ (and sometimes other personal feelings). This is what makes smokers who have recently quit feel like something is missing, even if the period of physical withdrawal has ended. This feeling can lie dormant or be kept in check with will power when stress levels are normal, and may even be forgotten about when things are good. But when things get particularly tough, this feeling springs forward to make itself known, powerfully drawing the nicotine addict to smoke or vape again to feel ‘less stressed’. When they give in, they are back in the cycle, confusing the relief of nicotine withdrawal symptoms for genuine stress relief.
Self-care instead of smoking or vaping
Nicotine addicts usually take breaks from what they’re doing in order to smoke or vape: they break up their work days or step out of stressful situations to have a few moments for themselves. Sometimes they use the time to do other, relaxing things too: I’ve heard of people vaping while they watch Tiktok videos, for example. Although they are getting the stress of withdrawal relieved, they are getting other stress relieved too simply by having a break. ‘I know! That’s why I can’t stop smoking/vaping, it’s the only time I have a break!’ they say. Well, you don’t actually need to smoke or vape in order to take a break. Taking breaks during the day is healthy, normal and essential for staying regulated, productive and managing stress. Although you may have only ever taken breaks to smoke or vape, you’ve always had the need for self-care, and this doesn’t change when you become a non-smoker. I always discuss with my quit smoking hypnosis Holborn clients ways that they can find to ensure they’re eating enough, drinking enough hydrating fluids, taking breaks and making sure they find time to do things that are important to them. If they neglect their needs, it makes it much harder to say no to nicotine when it steps in and offer its same old trick of ‘helping to relieve your stress’.
Non-smokers are less stressed and anxious than smokers
Because smoking or vaping only relieves the stress and anxiety that nicotine addiction put there in the first place, being a non-smoker/non-vaper is much less stressful as they don’t live with the stress of addiction. The body is able to function properly so you to manage what life throws at you more efficiently – not less. Once my Holborn stop smoking hypnosis clients understand this, they realize that stopping smoking or vaping is one less thing to worry about, not one more thing to worry about, and the process becomes smoother and easier. We also dive deep in to their personal, psychological attachments to nicotine and reverse them, working on any feelings or emotions that need to come up and be integrated or healed as we go along.
To find out if this process would be right for you you can book a Discovery call with me so we can discuss your needs and ideal solution. If we are a good fit, then you can arrange to do your quit smoking hypnosis in Holborn, Camden or online over Zoom at the end of the Discovery call.
You can also read more about the some of the subconscious associations nicotine addicts can have with cigarettes, about why stopping smoking gradually often doesn’t work, whether stopping smoking will make you look younger or find out whether you could stop smoking for £3m.