It has been said that it is more difficult to quit smoking than it is to quit using drugs! Smoking cigarettes is not only physically, but psychologically, addicting as well. While it is virtually impossible to convince a person, much less your own self, to quit smoking, there has never been a better time to stomp out the habit than today…right this very minute.
Nicotine is the substance contained in cigarettes that causes a person to have a physical addiction. The psychological dependency comes from the parts of our lives in which we include cigarettes. For instance, most cigarette smokers crave that first cigarette of the day, a smoke with a cup of coffee or alcoholic beverage, when we are stressed out or worried about something, or when we pick up the phone. It is inconceivable to think about having that morning cup of coffee without also having a smoke. But there are so many reasons, besides the fact that a pack can cost as much as $10 in some parts of the world, to quit a habit that has the potential to take years off of your life. If you feel you are ready to break the habit, it is important to first find avenues where you will receive support and encouragement from the people around you. You will have to re-learn how to do certain things without the accompanying cigarette. Learning to handle various triggers, as well as the stress that can sometimes push a person to smoke, will put you on the right track to quitting smoking forever.
Are You Ready?
Now that you have taken this major step to quit this addictive habit, you will need to set up and implement a plan of action. Pick a date on the calendar that is within two to four weeks of your decision to quit. This will give you time to prepare for the big day. Jot down the reasons why you want to stop smoking. Make sure that the reasons are yours, and not because your great-aunt Tilly wants you to quit. Keep this list of reasons where it is easily accessible and can be referred to each time you experience the urge to smoke. Rid your home, car and office of any smoking paraphernalia right before your scheduled stop date.
Who Can You Turn To?
Finding a person or group of people who will support you and provide you with encouragement when you need it most is an important step on your path to living smoke free. Carefully choose the people you want to include in this circle of support. Once you have established your group, make sure you use them. Make sure they are aware that by agreeing to be part your your accountability system, they are committing to receiving a phone call from you day or night, if they situation requires it.
Handling Stress Without Smoke
Most smokers light up in the midst of a stressful situation. While it will be difficult to find a coping mechanism that works best for you, consider relaxing by taking a hot bath, going for a walk, or doing some deep breathing exercises. You can also modify the certain things you did during the day in which you included a cigarette. For instance, if you enjoyed a cigarette with your morning coffee, try drinking your coffee later than usual, or in a setting where you are not permitted to smoke.
Handling Physical Withdrawal
Your physical withdrawal from cigarettes will depend on how heavy a smoker you were. If you smoked for a long time, then your body will indeed experience certain symptoms of withdrawal. For example, you may notice that you are feeling tense and irritable; you may experience headaches for the first couple of days upon quitting; or you may have trouble concentrating.
There are over-the-counter products that you can purchase to help get you over the initial hump. Nicotine replacement medication can help wean you off the nicotine rather than going cold turkey, which may be helpful in terms of lessening the withdrawal symptoms. Certain prescription medications such as bupropioon and varenicline may also be helpful in fighting the initial urges you may have to smoke.
Some of my patients have asked me whether electronic cigarettes are a safe alternative to smoking regular cigarettes. My answer to them is no; there simply is not enough research today to confirm or deny the safety of electronic cigarettes.
Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself if you go back to smoking. Just pick a new start date, write down the reason or situation you may have been in that caused you to smoke so that you can avoid it next time. While quitting smoking is difficult, your body will thank you!
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