Many smokers feel like the best remedy for stress is a cigarette. When they try to quit, stress turns into a trigger to smoke. A great way to avoid that urge to smoke is to deal with stress before it causes physical symptoms. This Monday, learn how to manage your stress and find new ways to go down a healthier path!

No matter what stage you are in your journey to quitting smoking, it’s always a smart idea to identify what makes you want to smoke. These are your triggers, and for many smokers, stress is a big trigger. With that in mind, go back a step and try to identify what causes you stress – what are your stress triggers? Knowing how to manage your stress is a great way to be one step ahead of your cigarette cravings.

While it’s not realistic to avoid all stress, there are some practical ways to help overcome it when it arrives. Even though smoking may feel like a way to cope, nicotine actually has the opposite effect on the body. Increased blood pressure and heart rate and tense muscles are all side effects of smoking. The things you can do without cigarettes are not only healthier, they address and ease these very symptoms.

The first thing to try when facing a stressful situation is deep breathing. Take some time to step away and focus on your breathing in a mindful way. Pay close attention to your inhales and exhales, and how your lungs fill with air before gradually releasing it. Deep breathing calms the nervous system, eases muscle tension, slows down your heart rate, and lowers blood pressure.

Another great way to relieve stress is to move. Anything from taking a walk to exercising can help you distract yourself from stress and decrease your craving for a cigarette. Fitting 30 minutes of physical activity into your daily routine has benefits for your physical and mental health, plus it helps you get in better shape while you quit smoking.

If you can’t step away from your desk during a period of stress, find something at your desk to distract you. Seek out something that brings you joy like a picture of someone you love, a memory that makes you laugh, or a favorite song. You could even come up with a stress-busting playlist to keep on hand! It’ll serve you well while you quit smoking and long after you’ve quit for good.

When stress strikes, you don’t have to let it get the best of you. You have the strength to manage your stress and your quit. Take a deep breath this Monday and stop stress in its tracks!