It doesn’t matter if you are a young person smoking or an experienced pack a day smoker, quitting cigarettes is not easy to do. If you educate yourself more about this, you will have an easier job in quitting them. With positive and right attitude and good planning, you will be free from smoking, control craving as substitute for cigarettes and be a healthy person again.
Why does quitting seem to be hard
Tobacco and smoking causes both physical and mental dependence. The nicotine gives you a certain high feeling of pleasure, but only for a short while. When you don’t get nicotine in your body, you will experience withdrawal symptoms immediately and start to crave more junk foods. The brain gets a really good kick feeling from nicotine, and this is why in moments of stress or tension we reach for a cigarette. Especially when experiencing depression, anxiety, boredom, etc.
Smoking on the other hand is also at the same time considered to be a must-do habit of everyday life. We automatically get a cigarette with the morning coffee every day unconsciously, during break at school or work, or at home during any time of the day. Sometimes people around us influence us indirectly to start smoking – friends, colleagues, family, etc.
Strategy for quitting and planning
Some smokers quit instantly the hard way, cold turkey. Others gradually decrease the amount. With a good plan, you can successfully start short-term and keep on going for long-term to avoid relapsing and failing. Everyone is different so everyone needs his own personal plan.
What you need to ask yourself
Reflect on your smoking habits, what type of smokers you belong to, when do you reach for a cigarette right away and what is the reason for that. This will guide you towards more techniques and tips to overcome this habit.
- Do you have to smoke after eating?
- Are you social smoker more or less?
- Is it bad (more than one pack a day)? Can one nicotine patch do the job instead?
- Do you smoke when you feel tension or sadness?
- What addictions are related to smoking for you? Gambling, alcohol?
- What activities or people and places are triggering the smoking?
- Would you try hydrotherapy or acupuncture?
- Can you talk about this with a counselor or therapist?
- Would you get in a fitness program or gym plan?
START – start the stop smoking strategy
S = set quit date
Choose one date in the next week or two to be able to prepare yourself for quitting and remain motivated. So, if you light a smoke at work breaks, you can start quitting on the weekends and adjust in time.
T = tell family, friends and co-workers
Tell your close circle of people about your plan to get support from every side; and encouraging thoughts as well. It is even easier if you do this with a quit buddy – another person that has the same goal.
A = anticipate and plan ahead for upcoming challenges
If someone relapses, it usually happens in the first 3 months within quitting. Prepare in advance and ahead for such temptations.
R = remove cigarettes and tobacco from the home, car, office
Don’t hesitate and throw everything in the bin – lighters, packs, ashtrays, matches. Wash all the clothes. Refresh all the rooms. Wash and shampoo the car, wash the drapes, clean the furniture.
T = talk to your doctor on more advice
The medical experts can actually prescribe some things to aid you easier. If you don’t see a doctor, just purchase over the counter products or from the market or grocery store; nicotine patches, lozenges and nicotine gums.
How can you quit and what are your triggers
The best way to start this challenge is to know what makes you smoke! Situations? People? Boredom? Feelings? Activities?
Craving journal at hand
This journal will be a good evidence of everything you need about triggers. Start in the first week and keep track of anything. Especially keep track on every moment you want to smoke.
- What is the time?
- Intensity of craving from 1-10?
- What were you doing at the moment?
- Who was with you?
- What feelings are there?
- Feelings after the smoking?
Do you smoke to remove bad feelings?
Adult people smoke because of depression, anxiety, breakups, loneliness, fear and stress. If you have a bad day or a week, you even oversmoke for no reason whatsoever. Yes, smoking makes you feel a bit pleasant but only for a few minutes. Keep in mind there are other options that are healthy and will make you even more pleasant than smoking. Exercise, meditate, walk, run, watch movies, do art, find a hobby you like and do right breathing techniques.
With every smoker and ex smoker there is one thing in common – alternative for a cigarette. It is a must. You can quit them for a long time or for life, and still miss that feeling of tobacco. So, reflect on what makes you crave them.
Tips for smokers to avoid triggers for a smoke
- Alcohol – when people drink, they smoke the most. Instead, have non-alcohol drinks or go to places where smoking isn’t allowed. Snack on healthy things – nuts, peanuts or chew a gum or even chew the straw for a drink.
- Other smokers around you – if someone next to you smokes, you get tempted to smoke again too. That is why everyone you know, must be informed that you are quitting. They shouldn’t smoke around you, or in your car, or on a break at work. At your job, don’t go to breaks with all the smokers.
- After a meal – this is among the most common triggers too, after a good meal. Instead, have a fruit, dessert, square chocolate or gum.
How to cope with the nicotine withdrawal and how to quit for good
When you quit smoking, you go through withdrawal instantly both physical and mental. It can even start within the first half an hour up to an hour after the last cigarette! The peak of crisis is 2-3 days in the start. This is different from person to person both in time and length.
Withdrawal symptoms common for every smoker
- Craving for a smoke
- Irritability, anger
- No concentration
- More appetite
- Coughing more than usual
- Decreased heart rate
- Upset stomach
Do not worry all these symptoms are not permanent, they are just in the starting days. After a few weeks they disappear gradually when the toxins of your body get erased by time. In time, notify friends and family that you might experience bad symptoms so as they won’t be surprised.
