Quitting tobacco is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight, but compared to the amount of time most of us spent smoking, recovery can be very quick, indeed.
Years of smoking taught us to react to literally everything by lighting a cigarette. When we were happy, we’d celebrate by lighting up. When we got angry, smoking would calm us down, or so we thought. Tired? Smoke a cigarette to stay awake. Hungry? Feed yourself a smoke. This list goes on. Between the physical addiction to nicotine, and the mental associations that tie what seems like all of our activities to cigarettes, it can feel as though we’re chained to the habit with links of steel.
Successful recovery from this addiction includes learning how to hear the message behind the urge to smoke and respond with more appropriate choices, such as a nap or a meal, for instance. Have patience with yourself! This new skill takes some time to hone, but you’ll get better at it. Eventually, cigarettes will fade as a trigger, and you’ll make choices based on what you really need without thinking twice about it.
Memorize the meaning of this acronym: H.A.L.T.(Hungry,Angry,Lonely,Tired), and you’ll have a powerful checklist to help you decode the urges you experience. Nine times out of ten, a craving can be traced to one of these four things:
- Have a snack or a meal. If you are hungry, food is the answer, not a cigarette! If you’re concerned about weight gain, try drinking water to help control between meal eating. Have healthy snacks on hand also. Celery sticks, raw baby carrots and frozen grapes make good low calorie snacks.
Normal weight gain due to quitting is 5-8 pounds. Metabolism does slow a bit, so getting some daily exercise is a good idea. Take a look at Weight Gain FAQ’s for answers to weight gain questions. Also read Maia’s Six Month Milestone for a first-hand perspective on this issue from someone with six months smoke free under her belt.
The bottom line is this: don’t be too hard on yourself. Try to eat in moderation, but until you get your quit program under solid control, don’t fret if you gain a few pounds. Quitting tobacco should be in the top slot of your priority list for as long as it takes. Weight can always be lost later.
- This is a big trigger for most of us. Find healthy outlets for your feelings of frustration – if at all possible, try to deal with the situation that is bothering you head on, and be done with it. Talk to friends and family about your feelings or write in your journal. The important thing is not to let anger simmer and get the upper hand. Reaching for a cigarette can seem like a quick fix, but it’s always a false fix. Smoking will put you back to square one and you’ll be disappointed in yourself as well.
We may not always be able to choose the events that happen around us, but we will always have the choice of how we let external situations affect us emotionally. This is important! If you’re mad, you have the power to change that negative feeling in an instant. Try some of these stress busters the next time you need a boost. Positive self-talk is another way to pull yourself out of the doldrums. Use affirmations to help you create the reality you want for yourself. We have a way of taking actions which are in line with our beliefs, so what you tell yourself matters – a lot. Make affirmations empowering and keep them in the here and now. Instead of saying: “I will be a healthy nonsmoker”, say it this way: “I AM a healthy nonsmoker.” Rather than saying “I have to quit smoking”, tell yourself, “I get to quit smoking”. Minor shifts in attitude can make a world of difference.
Education is also a powerful ally – the more you learn about the effects of tobacco, the less value cigarettes will have for you. Learn to hate the habit, and you’ll have leverage to help you become smoke free and stay that way for good.
- Another word to describe this could be bored. Take a look at 101 Things to Do Instead of Smoking. This list comes from forum members who are all in the process of quitting themselves. Early on in cessation, distraction is a useful tool. If you’re bored, try redirecting your attention, and see if it helps.
Depression also falls under this category, and can affect anyone. People quitting tobacco are especially susceptible, at least early on, because leaving cigarettes behind can feel like the loss of a friend. My Darling… was one quitter’s way of saying goodbye to the habit that was killing her. Ten Healthy Actions to get Yourself out of a Funk is a great article from About Guide to Holistic Healing, Phylameana lila Deasy. If you feel yourself slipping into a depressed state, take action. Change your environment and it will usually change your attitude.
- Fatigue can be a huge trigger. Instead of lighting up, give yourself time to slow down and relax a little, or even go to bed early if you need to. Sounds so simple, yet people often push themselves too far with all of the demands of life these days. Be aware. Don’t let yourself get rundown. Protect your quit by protecting your health, both physically, and mentally.
It may feel like you’ll never be free of cigarettes and thoughts of smoking will always plague you, but have some faith in yourself, and please be patient. We taught ourselves to smoke, and we can teach ourselves to forget it too. Give yourself time to retrain and get some practice at living your life smoke free. Soon enough, it will seem the most natural thing in the world. You’ll get to the point where you’ll wonder why you didn’t quit sooner, because life without cigarettes has become so easy for you. In the meantime, remember H.A.L.T.
First, say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do. Health Service Food and Human Resources: www.cigs4us.biz