What cigarette smokers can teach us about mental health

You don’t have to give up all of your habits associated with cigarette smoking. In fact, you should keep some of them.

As a group of people who partake in socially accepted addictive behaviors, smokers tend to be the pariahs among the out right public addictions, such as overeating or drinking alcohol. Many a person who would casually drink a glass of wine over a business dinner would feign horror at the thought of smoking a cigarette. Yet, cultural and business policies begrudgingly tolerate and accommodate smokers. 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.

Instead, “if you can’t beat ’em join ’em” approach seems to be the antidote to the futile prohibition of smoking during business hours despite everyone’s acknowledged acceptance of how damaging smoking is to an individual’s health and to the health of those who ingest the chemical second hand. Even smokers joke about their “cancer sticks.”

Consequently, cigarette smokers are considered our culture’s socially accepted addiction pariahs.  And they are the most blatantly public in their addiction. After all, who stands outside their work place with their company attire partaking in other drugs? Overeaters and drinkers don’t stand in a huddle outside on their breaks to anesthetize their stress with sugar donuts and glasses of wine. Company policies are written to accommodate nicotine addictions. Other drug-related policies are written to fire you from your job if you are caught indulging on company time.

But there’s a lot to learn from a cigarette smoker as far as strategies to manage stress. Ask any smoker and they 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.

So, what about the non-smokers? I know you’ve done the mental math. 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.  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. It would be fascinating to see how work environments changed up their stress levels if non-smokers took as many breaks as smokers.
  • Smokers walk more than nonsmokers. That’s obvious. 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 and, 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, experience sunshine. And smokers are dedicated. They 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.

So, you see, smokers can be a role model for the rest of us. And, maybe if smokers talked to enough non-smokers who used the same strategies for stress reduction, minus the cigarettes–it would encourage them to quit because all of us need friends.

 

 

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Keep knocking it out until you’re successful

Affiliate disclosure: I do not have any affiliate arrangements with any of the products created by those mentioned in this blog post. If you buy one of their products, they will receive all of the profit. I will not receive a commission.

Do you feel like a fake, an imposter? Are you wondering what you’re doing putting yourself out there like that?

In “Steal Like an Artist: 10 things Nobody Told you About Being Creative,” Austin Kleon lays out the unspoken dilemma of people who are entering a creative or start-up phase: “nothing new is under the sun.” With the exception of actual inventors, nearly every one with a product wants you to believe they have an original idea or that they offer a special sauce to the established formula. What they offer is consistency of effort. The more times someone gets their message out there, the greater the chances that someone looking for that service or product will find it.

Look at Dave Ramsey. He didn’t invent either the envelope strategy or the concept of snowball effect for Financial Peace University. Those terms and strategies have been around for a long time. What he did, though, was organize a curriculum around a need he and others had for financial peace and, since then, has been sharing it with everyone he comes in contact with. His need has helped many others.

Lots of people will show you a formula on how to develop a successful blog. They may even have a course. They tried a number of things and kept doing the things that worked. So, if you are set on building a profitable blog, do what the successful bloggers tell you they did and yours will grow, too. Polish native Cristian Mihai began blogging in 2012. I started reading his blog, then. He did not have many followers. Now, over 132,000 people follow him. If I had done what he did beginning in 2012, I could be where he is now. But I didn’t. I started a blog and then stopped it. I started another blog and then stopped it. Remember, 90 percent complete to you, is 0 percent complete to your potential reader or customer.

Don’t stop. Keep going.

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A journey of a 1,000 miles, begins with one step. Lao Tzu

Just about anyone who makes an excellent living boosts their income when they present what they know to others. To do this, they sit down and organize their thoughts and strategies into a cohesive, sequential manner. People who sell courses on-line or offer public speaking services are teachers in disguise.

But marketing is the secret sauce to success. And at its most basic definition, all marketing is, is telling everyone you come across what you’re doing. Don’t be shy: just blurt it out. When I started out as a journalist, I applied to work at newspapers and kept applying until a newspaper hired me. Then another one did, and then another one. Then, I decided to become a counselor. I had to complete additional educational requirements to be in this field, but not all fields require that. Now, my private practice is growing because I tell everyone I know I’m a counselor.

Some people never finish high school and can become billionaire business owners. Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines, David Karp who invented the popular Tumblr social media platform, and singer extraordinaire Aretha Franklin are among people who were exceptions to the statistical outcomes of dropping out of high school. But the common denominator between them and people who became successful with Ph.Ds, is that they kept working at what they wanted to do and told everyone about it.

When you’re starting out, what you’re doing may feel like a version of the real thing. It takes a lot of practice and repetition for the stars to get to be stars and they all started as beginners. Even the prodigy piano player had to sit down at the piano for the first time to discover that s/he had the talent. Then s/he kept playing the piano over and over until enough people looked at him/her, young as s/he is, and noted s/he’s got talent.

It is the same for you. Whatever you pick to do for your living, keep telling other people about it and keep doing the work. Eventually, you will be known for your unique version of “nothing new under the sun.”

© 2018 Brenda Henning