When you smoke, your body is physically used to getting a regular fix of nicotine. When you take that away, it’s normal that you’ll experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Psychologically, smokers find it difficult to separate smoking from other daily rituals, such as having a cigarette with your morning coffee, or going for a smoke break with colleagues. After years of doing this, it’s hard to think of one thing without the other.
Making the decision to quit smoking is a huge step forward for your health. However, in the hours, days and weeks that follow, you may need more than just willpower to help you combat the urge to smoke. And that’s perfectly normal!
Quitting smoking means breaking a physical addiction and a psychological habit. When you think about quitting, it’s like breaking two chains: one is the physical craving, and the other is the habits and routines that lead you to smoking.
Here are a few tips to help you get beyond those moments when you feel the need to have a cigarette.
Know your triggers
When, what, and who do you associate with smoking? Are there people that you normally like to share a smoke break with? Do you like to smoke after a meal? Do you smoke more when you are drinking alcohol, or feeling stressed?
Understanding the places, people and events that lead you to smoking can help you quit. If you know times you’ll be around your triggers, write them down. It can help you prepare for these situations (which may be avoiding them altogether).You may even need to plan to avoid those places, situations or people that act as triggers for a little while.
Manage your cravings
Here are a few ideas on how to keep the cravings at bay.
Keep your mouth busy. The sensation of having a cigarette in your mouth can be replaced with something healthy.
- Try carrot sticks, gum, mints, or healthy snacks
- Drink water to keep yourself occupied, and use a straw to satisfy your mouth cravings
Find something to hold onto. Many smokers who are quitting find it comforting to find a replacement for the sensation of holding a cigarette.
- Try squeezing a stress ball when you are having a craving.
- Do a crossword or play a game on your phone so that your hands are occupied.
- Some people find that a nicotine replacement therapy product, (e.g. Nicorette® inhaler), is a good tactile replacement for a cigarette.
Keep busy physically. Go for a walk when you feel a craving coming on. It will help clear your head and your lungs.
Use your network of friends and family for support. Sometimes people who are trying to quit don’t want to tell their friends and family. But that support can be critical. If you feel like having a cigarette, distract yourself by calling a family member or friend to talk about it, especially someone who has quit or is a non-smoker.
Remember why you wanted to quit in the first place. Keep a list of what you like and dislike about smoking. Remind yourself why you want to be an ex-smoker and how this will look and feel five years from now. Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings, and successes and failures, so you can re-read it to help you stay positive and focused.
Practice relaxation techniques. Cravings can be very stressful, both physically and emotionally. To reduce the stress, try these relaxation strategies:
- Take a warm bath
- Go for a walk
- Practice meditation or deep breathing exercises
- Read a book
Use a medication to help you quit
- Medication can help you overcome your withdrawal symptoms and cravings. In fact, research has shown that using nicotine replacement therapy can double your chances of quitting successfully.
- Nicotine replacement therapy includes patches, gum, lozenges, mouth spray and inhaler. Nicotine replacement therapy is very good at helping you combat cravings.
- Prescription medications are also available.
Don’t give up!
It may be tempting to have “just one” cigarette and think that it’s harmless. Research shows, however, that up to nine out of 10 smokers who decide to have a cigarette return to regular smoking. Follow the NOPE rule – Not One Puff Ever!