Quit Smoking Tip of The Week: Fight Post-Cessation Depression!

Standard

black and white blank challenge connect

Quitting smoking can momentarily bring on a more depressed mood as your body adjusts its hormone balance and the nicotine receptors slowly start to decrease back to a normal level. Think of it this way- when you smoke a cigarette, nicotine attaches to naturally occurring receptors in your brain. When this happens, you get a flood of dopamine (the feel good hormone). As time goes on and your smoking becomes a habit, your brain develops even more receptors allowing more nicotine to bind to receptors, resulting in a huge flood of dopamine. Well, your brain is not used to having this much dopamine readily available and down regulates this amount. Think of it as you listening to uncomfortably loud music and putting earplugs in to lessen what you can hear (Sleight, VJ. (2016, September 18) A craving is just your brain screaming, “WHERE’S MY NICOTINE?” Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/craving-just-your-brain-screaming-wheres-my-nicotine-vj/). This is what your brain does with dopamine.

white headphone

Once you stop smoking, your brain will take a while (a few weeks usually) to adjust to the lessened amount of dopamine that is being produced. Your brain is still down regulating the amount of dopamine being produced, leading to even less dopamine being processed in your brain than before you started smoking. So, you’ve turned the music down but you haven’t taken the earplugs out yet (Sleight, VJ.). The time it takes is different for everyone’s brain to adjust to the normal hormone levels now being produced (some only days, some up to a few weeks) and this could by why some people experience depressed symptoms after quitting tobacco use and some do not. It could also be the reason for increased agitation and feelings of anxiety as part of the withdrawals.

Also, as we dive into the winter season in Michigan we need to be aware that seasonal depression is among us. Up to 10% of adults will experience SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder (Mental Health America, http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/sad).

photography of trees covered with snow

Here are a few things that you can do consistently throughout the week to help fight the onset of depression or to just increase your happiness in general: 

  • Keep a Gratitude Journal
  • Savor the moment. This could be any moment- having dinner with a friend, talking with a loved one, walking outside, etc. Savor it by being completely present in this moment- no thoughts of the past or future, electronics put away, thoughts on what you feel, see and hear in that moment.
  • Be kind to someone. This could be someone that you know, or a complete stranger. But the idea is to act with kindness without expecting anything in return. Open the door for someone, smile at a stranger, give someone a compliment.
  • Spend less money on things and more on experiences (but free experiences are an added bonus). We get used to and bored with things. Experiences are encoded as memories that we can cherish forever, and they foster personal growth.
  • Make a new social connection or strengthen a friendship that you currently have. Say hi to a stranger, call a friend that you haven’t spoken to in a while, check-in on your neighbor.

These are just a few! I encourage you to do some of your own research, try out new things and see what works for you to lessen the seasonal blues. I strongly believe in taking care of your mental health and reaching the highest potential as possible regarding your happiness– we all deserve it! If you would like to work on more specific coping mechanisms with a smoking cessation counselor one on one to develop an individualized approach with tangible resources to help you quit with less distress, reach out to Amber Jager at (313)446-9817 for persons living in the Detroit area, and Erin Suprunk at (734)961-1077 for persons living in the Ypsilanti and Jackson area to see if you qualify for FREE smoking cessation services!

Please take into consideration that the combination of these activities are meant to be a part of lifestyle changes in order to help increase general happiness and fight off mild feelings of depression, but are in no means meant to treat Major Depressive Disorder or other extreme conditions that need to be treated by a physician. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or experiencing extreme or worsening depression, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, and prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.

National Suicide Lifeline

Quit Smoking Tip of the Week: Stay prepared with supplies!

Standard

Find a place (your backpack, purse, home, car, etc.) where you can easily access a supply of gum, mints, toothpicks, fidget toys, and whatever else can keep your hands and mouth busy to distract you from the urge to smoke as well as fulfill the hand-to-mouth routine that your body has become used to from months to years of smoking. If you are interested in quitting or reducing your tobacco use, call (313)446-9817 to schedule an appointment with Amber Jager, Tobacco Treatment Reduction Program Specialist at the Detroit location, or (734)961-1077 to schedule an appointment with Erin Suprunuk, Tobacco Treatment Reduction Program Specialist at the Ypsilanti office. During your visit you can create a quit plan that includes individual tobacco counseling sessions with one of our specialists, or you can just stop by to pick up a quit kit that includes a variety of the above supplies listed to help you reduce and cope with smoking cravings! Below I have outlined a few more helpful things to keep with you for withdrawal symptoms and the quit-smoking-journey.

Your Quitting Tool-Kit

cinnamon stick

The Power of Cinnamon Sticks: You can purchase whole cinnamon sticks and literally replace them with your cigarettes. Of course you won’t light these up, but you can use cinnamon sticks to mimic the motion of how you use a cigarette: inhale with the cinnamon stick when you feel a craving, until this feeling subsides. This helps by adding the deep breathing that your body gets when smoking a cigarette and the motion can even help trick your body into thinking that you are smoking and calm the urge a bit. This does not work for everyone, but is worth a shot. An added bonus is that even just using cinnamon mints or cinnamon containing gums, oils, etc. help to drastically reduce sugar cravings! So if you’re concerned about weight gain and the craving for unhealthy food, try some cinnamon to combat this.

journal2

Journal The Process: Keeping a journal on you can be very beneficial for you in order to understand your habits and help prevent relapse in the future. It can also be helpful to prevent boredom when used as a creative outlet. Something that I have most of my clients do, depending on their stage in the quitting process, is fill out a Pack Wrap. A Pack Wrap is where you record the feelings/triggers/actions that are occurring during the times when you smoke. The goal is for you and myself to understand what the most triggering situations/feelings are, and create an individualized and successful quit plan with the help of this information. How you do it: this is to be done before you actually quit smoking. Over the course of a few days to a week (I encourage recording a couple days during the week and one day on the weekend to get a full view of your habits) keep your journal on you throughout the entire day. Right before you smoke a cigarette, record the time of day, what you just did/are about to do, and what feelings you have. Even as adults, it can be hard to identify what exactly you are feeling, and this list of 57 different emotions can come in handy to give a name to what you feel.

water bottle

Stay Hydrated: The first 3-4 days are the most important when it comes to helping your body detox from nicotine and the many other substances that your body has absorbed from smoking. Try to drink half your body weight in ounces each days (if you weigh 150lbs, then you should be drinking about 75 ounces of water daily). Keeping a water bottle handy at all times, though, will help you with hunger cravings (a lot of the time we think we are hungry when we are just dehydrated), tiredness, headaches and coughing that all can occur at increased rates during the withdrawal stage.