Are you ready to quit, but don't know where to start? Let's take a look at some suggestions to help put you on the path to success!
You may already know that nicotine from smoking clears your system in 72 hours. Or, that cigarettes contain over 4000 chemicals, tar and gases. Detox involves more than just nicotine leaving your system, so it usually takes a few weeks before you get to the 'feeling better' phase of your quit. However, detox is only part of your quit process! Two thirds of quitting successfully involves actively addressing the emotional, habitual, and behavioral attachment to the act of smoking.
The Quit Formula
Using a quit medication such as Chantix, Zyban or NRT to take the edge off cravings + having clear motivations for what you will gain as a nonsmoker + having support from friends, quit buddies and family + learning from your past relapse triggers + staying busy while addressing those personal triggers effectively = a successful Quit!
You can quit with or without NRT or quit medications. The choice is yours, and many people do quit successfully cold turkey. You may have stronger initial cravings and withdrawal symptoms, but the overall quit process will remain the same.
The purpose of NRT (patch/lozenge/gum) is to take the edge off cravings so you can focus on breaking your attachments to the act of smoking. NRT keeps a slow, low, steady dose of nicotine in your system so you avoid the addictive 'rush/crash/crave' cycle that makes quitting tobacco so difficult. By removing some of the intensity of physical withdrawals, it may be easier for you to 'do the work' of practicing new nonsmoking behaviors and coping tools that support your new, smoke-free lifestyle.
NRT and quit medications are advised to be used for at least 8 weeks, and tapered off as directed by the product/medication manufacturer. Stepping down as directed ensures minimal cravings and maximum quit support. Why 8 weeks? Research shows it takes a good 8 weeks of practicing new behaviors, habits and coping tools to 'learn' a new habit. Doing so with overwhelming physical cravings often leads to relapse before any of the 'learning new behaviors' or 'habit breaking' part ever takes place. Reduced craving ensure you will stick with your quit long enough to succeed. In fact, using a support product can double your chances of a successful quit!
Work Your Quit
Long term quit success comes from having 8 weeks of practice and actively practicing new behaviors and coping tools, not from simply having support. The key factor here is the Quitter must actively work their quit process daily in order for support products or a cold turkey quit to be effective. How do you work your quit? You can start with some reflection and planning. Take a look at your biggest tobacco triggers. That is where you will want to put your time, energy and focus during the next few months!
- If you have quit for even a day; you have had success! What worked?
- What are your top three triggers?
- How have you dealt with these triggers during previous quits?
- What are a few more things you will commit to doing this time?
- How will you cope with stress, boredom, anger, and other smokers?
- Who will support your quit efforts? Reach out!
Become A Nonsmoker
Own your quit by coming up with new behaviors and trigger coping solutions that could work for you. For example, if coffee is a trigger, then drink your morning coffee at a smoke-free coffee shop, or make tea or hot cider at home instead. If driving is a trigger, drink water with a straw, sing along to a new CD, or repeat your motivations for quitting as you drive. Practice getting through cravings, triggers, disappointments and day to day life situations without using tobacco. No amount of NRT or medications can do this particular part of the quit for you, which is a good thing! It forces the newly quit to identify new coping tools and start thinking about living their day to day lives without a cigarette.
Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health. Get started right away! Let your support method of choice do its job, while you do your job ~ actively work your quit process! You will learn lots of new ways to enjoy your healthy, nonsmoking lifestyle.
Keep going, and KTQ!
Join us for free help with your Quit!
What are some challenges you can expect during the detox process? Will they ever end? Can you make it through? Those are all great questions; and ones we will answer in this installment of the QBlog!
First and foremost, re-frame your experience. The more you focus on healing, detox and healthy changes, the less difficulty you will have with the overall process. This is a lifelong gift you are giving yourself. Instead of 'Poor me', think 'Hooray for me'! Celebrate your efforts and accomplishment each and every day. Doing so inspires you to keep going.