How to cope with these symptoms? Read about the symptom, duration and relief
- Craving a smoke – intense in the first 7 days up to a few months – wait for it to pass and distract any way you can like for example walk or do sports
- Irritability – 2-4 weeks- exercise, take hot showers and baths, use meditation and proper breathing and no caffeine
- Insomnia – 2-4 weeks- no caffeine especially not after 6 pm, exercise, read
- Fatigue- 2-4 weeks- take naps more often
- No focus- few weeks- reduce work and obligations and no stress situations
- Hunger and cravings- few weeks and more- take water sips or natural juices and drinks and snack low calorie foods
- Cough and dry throat and nasal dripping- few weeks- take many liquids and use cough drops on natural basis
- Gas and constipation- 1-2 weeks- many fluids and a lot of fiber in the diet as well as exercise
Quit cigarettes and deal with the cravings
When you get away from the triggers you have less urge to smoke, but you can never remove the triggers completely of course. If you get the urge to have a smoke, remind yourself that is not permanent and you must wait for it to pass instead of having that smoke. Prepare beforehand.
Distractions- wash the dishes, watch TV, have a friend come over.
Know why did you quit- keep in mind the reason why you quit smoking to keep the health intact, to look better and fresh, to save money too
Stay away from temptation- pay attention to the situation or place you are at. If needed, change immediately.
Give yourself credit- celebrate these small but actually big victories. If you survive one or more cravings, you will be even more motivated.
Craving a smoke momentarily and dealing with this
- Oral replacements- have stuff to put in your mouth once this happens. Mints, carrot, hard candy, celery sticks, sunflower seed, gum
- Busy thinking- read books, magazines, solve crosswords, Sudoku or play a game
- Busy hands- squeeze balls and toys, paper clips, pencils to satisfy the tactile needs
- Brush teeth- you will want smoking less with clean minty teeth
- Sip water – have a big glass of cold water, it makes you feel full, removes craving too
- Light, but not a smoke- candle, incense or anything similar
- Activity- walk, run, jog, do pushups, use jump rope, do yoga
- Relax- have a nice bath or shower, meditate, read or just breathe calmly
Stop the kilograms after the quitting
It is normal to experience weight gain with such challenges. Many people don’t even quit because of this. Yes, it is not a lie that smokers get extra pounds in the first few months, but that weight is insignificant actually, 5 pounds more or less and the good thing is that that weight stops after a while. But still, be prepared to get a kilo or two plus if you quit.
A know fact is that smoking is suppressing the appetite. It numbs down your appetite and smell and taste receptors and sensors. When you don’t smoke, you smell and taste better and reach more for foods. This happens when you opt for junk foods instead of healthy snacks. Also, compare a few pounds with poisons in your body and see what is better in the end. Do not eat like a robot and focus on other things too:
Take care of yourself- don’t immediately get a cigarette or chips and find out other ways
Have healthy meals- many fruits, veggies, water, no fat or sugars. Stay away from alcohol, sweets, sodas
A lot of water- minimum 6-8 glasses per day make you fresh, hydrated and fuller for a longer while. It will also rinse off all the internal toxins and fight weight gain even more, but also block stress from the quitting
Walk a lot- with this you will be active, gain no weight and relieve stress
Low calorie snacks or even no calories- have no sugar gums, diet candies, carrot, celery, jicama, bell peppers
Meds or therapy for quitting
Some of these meds can suppress appetite or the other symptoms, but they are best used when someone is monitoring you. Talk and take advice from your doctor to choose the right program. According to US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) these are the best options:
- Replacing nicotine with therapy- this is just basically replacing one thing with another just as satisfying. Take nicotine patches or gums. You will surely get the needed nicotine, even in a smaller dosage, except that this time there is no tar or poisons like you get from a cigarette. This is a really effective substitute for many smokers so far, they focus more and suppress hunger, beat the mental aspects of withdrawal and learn how to cope better.
- Meds with no nicotine- these meds aid in quitting and suppressing hunger cravings. Examples are bupropion (Zyban) and also varenicline (Chantix) but keep in mind they are short term supplements.
Alternative options for quitting smoke
Certain things can be done to prevent relapsing from smoking and these options are not medications or nicotine swaps. Talk with your doctor or just see Resources and References at the bottom for additional info.
Hypnosis- this is really popular lately and had shown some good outcome. This is nothing like stage or magic hypnosis, it is simply a deep relaxation where you get suggestions that make you more determined to quit and endure this process.
Acupuncture- it is an old medical procedure or at least looks medical too; this technique strikes directly at the endorphins that naturally relieve pain and make the body relax all the way. This is especially useful for overcoming withdrawal symptoms.
Behavior therapy- basically, smoking and nicotine addiction is closely related to behaviours or habits induced from smoking or in situations with smoking. With this therapy you learn about new skills and methods to replace these habits.
Motivation therapy- you can learn a lot from the internet or self-help books and find your motivation reasons. Simple way is to count how much money you waste on cigarettes. Some people even save money to go on a short vacation!
NOTE: SMOKELESS TOBACCO OR SPIT TOBACCO DOES NOT COUNT AS QUITTING
This kind of tobacco known as spit tobacco is not safe even though it has no smoke. It also has nicotine in itself. Actually, the nicotine amount from this tobacco is even 4 times the one in cigarettes.
What to do if relapse happens
People quit and relapse many times before they quit for good really. It is nothing bad if you relapse, everyone does. But, make that a learning experience. Think what made you relapse and you will know your trigger. After this continue with the plan or make a new one to change things up!
Also, it is not the same to say slip or relapse. Slip means having one smoke and not continuing. Relapse means being a full time smoker again. So, if you relapse, relapse into a slip!
I am a smoker all over again, now what
Having these slip ups and little relapses means nothing unbeatable.
- You are not a loser for having one smoke, you can still quit
- A slip must NOT become a full relapse. One smoke and that’s it, throw the rest of the pack.
- Look at the journal for quitting you have and see how it felt like not to smoke.
- Pinpoint the triggers. What made you light one? How will you deal with the same thing next time?
- Learn from mistakes, don’t beat yourself up. What helped? What didn’t?
Do you take medicines for this process? See the doctor if you start smoking all over because many meds are not to be combined with cigarettes.