Chronic Anxiety and Quitting Smoking

Chronic Anxiety and Quitting Smoking
I am a 39 year old woman who lives in a constant state of anxiety. I have been on numerous anti-anxiety and depression medications over the years but have never found one that relieved my anxiety–or if it did at all, I was not able to continue because of the medication’s side effects.   I have had many problems in employment situations which I believe are
largely due to being unable to relax or feel at peace.  Any suggestions? I have been trying to exercise and attempt to eat healthy foods but I wake up in the morning with this up-tight feeling of dread. It  effects my life in a very negative way. Any help would be much appreciated.

It sounds like you are on the right path, but you may need some additional support.

 First, in addition to your exercise and nutrition program, I am assuming that you have cut out all caffeine and nicotine.  Both tend to increase symptoms of anxiety.

Second, make sure that your fitness program includes aerobic exercise, weight training AND stretching.  All are equally important.
Third, get a relaxation tape (I have one called “The Golden Circle of Light” available on my web site).  Make it a part of your daily routine to lie down and listen to a relaxation tape for 30 minutes.  Some days you’ll feel ore relaxed than others, but over time you’ll increase your ability to let go of tension.

 Fourth, remember that anxiety disorder is a chronic disease that is not your fault.  There is even some indication that it has a genetic base.  If you don’t feel you’ve found a doctor or a therapist who can help you, keep trying.  Some of the newer SSRI antidepressants are very helpful–but the main thing is to find mental health professionals who are willing to do the
 “detective work” of finding just the combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and life skill development to help you find relief.

 Fifth, you may find that talking things out with a qualified therapist will help to shed light on the patterns of thinking and relating to others that lend themselves to a high level of tension.

Anxiety is a challenge,but people do find relief, and get into a new more relaxed chapter of life. That’s my hope for you.

Daphne Stevens, Ph.D.

Her response:
Thank you for the advice. One of the first things you mentioned was caffeine and nicotine. I do drink a couple of cups of coffee a day, and it’s embarrassing to admit that I have been addicted to nicotine since I was in high school. I am
a closet smoker, in that I don’t smoke in front of people and wish so much that I was not dependant on that substance. I have tried to quit many, many times, even up to a few months at a time but always go back thinking that it makes me feel better but I’m sure you are right in that it increases anxiety. I’m going to try hard to quit again.

Anyways, thanks for giving me your input.

My response:
I think you’re onto something.  Nicotine is one of the most toxic substances around.  It raises blood pressure and heart rate, sending the body signals that it is anxious, worsening whatever symptoms you may have.  Quitting smoking could be the greatest gift you could give yourself as well as the people you love. 
If you  decide to quit, don’t do it in isolation.  Help is available through physicians and support groups.  The surgeon general has also provided a comprehensive help sheet that can be accessed at
Good luck!

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