Next, know that side effects will happen, and detoxing after years of smoking will bring some degree of discomfort. Accept this, and let temporary symptoms pass. They are unavoidable, and simply the reality of the quit process. Rest assured, there is an end in sight! Let's take a look at some of the challenges you may encounter:
If you have ever stopped caffeine or been on a diet, you know how grumpy you can feel. Quitting smoking causes similar changes in the brain. Feel good neurotransmitters are no longer being stimulated, and the rebound effect combined with hormone fluctuations and physical withdrawals can leave you angry, sad, irritated and on edge. In addition, if your only coping tool was smoking, you now find yourself with outlet for entertainment, reward, relaxation, or comfort! You want a cigarette and can't have one, so that adds to the frustration. This phase can last a few weeks to a month, and is best addressed with new coping tools, rewards, distractions, and activities. Stay busy, reach out to friends for support and limit your sugar intake to avoid mood swings.
Fatigue Or Insomnia
Many quitters feel exhausted or cannot sleep. The former do not feel better no matter how much sleep they get; the latter are exhausted as they cannot sleep even though they want to. This adds to the irritability and anxiety already being experienced. It also adds to the lack of focus many quitters report, which adversely affects performance at school and work. These symptoms usually pass in the first few weeks. You can try limiting caffeine, exercising, keeping blood sugar levels steady via healthy, small and frequent snacks, managing stress through deep breathing and going to bed at the same time every night in a quiet, cool, dark room.
Cravings, hunger, flu-like symptoms, headaches, bloating and stress are common side effects during the detox process. Don't get discouraged. These symptoms will pass, and it will be worth it. It may be easy at this point to dwell on how much worse you feel as a nonsmoker, so redirect your thoughts towards how well your system is healing after years of smoking! Exercise can help reduce physical symptoms and side effects. Get up, get out and take a brisk walk! Breathe the fresh air, clear your mind and get your heart rate up. You will feel better in no time.
Lack of focus, new routines and the unfamiliar change in your day to day life can leave you feeling out of sorts. It takes time before the new nonsmoking you feels as comfortable as the old smoking you once did. This is normal. It requires patience, practice and most of all - not smoking. The only way to get to the easier, happier, and healthier part is to keep going. No matter what happens to you, or around you, keep your quit your number one priority. Commit to waking up a nonsmoker, and celebrate your success!
Knowing what to expect means you will not be derailed by symptoms. It allows you to embrace the process, plan ahead, and move successfully towards a healthy, smoke-free you!
Keep going, and KTQ,
Vikki Q CTTS-M
You don't have to quit alone, and you can join for Free:
For most smokers quitting doesn't come easy; it’s hard work. Feelings of irritability, anxiety, and generalized discomfort abound. Getting through your first week smoke-free is especially important, as this is when withdrawal symptoms are the strongest and it’s easy to get lured back into lighting up for a quick fix. Week one is also a time when you are laying the groundwork for behavioral change. Quitting takes careful planning and a strategy for all the possible situations that could trip you up. It's not a time to be impulsive and just wing it. It's easier to navigate through the often difficult first week of quitting if you plan ahead and are prepared for the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms and any strong cravings to smoke. Along with a solid quit plan you will need determination, commitment and support to get you through the tough times.
Create a Winning Strategy
Take your quit one day at a time. Forever is too mountainous. Stay determined and commit to doing whatever it takes to make it through the day tobacco-free. At the end of each day reflect back on what was helpful and what wasn’t, planning the next day accordingly. Reward yourself for any challenging situations you overcame smoke-free; this will keep you motivated and moving forward in your quit. Each day you chose not to smoke makes you stronger and moves you closer to the reality of a smoke-free life.
Set yourself up to win by ditching all your cigarettes/tobacco products before the big quit date. If the cigarette is not there you can’t smoke it. While you are at it, trash the lighters and ashtrays too. Get rid of all evidence of a smoking life. You are on the road to better health!
