EMotional urges can lead us to want to smoke (or use other substances/behaviors) as a means of avoiding unpleasant feelings. If we are feeling, for example, anxious, we’ve learned to reach for the “relief” of a cigarette. The nicotine in our brain results in the release of endorphins, which make us feel better emotionally.
Since that “relief” comes quite quickly, we learn to eliminate unpleasant feelings by sucking soot. Again, because this illusion of relief happens so quickly, we may not have bothered to develop many other coping skills.
I say “illusion of relief” because ironically, if we’re anxious, our heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate are probably ALREADY slightly elevated because of our mood state. When we inhale a chemical cloud, the nicotine constricts our blood vessels as those toxic chemicals are delivered to our cells and organs throughout our body. Our organs start to feel toxic and call for our heart to beat faster to deliver oxygen – which is in short supply while we’re smoking. To offset the pollutants currently flowing through our veins to our cells and organs, our lungs breathe faster in order bring in more REAL oxygen. So our heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure (which were already elevated) are now all EVEN MORE elevated because of the smoking. PHYSICALLY, smoking a cigarette causes MORE stress, even as the brain releases the endorphins that make us “feel better.” THAT, my friends, is tobacco’s best lie; “I’ll make you feel better.”
Let’s fill our coping tool box with some new skills and ways to feel better that are actually better. That will take time and practice, and a commitment to taking good care of you.