Guest Blog Post by Vicki Cook from Inspired Change
This seemed to be the theme for me last week. Clients and people I spoke to said that they had stopped smoking weeks or a few months ago but found that their stress levels had increased. Why is this? How can smoking help relax the body? It’s not the smoking but the action or deep breathing of smoking that relaxes the body. Nicotine is actually a stimulant that increases the heart rate and blood pressure. When a person goes for a cigarette they will take a deep breath in and then slowly exhale the smoke. This pattern of breathing usually continues until the end of the cigarette. It is the deep breath in that sends a signal to the brain to calm down and relax. This signal is then forwarded to the rest of the body.
When we are stressed, our breathing is shallow and rapid and we use the shoulders to breath. This is a natural part of the fight-flight response. When we are relaxed we breath deeper and use the diaphragm allowing more oxygen into the lungs and therefore our body. It is this type of breathing that practices like meditatio n, Tai Chi and Yoga teach to assist with relaxation. So if you have stopped smoking and feel that your stress levels have increased what can you do? Create a new breathing habit. As with the old habit of smoking there were ‘rituals’ around it, ie going outside to a favourite spot, having a coffee with your cigarette, chatting to work colleagues etc, so with the new breathing habit new ‘rituals’ will need to be created.
For a client of mine her habit was going outside to have a cigarette under one of the trees in the garden, so after discussing this with her she felt that she couldn’t go outside for the new breathing habit as it was too close to what she use to do. Instead she decided to create a space in her office where she could go and sit, focusing on long slow breaths in and out. In between each breath she would also take a sip of water. The next day she SMS me saying “I’ve been doing the breathing exercise and beginning to feel the benefits!” Water was also added to her new breathing habit to help release stress. When we become stressed we become dehydrated, particularly our brain as the fluid in our body is redirected to our muscles for “fight or flight”. This dehydration causes us to feel foggy, unable to focus on what we need to do. By increasing our water intake at the same time as deep breathing we are able to reduce our level of stress and improve our focus.
I encourage you to create a new breathing habit for yourself. This new breathing habit will also benefit those of us who have never smoked as we all suffer from stress in our lives. Take regular breaks in your day to breath deeply for at least 10 breaths and sip on some water. The more often you practice your new breathing habit the greater the benefits you will feel.
Kinesiologist, Massage Therapist and Raw Food Coach
0407 844 868