Evidence shows that using nicotine replacement therapy, Zyban or Chanix to reduce craving for cigarettes increases your chances of staying quit. By lessening the withdrawal symptoms, these medications allow you the ability to work on changing smoking behaviors and focus more on your quit. If this is the route you decide to take, make sure you have the chosen quit medication actually on hand before your quit date. Your addicted mind will be looking for any available excuse to smoke or delay quitting.
In the early days of quitting it’s best to change your daily routines, as they are usually tied into your smoking habit. Smoking is often associated with certain activities like coffee/tea in the morning, getting behind the wheel of your vehicle, after meals, or socializing with other smokers during a work break or at home. By changing the routine of your usual ‘where, when and who’ you break these ties with smoking and reduce triggers and cravings to smoke.
Have a list of coping tools ready for handling withdrawal and cravings to smoke. You may have withdrawal symptoms for the first couple of weeks or so after quitting. Remind yourself that they are only temporary and that the benefits of quitting outweigh the discomfort. For example: If you are feeling irritable, moody or stressed, go out for a walk, listen to music, or practice deep breathing. Have water, gum and fresh fruit/veggies available as an oral substitute for smoking. Keep your hands active by using a squeeze ball, gardening, cooking or playing a game on your phone/laptop. When a craving appears use one of the 5 D’s – Delay, Distract, Drink Water, Deep-Breathe and Discuss. Cravings to smoke only last a few minutes and they disappear whether you smoke or not.
Beforehand, get your support people and resources ready and waiting on the sidelines. Let your family, friends and co-workers know how they can help you quit. If you live with a smoker, ask them to smoke outdoors, out of view, and not leave tobacco products in sight. Being around people smoking or seeing cigarettes, lighters, etc. are strong triggers to smoke. Use your cell phone or computer to connect with our community at QuitNet.com, for added support. There really is no need to quit alone!
Keep Going and Keep the Quit!
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. The American Heart Association reports that more than one in three adult men and adult women have some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD). In 2010, CVD took the lives of 387,318 men and 400,332 women in the USA alone.
Stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do for your heart. Your heart needs as much protection as possible as you age. Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle requires awareness, commitment and effort. Here are some tips to help your heart keep beating for a very long time:
1. Know Your Numbers
Know what your BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol (LDL/HDL and triglycerides), and blood sugar numbers are. Your numbers point to areas of concern that can be addressed with lifestyle changes, as well as help monitor personal health changes from year to year. Many heart attacks occur among people with normal cholesterol levels. Your numbers do not tell the whole story, but they are a great place to start. Type 2 diabetes can be managed once you know you have it, so get your numbers and keep them all within the healthy range via new behavioral choices and your doctor's assistance.
2. Weight Matters
A healthy weight for you personally does not mean being thin, but it does mean reaching and maintaining a healthy weight for your height, age, body type and gender. Excess body fat around the middle is associated with a higher risk of heart disease. As we age, the midsection is where extra pounds tend to accumulate. In addition, some body types naturally hold weight in the waist/abdominal area. The goal is to reach your individual target weight and measurements in a healthy manner. Eating less sodium, saturated fats and processed foods will help your waistline and your heart. Load up on fresh fruits, vegetables and lean protein. Add complex carbohydrates like whole grains and oatmeal, low fat dairy and drink plenty of water. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
3. Exercise Regularly
For those who are healthy enough to exercise, varied and consistent activity helps protect and strengthen your heart. There are many ways to benefit from movement. Walking, cleaning, mopping, mowing, raking, vacuuming, climbing stairs and doing daily tasks that get your heart rate up and help you break a sweat are good ways to exercise. Stretching, weight lifting, running, walking, bicycling, yoga and exercise classes are more structured ways to work out. A combination of tasks and workouts done throughout the week and continued over time will bring great health benefits. Exercise reduces appetite and stress while improving quality of sleep. Do exercise earlier in the day for sound sleep benefits.
