We frequently hear cases where people resolve to quit smoking, but then fall off the wagon after being unable to endure the stress of cessation.
All of us know how hard it can be to give up bad habits. Especially when they’ve been smoking for years, many smokers will tend to feel more comfortable and relaxed while smoking (and getting their nicotine fix). When they decide to quit, stress can build up in different ways from a variety of sources: work, home, personal life, life in general. And then there’s the stress commonly associated with nicotine withdrawal.
Not having cigarettes around as a stress reliever, can make things seem unbearable and just add to the pressure. This can cause people to feel mentally unstable, increasing mistakes in work, which triggers additional negatives and stress, and then…bam. Back to smoking.
The cycle of smoking cessation and failure is largely due to a reliance on nicotine. Given that nicotine withdrawal symptoms tend to settle within around a month after quitting, it is said that those first several weeks are pivotal to quit success. If you can get through that first month, you can increase your chances of putting the habit behind you.
This time we will introduce three recommended habits to survive that first month and win at smoking cessation.
1. Recognize the risks of smoking and benefits of quitting
Before giving up smoking and reduce your desire for cigarettes, it is important to first recognize the risks associated with smoking.
The greatest risk of smoking is long-term harm to your health. The consequences of smoking generally aren’t apparent overnight and can take years to manifest. And when they do present themselves, they can be somewhat innocuous in initial appearance – like your finding yourself pausing for breath halfway up a flight of stairs, or you have a cough that doesn’t seem to go away. These symptoms will most likely increase in severity over time. Smoking increases the likelihood of your getting sick. Smoking also increases the risk of contracting a number of diseases and can also lead to cancer, peptic ulcer, aortic aneurysm, abdominal aortic aneurysm, ischemic heart disease, stroke, COPD, and a number of others.
There is also data from the World Health Organization showing that nonsmokers and smokers have a big difference in life span. The ways that smokers die are quite unpleasant as well. Reading some of the experiences of long-term smoking patients who have suffered from lung cancer, can provide a fair amount of food for thought. In nearly all cases, the patients express regret that they had not quit smoking sooner, and that their loved ones must deal with the consequences of their smoking habit. Although reading and listening to these experiences can be pretty heavy and depressing, it is important that you recognize the choice in front of you – literally choosing life or choosing a slow and miserable death.
So how about the benefits of quitting smoking? There are the simple ones that come to mind: saving money; not having to worry about carrying that smoke smell around with you; stabilizing or improving your health condition. And then there are the softer benefits as well, like recovering your dignity and not feeling like such a slave to tobacco, and being able to enjoy a longer, healthier time with loved ones.
Creating a positive image of life after smoking is important. Doing this can help make the initial challenges of smoking cessation more bearable and help maintain your motivation.
2. When you want to smoke, plan to do something else
Easing – even just a little – that demonic desire to smoke is vital to your success in quitting. Switching up your behavior pattern can be key. Before you quit, pay more attention to when you want to smoke. Is it before/after meals? When you wake up in the morning? Also consider things that trigger you to smoke – like when you are bored, when you’re outside with friends, or when you get a cup of coffee.
After taking note of these patterns, when you plan your quit, consider what you can do instead of smoking. For instance the following might be helpful when you get that urge:
- chewing mint gum
- drinking carbonated water or tea
- eating sunflower seeds or almonds
- going for a walk
- doing intense exercise, such as going for a jog or swimming
- you can also consider giving yourself small rewards when are tempted to smoke, but don’t
A key point is to find a replacement method that suits you, your personality and your lifestyle. If you feel stressed in a way that does not fit, your desire to smoke cigarettes becomes stronger, which makes it more likely to fail at quitting smoking as a result. If you find a replacement method that suits yourself before you begin smoking cessation, you will have a better margin for success. It can be said that doing things at your own pace is a shortcut to quitting smoking.
3. Find a quit group to help support your decision
As with any habit you’re looking to change, having supportive people around you will help boost your motivation and maintain your momentum. You don’t have to go at things alone. If you have friends who are working together with the same intention, you can encourage them even if they are going to be frustrated – and likewise, they can help keep you focused on your resolve as well.
By starting your non-smoking life with familiar people such as family members and friends, you can keep your decision heading in the right direction: “although withdrawal symptoms were strong today, they helped pull me through.” We all face times of weakness, and being able to have someone else there can help prevent you from lapsing back to smoking.
Even if you don’t have anyone close to you who is looking to quit smoking, there are many resources available to people who want to quit. From Facebook to Reddit, there are a number of quit groups and bulletin boards online. Doing a quick net search will also reveal a number of quit groups that offer weekly in-person meetings. And there are also a number of free counseling opportunities available as well. If you are going to start quitting earnestly, it would be a good idea to make friends for smoking cessation.
Smoking cessation can be continued without a lot of headache if you stand firmly to the three points above. Since the desire to smoke cigarettes does not last forever, it is something you can overcome with time. Let’s take a step forward for smoking cessation.