The impact of quitting smoking on my mental health

Quitting smoking can provide benefits to mental health as well as physical health. The journey of quitting can be daunting and bring up feelings of anxiety and fear. We spoke to Kim who explained to us how she quit smoking, and the positive changes the move had on her mental health.

"The only way it will affect your mental health is in a positive manner. Sure it may be tough at the beginning, and there could be lots of fears and anxieties, but that is because you are taking control of your life"

– Kim

The link between mental health and smoking

Many smokers feel they can’t quit because of the anxiety and stress the quitting journey will bring. When smokers haven’t had a cigarette for a while, the craving for another makes them feel irritable and anxious. Therefore, whilst lighting up a cigarette, smokers may experience a temporary feeling of calmness and relief.

But this relief is just the absence of anxiety brought on from smoking. How can quitters break the cycle and feel able to quit for the benefit of their mental health?

My quitting journey was very much about unlearning the wrong behaviours I had learned

Kim told us that before 2018 she, nor her friends and family, would have ever thought she’d quit. ‘Never in a million years did I or any of my friends think I would be a non-smoker. I smoked around 20 cigarettes a day.’

Kim quickly realised that many of her behaviours surrounding the need to smoke were learnt, and could be changed. The feeling of ‘calm’ she believed she had with a cigarette in hand, was doing the opposite effect and leaving her anxious whenever she wasn’t smoking.

I still incorporated going outside for a ‘smoke’ break but changed it to a ‘fresh air’ break

In the beginning, quitting smoking can present feelings of anxiety, in particular when it comes to missing out socially with friends who may still smoke. Kim advises still taking regular  ‘fresh air’ breaks, so you don’t immediately feel like you are missing out.

Kim explained ‘I was terrified I would miss out on all the conversations you have outside the pub on a smoke break, so I went out anyway and could learn to still socialise outside just like a non-smoker.’ Kim also found that getting a glass of water when cravings set in helped her manage the urge.

Since quitting, I have more energy and my thinking is more focused

The impact on Kim’s mental health has been clear. Uncomfortable thoughts and feelings won’t last forever, and the positive impact on your mental health will become evident with time. Kim felt that ‘taking control of my life and making healthy decisions based on what I wanted’ made her feel more positive.

Uncomfortable feelings don’t last forever, and the long-term benefits of quitting can be very rewarding.

Find out how smoking and mental health are related, and how you can manage your mental health when quitting.

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