4. Manage Stress
Stress is hard on your body and your heart. Chronic stress increases heart rate and raises cortisol levels, burns out your adrenal system and negatively affects your mood, attitude, digestion, sleep, concentration and happiness. Stress is a part of our busy lives,however, stress should not take over your life. Good time management skills, a good support system, deep breathing, taking time out of every day for enjoyment and relaxation, eating healthy meals throughout the day and daily activity are all great ways to help reduce stress.
5. Love Your Life
A good attitude, a sense of gratitude and spending time with loved ones is good for your health, your happiness and your heart. Volunteering, painting, writing, photography or being outdoors in nature can increase your sense of wellbeing and connection to life. When you love your life, your heart health will benefit!
By taking great care of your heart, you will stress less, feel better, enjoy life and take time to do all the things you love with the people you care about. You'll also swing the statistics in your favor.
Vikki Q CTTS-M
You don't have to Quit alone:
It's easy to take for granted something we involuntarily do thousands of times a day. I'm talking about breathing, that vital act of inhaling and exhaling air that keeps us healthy, alert and most importantly alive. Compromise this effortless action of breathing with unhealthy lungs, and the importance and appreciation of a simple breath skyrockets. Your lungs are your body's life source, so protect them as you would anything precious and valuable.
LISTEN TO YOUR LUNGS
Maybe you've noticed that you get winded more easily climbing the stairs, that you can't run the bases with your kids like you used to, or you've acquired a chronic cough and are finding respiratory infections occur more frequently. Don't ignore these health warnings, especially if you are a smoker. A simple lung breathing test called a spirometry can detect a lung problem before it becomes severe.
Cigarette smoking is a major cause of lung illness, primarily chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Both of these conditions follow a gradual progression of worsening, so it's paramount to stop the source of the damaging irritant. There is no better way to halt or slow down this process than quitting smoking. Exposure to cigarette smoke irritates and inflames the airways of the lungs, increasing excess mucus and reducing airflow and initiating chronic bronchitis. Over time, lung tissue is destroyed, leading to emphysema, where less oxygen is exchanged throughout the bloodstream, causing shortness of breath, especially with physical activity. People with emphysema are able to inhale air, but find it increasingly difficult to exhale. Emphysema is irreversible, but with a doctor's care, symptoms can be managed and the disease process slowed. Quitting smoking is crucial in the prevention and treatment of COPD.
KEEP YOUR LUNGS HEALTHY AND SAFE
Protecting your lungs means breathing clean air. Keep the air inside your home and car clean by not allowing anyone to smoke. Second-hand smoke contains thousands of chemicals and is as unhealthy and dangerous as the smoke inhaled by the smoker. Get your home tested for radon, the second most significant cause of lung cancer, the "first" being smoking. Be sure to ventilate your home; open windows to let fresh air in and toxins out. If you live in an area where pollution levels are high, consider exercising in a gym or walking inside a shopping mall. The quality of the air you breathe affects the health of your lungs.
Being physically fit, eating a balanced diet, and protecting yourself from respiratory infections all contribute to keeping your lungs as healthy as possible. Like other vital organs, the lungs also benefit from the supply of oxygen provided by physical activity. Oxygen is food for the body, so keep those arms and legs moving. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables when balancing your diet; they contain antioxidant protection and help boost your immune system. A history of smoking leaves you more vulnerable to lung infections, so get a yearly flu shot and ask your doctor if you would benefit from a pneumonia vaccine. Keep soaping up; good hand washing is still the best defense against getting sick.
Safeguard your lungs to give them the care needed to allow you to live the best life possible. If you are still smoking, you need to stop now. If you have already quit, you need to remain quit forever-one day at a time. It is never too late to quit smoking, even if you have been diagnosed with lung disease. Quitting smoking prevents further damage. Be aware and eliminate pollutants you may be inhaling. If you have lung illness, take the prescribed medications and follow your doctor's advice. By keeping your lungs healthy and safe, you enable them to do their job, which is to keep you alive.
