Cigarette smoking can teach us about managing stress

You don’t have to give up all of your habits associated with cigarette smoking. In fact, you should keep some of them. Through tools, such as hypnosis and one-on-one coaching, you can give your focused attention on eliminating the harmful habits and strengthening the healthy ones.

Cigarette smoke blowing on a man's face.
Smoking man

Cigarette smokers have a lot of things to teach us for strategies in managing stress.  Ask any smoker and s/he will tell you they believe it calms their nerves.  And some substances contained within cigarettes do provide a mental boost. The downside is the cost eventually outweighs the benefit. The cost is your life and it’s a slow, painful one once it’s past the stress reduction threshold. Smoking-related illnesses cost businesses about $156 billion in lost productivity and smokers $170 billion in direct related medical care.

Frequent breaks

Have you worked with a smoker and wondered how long they spent on their smoke break? On average, smoke breaks for one person tally up to about 6 days out of the year, depending on the industry a smoker works in. The higher the stress of a particular career field the more smoke breaks people take.

Cigarette smoking is the step-child in socially accepted health risk behaviors. Today’s social norms force them to be the most blatantly public in their addiction. Overeaters and alcohol drinkers don’t stand outside in a huddle for work breaks to anesthetize their stress with sugar donuts and glasses of wine. Company policies as it relates to taking breaks are written to accommodate nicotine addictions. This is a major shift from the era when people who smoked did so while at their desk. Other drug-related policies are written to fire you from your job if you are caught indulging on company time.

Legal consequences used as a deterrent to eradicate other types of addictions, such as narcotics or pornography, are non-existent for smokers. Even alcohol has a legal consequence if indulged while driving. Smoke and drive all you want without the police harassing you. In fact, the police officer passing you on the Interstate is possibly a smoker him or herself.

Everyone commonly acknowledges how damaging smoking is to an individual’s health and to the health of people exposed to second hand smoke. Even smokers joke about their “cancer sticks.”

What’s good about the smoking habit?

So, what can we learn from people whose addiction is so powerful that complete areas outside of businesses and hospitals are set aside for them to indulge?

  • It’s good to take frequent breaks from your work. Sitting is the new smoking, after all. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see how work environments changed up their stress levels if non-smokers took as many breaks as smokers?
  • Smokers often walk more than nonsmokers. If you work in a high rise building, for example, to take your break you have to go from your cubicle to the elevator or the stairs and walk to your smoking area. Sometimes, it’s across the street from where you work. Walking is good for you.
  • Smokers get outside more and absorb more Vitamin D from the sun. Nature is healing. You hear birds sing, feel the breezy wind, and experience sunshine. And smokers are dedicated. They seem to take their smoke breaks no matter the weather–tornadoes, hurricanes and blizzards. That is a nature break discipline the rest of us would do well to develop.
  • Smokers breathe. They also cough after awhile, but smokers know how to belly–or diaphragmatic–breathe. This deep breathing is known to affect the autonomic nervous system and calm it down to reduce symptoms of some types of anxiety, depression and reduce the cortisol–or stress chemical–loads on people. If you’re not a smoker but want to breathe like a smoker, inhale and exhale through a straw a few times.  You will notice the weight of air as it is forced further down to your diaphragm. Keep your straws from your drinks and it’s a double win. You can breathe like a smoker and save the environment.

In many ways, smokers can be a role model for the rest of us when it comes to managing stress. With encouragement from friends and support through professionals, including hypnotherapists, people who want to quit can. And the healthy rituals that go with cigarette smoking, such as walking and enjoying the outdoors, are something all of us can mutually advocate for in the workplace to manage stress.

If you are ready to quit smoking, and want to try supported coaching with hypnosis, reach out to

Copyright 2019 Brenda Henning

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