Keep Going and Keep the Quit!
Is smoking defined as the inhalation of nicotine, the use of tobacco, the exhale of smoke-like vapor/smoke, the ritual and emotional attachment of things one does as a smoker, or a combination of all those things? Who decides, and once decided, what happens next?
Electronic Cigarettes: More Questions than Answers
The use of electronic cigarettes is an evolving situation, one in which treatment protocols will change as new information is revealed. Currently, research is limited. The effects of long term use have not been studied, product safety is unknown, and e-cigarettes lack quality control oversight. That means marketing claims about e-cigs may not be/are not correct.
Depending on how one defines smoking, using an E-cig may or may not be considered smoking. The act of vaping is behaviorally identical to smoking, minus the tobacco and the smoke. E-cig manufacturers have declared their use a safer form of smoking. Some employers, states, towns, and insurance companies consider vaping to be smoking, and people who use the E-cig will test positive for nicotine. On the other hand, those who quit smoking tobacco cigarettes and use the E-cig often consider themselves quit.
Some establishments allow E-cigs only in designated smoking areas. Others allow their use in areas where smoking traditional cigarettes is prohibited. An increasing number of states are passing E-cig use and age of purchase restrictions. E-cig marketing promotes 'restriction-free' smoking among many other claims that may not be true. Nicotine free E-cigs may not really be nicotine free, but if they are that adds further question to what is or is not considered smoking.
From a tobacco treatment standpoint, the main components of a successful quit involve breaking the behaviors, habits, and emotional attachments surrounding the act of smoking. Letting go of nicotine is part of the quit process. Many E-cigs contain nicotine. All the FDA approved quit support options are designed to help a person quit smoking while breaking their lifelong behaviors associated with smoking. Lifestyle change is a necessary part of remaining a nonsmoker. By comparison, E-cigs are for the most part 'smoking to quit smoking'. Use of them does not offer room for new habits, new behaviors or new emotional coping tools. Depending on the E-cig chosen, it may not even remove inhaled nicotine from the equation.
Some people might quit smoking tobacco by using E-cigs. While vaping is currently believed to be safer than smoking a traditional cigarette, that is not the same as saying vaping is safe or healthy. E-cigs may or may not have a place in smoking cessation. There are no statistics available that measure actual quit success rates, relapse rates, or the number of would be quitters that now use E-cigs in addition to regular tobacco products. E-cig users may have a higher potential for relapse, given the perpetuation of smoking attachments and behaviors.
If you are contemplating using an E-cig to quit smoking, established research demonstrates your chance for success increases by choosing NRT, Zyban or Chantix instead. If you are already using an E-cig, it is wise to work towards becoming completely nicotine and cigarette free. Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health. There is no safe way to smoke. The smartest choice is to stop inhaling from any type of cigarette.
Vikki Q CTTS-M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
The importance of sleep is often overlooked by ex-smokers. After surgery, doctors usually advise their patients to sleep and get plenty of rest. It is during sleep that much of your body’s natural restoring happens. Adequate sleep minimizes the uncomfortable side effects of quitting smoking, too! Consider the numerous health benefits of sleeping during your quit.
Health Benefits of sleep
During a quit, you want to be fair to your body and give it the rest it deserves. Sleep allows you to function at your best. For example, the brain goes through a cleansing process during sleep, flushing out waste products. This housecleaning is vital to paying attention, reacting to signals, or retaining information. Sufficient sleep affects your mood, and can minimize irritability and restlessness. Sleep studies show that inadequate rest increases risk of depression and substance abuse.
Sleeping provides the body time to rejuvenate. Muscle repair, memory consolidation, and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite occur during sleep. Natural levels of the hormone cortisol decline at bed time and increase overnight to promote alertness in the morning. Sleep also helps us thrive by contributing to a healthy immune system. For diabetics, getting enough sleep is especially crucial and can have an impact on their morning sugar readings.
Sleep and weight gain concerns
Sleep plays a critical part in weight management, too. It allows you to balance your appetites by helping to regulate two hormones, Leptin and Ghrelin, which influence feelings of hunger and fullness. So when you’re sleep deprived, you might feel the need to eat more, which can lead to weight gain.
Sleep as a coping tool
Remember the acronym: H.A.L.T. When you allow yourself to become too Hungry, Angry, Lonely and/or Tired, odds are that the urge to smoke will appear and/or increase. Taking a nap can be a helpful coping tool. Since sleep is about rest and relaxation, it's good for stress management. Plentiful rest allows you to function at a higher level and concentrate better.
Are you getting enough sleep?
Different age groups need different amounts of sleep, but sleep needs are also individual. For adults, the recommendation is between 7 and 8 hours of sleep daily. Are any of these true of you? If so, you may not be sleeping enough:
- I depend on caffeine to get me through the day.
- It takes me a long time to feel like I'm in 'high gear'.
- I get sleepy when driving.
- I often fall asleep in meetings, movies, etc.
Dealing with insomnia
Most smokers will note changes in their sleep patterns after quitting, and quit-smoking medications can exacerbate the problem, but these disruptions seldom last very long. Below are some healthy sleep tips for early recovery (and beyond):
- Don't make a big deal over insomnia -- it won't last forever, and can't make you relapse.
- Routine helps us get tired; create a sleeping and or nap schedule that works for you.
- Take a warm shower to help you relax, and/or utilize a humidifier for comfortable breathing.
- De-plug yourself two hours before you are scheduled to go to bed. Turn off any electronics such as cell phones, laptops, tablets. Electronic devices are known to interfere with the body’s natural ability to produce melatonin, a natural hormone that causes you to feel less alert, ready to sleep.
- Avoid strenuous exercise, heavy eating, or alcohol right before bedtime.
- Surround yourself with comfortable pillows and blankets, keep your room dark, and/or use a sleep mask to block out light. Clear your mind with the help of some relaxing music, nature sounds, white noise ambience, etc.
- If you've been tossing and turning for too long, get up, drink water, and do something else like read or write for a while. Your tiredness will soon take you back to bed with a better disposition.
Sleep is vital to your health and to your quit. Make sleep a priority in your daily routine. Sleep will help you endure the uncomfortable feelings associated with cravings. You will feel better physically and mentally. Reward yourself with the gift of sleep, and be happier! Keep The Quit!
A fairly common experience when quitting smoking is coming to the realization that clothes are fitting tighter and the pounds are adding on. The dreaded weight gain associated with quitting smoking is often the cause cited in a smoking relapse, and discourages many smokers from attempting to quit in the first place.
Though weight gain may happen (average 5-10 lbs) it's not unavoidable. Understanding the reasons for the related weight gain, along with integrating diet and exercise as part of the quit plan, helps prevent and reverse weight gain after quitting smoking.
Reasons For Weight Gain
Nicotine is a stimulant and suppresses appetite along with slightly increasing metabolism. Many times smokers will light up to curb their hunger, delay a meal, or manage their weight. Some smokers replace a meal with a cigarette and beverage, which lowers calorie intake. Smoking dulls the taste buds and sense of smell, so when smokers quit they often find they are hungrier, that food tastes and smells better, and that they don't want to skip a meal. This adds up to a body taking in more calories while lowering the speed at which they are burned.
Nicotine withdrawal can cause food cravings. Foods containing sugar, fat, and salt curb the craving for nicotine. Usually these foods are processed and high in calories, carbohydrates, and fat. This type of food is often considered a comfort food. Smokers may find that after quitting they are reaching emotionally for comfort food the same way they reached for cigarettes, rewarding themselves with food to feel better when they are hungry, angry, lonely or tired.
- The physical act of smoking a cigarette requires approximately ten inhalations. That's about two hundred times a day (1 pack/day) a smoker puts a cigarette to their mouth and inhales. Many quitters miss the oral satisfaction of smoking and replace the cigarettes with food. This oral substitution can add up to a lot of nibbling on snacks and treats.
- Sleep loss due to withdrawal causes tiredness that reduces the motivation to get up and out to exercise. Sleep deprivation is stressful on the body and increases hunger-stimulating stress hormones which boost appetites.
Avoiding Weight Gain - Include Diet and Exercise in the Quit Plan
A healthy diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and foods low in fat and cholesterol. Don't overeat. Even too much healthy food will cause weight gain. It's the calories that matter in weight gain and loss. Calories are calories, whether they are nutrient rich or empty.
Eat slowly and enjoy the food. Practice mindful eating. Put the fork down between bites and become aware of the taste, smell, touch and texture of the food being eaten. It may take 20 minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that you are full. Then it's time to stop eating.
Drink lots of water. Water hydrates, fills your stomach and reduces hunger -- along with any cravings to smoke. Placing ice in the water increases metabolism and burns calories.
Don't wait until you are very hungry to eat. At that point you may give in to fast food or poor food choices. Be prepared and have a healthy snack on hand, such as carrot or celery sticks, an apple, pretzel or air-popped popcorn.
Watch your portion size. Sight is also involved in determining when we feel full, so use smaller plates and drinking glasses; if the plate is viewed as full the tummy feels full. Fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter with whole grains, and a quarter with lean protein. Don't deny yourself a treat. Variety is the spice of life.
Have a plan on how to cope with food cravings when they hit. Food cravings are associated with weight gain. Food cravings are not from being hungry. A craving is a strong desire to obtain a reward -- in this case eating food for the pleasure of it. If you are reaching for food when stressed, lonely, sad, etc., address the issue and consciously replace the desired food with something else. Examples: When lonely, call a friend. When stressed, meditate. If bored, go for a walk; it helps to distract from the craving and burns calories.
Include physical activity in your daily schedule. Physical exercise not only boosts metabolism, improves sleep quality, and burns calories, but also releases 'feel good' endorphins in the brain that help reduce stress, depression, and cravings to smoke. Of course, overall health, including medical issues, needs to be considered before starting any new exercise program, so get a physician's nod of approval.
Choose physical exercises that you enjoy and look forward to doing. If you like to run, go jogging. If dancing is your thing, join an aerobic dance class. If you find walking 30 minutes a day fits better in your schedule, then go for it. It's the consistency and regularity that matters.
Little things add up. Increase your daily steps by parking the car further away from your destination. Take a walk during your lunch or dinner break at work. Use the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.
Focusing on these realistic diet and exercise changes when quitting smoking helps to avoid the pitfall of gaining excess weight. Quitting smoking, being physically fit, and maintaining your weight by eating healthfully promotes self-care and feelings of well being. Keep in mind that the health benefits of quitting always outweigh any health risks associated with weight gain.
Keep Going and Keep the Quit!
Last week we talked about how stress affects the body, and about how some thought processes amplify stress. By learning how to manage stress effectively, you can reverse physical damage brought on by stress and enhance your overall state of wellbeing. This week we will look at a few ways to manage stress like a pro!
Meditation and relaxation techniques reduce stress, increase focus, and create an all around happier life experience. This helps you feel grounded during the ever-changing situations that surround us. For those of you who think meditation means sitting cross legged in a garden as water ripples over rocks and bluebirds bring you tea, think again! You can practice these techniques at any time during your day to day life.
Mindfulness and relaxation take many forms, many of which you are probably doing already! The secret is to focus on the task at hand. Stay in the moment. If you happen to be cooking, then cook. Notice the food, texture, feel, smell and ritual of preparing a meal. Drink a beverage you enjoy. Try water with ice and lemon in a tall, frosty glass. How about a freshly brewed cup of your favorite flavored coffee, or maybe open that bottle of wine your friend gave you? No matter what else is going on in your life, right now you are making dinner. Breathe deep, exhale slowly, and experience the task at hand.
Do the same thing when you are driving, gardening, washing the car, walking the dog, taking an elderly parent to a doctor appointment, mailing a package, talking to your child, having a lunch break at work, grocery shopping, reading a book, watching a movie - be present in your life. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not today's worry, and what you are doing now deserves your attention. The quality of each moment is up to you. Practicing mindfulness in all everything you do helps you relax, enjoy and live stress free.
Stop Your Mind
When you feel yourself getting stressed, stop your mind. State specifically what you are feeling, but do not use the word stress. "I am feeling ___________ (rushed, pressured, angry, exhausted, taken for granted, unprepared, disinterested, afraid, sad, paranoid, unloved, run down)." Once you identify the feeling, you can move forward with a plan of action instead of feeling stressed. If you feel sad, what will cheer you up? If you are bored, how can you have fun? Practice sitting with your feelings and finding ways to meet your emotional needs in nonsmoking ways. That way, you will not feel stressed or crave a cigarette.
Count Your Blessings
Last but not least: count your blessings! Focus on the positive aspects of your life. What was fun today? What went right today? Relax, stay in the here and now and celebrate your awesome quit.
Vikki Q CTTS-M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Stress is the most commonly reported relapse trigger among new and long term quitters. Stress happens to everyone, but how you manage it can literally save your quit, and your life!
The Stress/Smoking Connection
Most smokers lit up at the first hint of stress, setting into motion a lifelong pattern of smoking in response to stress. This constantly reinforces stress as a smoking trigger, year after year! Even worse, it ruled out any chance for effective coping tools to be identified or practiced. This leaves the newly quit with little clue how to deal with stress. Most quitters smoked for so long, they do not recall what they used to do when stressed. A lifelong absence of emotional coping tools, combined with a strong association to smoking when stressed, requires new coping tools and behaviors that actually do manage stress effectively.
The truth is, smoking never managed stress. It caused it and masked it. What? Yes indeed: smoking caused stress through a constant cycle of crave, fulfill crave (smoke), crash (nicotine decline) and crave. If you felt better after smoking, it is only because you were stressed about needing a smoke fix in the first place.
Smoking also masked stress in your life. Chances are good that instead of identifying what you were feeling, needing, wanting or working through whatever was really going on with thought and action, you merely smoked and went back to whatever you were doing. That allows stress to wreak havoc with your system.
Stress Damages Your Body
Stress that goes unmanaged leaves a person feeling overwhelmed, even hopeless. Anxiety and depression often result from ongoing stress. Stress creates a 'fight or flight' response that negatively affects the system in many ways. The release of adrenaline elevates blood pressure and cortisol reduces digestion and increases blood sugar levels. Stress damages your heart, reduces immune system response, alters sleep patterns, increases fatigue, insomnia and lack of energy, reduces memory, prevents mental focus and even alters the brain!
Face Your Fears
When you feel fear, is there really a life threatening event in the right now, or are you going down the rabbit hole of 'what if' scenarios? Did you know most 'what ifs' never happen? And yet, many people stress their lives away as though it did. Instead of dwelling on end-of-world thinking, take action. Do what can be done right now, and then let go of the rest. It takes practice, but letting go of imaginary outcomes will change your life in many wonderful ways.
Attitude of Gratitude
We all have things to be grateful for. If you focus on all that is good in your life, you will see good in your life! You'll also naturally draw more good towards you. Next week, we will talk about ways to manage stress like a pro. Until then, keep going and KTQ!
Vikki Q CTTS - M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist