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
Eric Lawson was born in Glendale, CA, on December 28th, 1941. His father, like half of all Americans at the time, was a cigarette smoker. Eric followed in his father's footsteps and began smoking at an early age.
Though studies about the dangers of tobacco smoke first appeared in Europe in the early 1930's, it wasn't until 1957 that the U.S. Public Health Dept officially postulated a connection between smoking and lung disease. By then, 16 year old Eric Lawson had been hooked on tobacco for two years.
As smokers questioned the safety of cigarettes, Marlboro manufacturer Phillip Morris began pitching its filtered cigarettes (previously marketed exclusively to women) as safe alternatives to traditional, unfiltered smokes. Print and broadcast media were soon flooded with macho 'Marlboro Men' -- cowboys, pilots, hunters, weight lifters, and miners -- smoking filtered cigarettes. Cowboys and western imagery proved most effective in making these cigarettes appealing to men.
In 1962, under pressure by public health groups, U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry convened a committee of experts to comprehensively review existing tobacco studies. On January 11, 1964 (a Saturday, to minimize impact on the stock market and to ensure Sunday newspaper coverage), he released Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General. According to Terry, the report, "...hit the country like a bombshell. It was front page news and a lead story on every radio and television station in the U.S., and many abroad."
The Surgeon General's report wasn't perfect. The tobacco lobby influenced the committee to insist that smoking be characterized a habit rather than an addiction (though manufacturers already knew of nicotine's addictive properties), and to avoid recommending actual remedies. But the report unambiguously declared cigarettes responsible for the high mortality rates of smokers over non-smokers, and for elevated risks of lung cancer, COPD, and coronary heart disease. More importantly, it noted that quitting smoking diminished those risks.
We don't know what Eric Lawson, by this time smoking up to three packs per day, thought of the Surgeon General's report. There were no quit-smoking programs or telephone quitlines to assist him in quitting, had he wanted to. And the tobacco industry, often aided and abetted by the medical establishment, waged a full-scale assault on anti-smoking research, confusing smokers with contrived debates and illegitimate studies.
Despite this, the report triggered a sea change in public opinion. While only 44% of Americans believed smoking caused cancer in 1958, 78% thought so by 1968. Congress required cigarette hazard warnings on all packs sold in the U.S., and banned cigarette ads on TV and radio.
Meanwhile, Eric Lawson went to Hollywood to pursue an acting career. He became the next face of of the Marlboro Man in 1978, representing the brand in print and billboard ads for three years. He capitalized on his cowboy image to land a number of roles in TV and movie westerns, too.
1986 saw another landmark Surgeon General's Report, released by Dr. C. Everett Koop. It accused the tobacco industry of deceptive advertising, and issued the first government warning about secondhand smoke. Koop called for restrictions on workplace and public smoking, urged government prosecution of the tobacco industry, and envisioned a smoke-free society by 2000. Smoking rates dropped from 38% to 27% during his tenure.
Ironically enough, several Marlboro Men led extra legitimacy to the Surgeon General's cause. Within a year of Koop's report, the first-ever Marlboro Man, David Millar, died of emphysema, generating negative publicity for Phillip Morris.
Wayne McLaren followed in 1992, at age 51. He spent the last two years of his life a vehement anti-tobacco activist, publicly condemning the cigarette advertising he'd been a part of. Images of his rugged visage wasted away by late-stage lung cancer prompted many smokers to quit for good.
Then, just as the U.S. Justice Dept. charged tobacco companies with racketeering, a third Marlboro Man, David McLean, died of lung cancer. His passing helped turn Americans solidly against cigarette manufacturers, and after cigarette billboard ads were banned in 1999, Phillip Morris finally retired the 'Marlboro Man'.
Although he was unable to quit smoking at the time, Eric Lawson became the next Marlboro Man to speak out against tobacco use. He was particularly proud of this 1997 American Cancer Society PSA parodying the Marlboro Man, and warning against secondhand smoke:
Lawson left acting after a movie injury. He continued to smoke. His wife Susan later stated, "He knew the cigarettes had a hold on him, yet he couldn't stop.” He was still smoking heavily in 2006, when he was diagnosed with COPD. He died on Jan. 10, 2014.
A week after Eric Lawson's death, U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak published The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress. The good news is that an estimated eight million lives have been saved since the original 1964 report. The bad news? Smoking still remains the #1 preventable cause of early death in the U.S.
Nearly 21,000,000 people have been killed by tobacco since 1965, several million of them from secondhand exposure. Annual economic costs of smoking have hit a third of a trillion dollars. Despite the lowest rates of smoking ever (hovering around 20%), the yearly mortality rate has remained well above 400,000 for more than a decade, and isn't projected to drop for years to come. Worst of all, this new report predicts that nearly six million of our youth, currently under 17 years of age, will die prematurely from tobacco disease -- unless we can offer intervention.
Quit-smoking programs are more urgent and relevant than ever, and a big part of how millions of smokers' lives get saved. We intervene effectively, one smoker at a time. Tobacco treatment work supports our Surgeon Generals' campaigns against tobacco addiction, and helps prevent current and potential smokers from suffering the same fate as the Marlboro Man.
Alan Q, CTTS-M
I quit smoking seventy-two days ago, and for the first time I'm not sure I'm going to make it.
I smoked proudly for fifteen years. I started as an occasional smoker, but over time I needed more and more nicotine (I later learned that most addicts develop dose tolerance to their addictive substances). By the time I quit, I was smoking three packs per day, every day. I smoked during meetings, while walking or driving or eating meals. I woke up in the middle of the night to have a cigarette, and even kept one burning in an ashtray on the toilet tank while I showered, or on the bed stand while making love. I considered myself a smoker's smoker, and couldn't imagine life without cigarettes. Until I met Mary, that is.
Mary was cool, confident, smart and lovely, certainly out of my league, and I immediately fell in love with her. I had to have her. There was one problem with Mary, though -- she was a non-smoker. And not the self-righteous, moralistic type of non-smoker I'd been avoiding for years, either. No, Mary vehemently and absolutely hated tobacco, with a passion I'd never seen. Tobacco had killed her mother, and she held a big-time grudge against it. She made no bones about her refusal to date any smoker, ever.
My self-image hung in the balance. If I entertained any notion at all of hooking up with Mary, I would have to quit smoking. Telling myself that I'd stay quit only long enough to win her heart, and resume smoking sometime after that, I went online to look for quit-smoking info. I registered at a quit-smoking website, picked a quit-smoking date, and announced to everyone that I was quitting -- including Mary, who hugged me at the news!
Being a heavy smoker, I figured I was in for a rough nicotine detox, but decided to quit cold-turkey, anyway. Partially because I wanted to be tough about quitting, but also because it cost $50 for a hundred count of nicotine gum. $50! Never mind that a carton of smokes runs almost twice that; I needed them. Besides, the drama of a severe withdrawal could maybe get me some special attention from Mary... .
Day One wasn't bad at all. I fidgeted a lot, and drummed my fingers madly against things. I kept putting my hands to my mouth, expecting something to be there for me. I sucked on a ton of Lifesavers, but had no overwhelming urge to smoke. Quitting seemed do-able.
Day Two was a little more intense. Mary called to cheer me on and tell me how proud she was of me. My nose started running a bit, and I developed a headache. Felt like I might be coming down with a cold, but suffered only a few severe cravings to smoke. Despite the physical discomfort, and trouble getting to sleep at night, I thought that people were making too big a deal out of quitting smoking.
By Day Three I was a space cadet. I laughed uncontrollably, as if I was stoned on acid. Colors seemed very intense, and my brain raced wildly with bizarre thoughts. (My doctor later said I was experiencing a sustained rush of new oxygen to the brain). My whole body ached, and someone at the quit-smoking website wrote that I'd probably contracted the 'Quit Flu'. I obsessed non-stop about either smoking or not smoking, and became painfully aware of every lit cigarette within sight or smell.
And then a blow to my motivation, on Day Four: Mary left the country with her family, and wouldn't be back for two months! So much for her shoulder to lean on while I quit. A part of me whispered, "You can smoke now and re-quit later, and she'll never know," but I decided to soldier on and have more smoke-free weeks quit under my belt when she returned.
By Day Twenty I was already feeling better. I still wasn't sleeping much (my sleep patterns wouldn't stabilize for another month or two), and I was coughing up a lot of brown goo, but the flu-like symptoms were gone and I was going hours at a time without thinking about a cigarette.
And so it went. I sailed through my quit, noting one surprise benefit of quitting after another. Sleep deprived or not, I felt more alert and like I was really in my body. I took morning walks, and during one of them I suddenly wanted to run. It was exhilarating! I joined the Y, and started lifting weights. I wondered why people seemed to be wearing stronger cologne and perfume lately, until I realized that my sense of smell was returning. When I did have a smoking urge, I logged in to my quit-site and distracted myself. I finally stopped spitting up old lung tar, too, and noted that my wallet always had a lot more cash in it. Why had I never tried quitting before? Doing so had triggered changes in many areas of my life; I even made a couple of new ex-smoking friends, and began thinking of myself as an ex-smoker.
Until this morning, that it is. Mary got back from her long family vacation and introduced me to Mark, her new boyfriend. That was bad. Worse, he reeked of cigarettes! Filthy, stinking cigarettes. I was stunned. After a short, awkward silence, I blurted out something like, "Glad to meet you and by the way I'm still not smoking," and beat a hasty retreat. I felt betrayed. What was Mary's problem? Why would she sell out her values for love? How could she do this to me, after I'd changed my smoking life to be with her (though I never did tell her that, truth be told)? My thoughts turned to smoking. "I'll show her," I resolved. "Screw this quit."
So here I am on Day Seventy-two, and my motivation for quitting is gone. I'm at the convenience store, counting out bills for a pack of my old deadly comfort. In walks one of my new ex-smoking friends. She smiles, sees the pack and the wallet in my hands, and looks at me, silent. "They're not for me," I reply to her unasked question. In that moment I get some clarity. Cigarettes really are not for me, not any more. I'm about to punish myself because I'm upset with Mary? How can I blame her for selling out to follow her heart, anyway? Hadn't I sold out my smoking values to follow mine? Hasn't that been working out pretty well for me?
My quit isn't about Mary, and it never was. She may have been my inspiration to change, but it was my decision and my effort that got me to this place. The benefits of my new, healthier lifestyle are mine alone. I've earned them, and I'm not going to throw them away just because I got my expectations dashed.
I hand the cigarettes back to the clerk and buy a roll of Lifesavers, instead. I walk out of the store with my friend, still smoke-free. I didn't get the girl in the end, but I got a lot more than I expected. Seems I'm the fish I've been trying to catch all along (and quitting smoking was the hook).
Alan Q, CTTS-M
As you begin your quit smoking journal, you may be wondering, "How will I quit smoking?" Journaling is a private way to vent and record how you feel under moments of stress, happiness, joy or frustration. There are no rules to follow; use a notebook, scrapbook, diary or your computer or tablet. Use your creativity. Include your favorite slogans, poems or affirmations.
Imagine for a moment: Anytime you have a thought about your quit, good or bad, you can record it. Journaling is most effective when done regularly. Write for several minutes at a time, and do not stop writing to edit your work. Your journal can be kept private or you can choose to share with others.
QuitNet offers a Q journaling tool, available under the My Quit tab. The journaling tool includes a new QComic to greet you each day. You can choose to make your journal visible to other Qmembers or keep it private.
Here are 5 ways journaling can help you with your quit:
1. Define your purpose for quitting
Journaling allows you to reflect. For example, observe your smoking patterns. Ask yourself, "How many cigarettes do I smoke a day? When do I tend to smoke less? Do I smoke more when I am bored?"
On another day, list what you like the most about smoking versus what you like the most about quitting. Create another column and list what you like the least about smoking versus what you like the least about quitting. Compare your responses. This is an effective evidence-based exercise called The Decisional Balance. It will help you decide why you want to quit smoking. Here are some other suggestions for journaling:
-Write about the vision of your quit.
-Write about lessons learned from previous attempts and what would you do differently.
-Write about the people or life experience that has motivated you to quit.
Stay focused on your quit
Journaling will help you stay focused. Write down your reasons for quitting. Review your reasons daily. It will help you stay strong. Determine if you want to journal in the morning or right before bed. If you want to make additional lifestyle changes such as losing weight; devote a journal entry about it.
If you belong to a QuitNet forum or a QuitNet club, write about your experience (i.e., connections with other members, finding a quit Q buddy); include anything that will inspire you, such as another quitster's Q testimonial or suggestions, quotes, poems. The choice is yours!
Journal your way through a craving
Each time you have a craving, grab a pen and write about something else (i.e., write about going to the beach, your next vacation, a party or fun event you went to). The key is to keep writing about a topic that will keep you distracted. Empower yourself to work through this alone, especially if your support network is not available. Cravings typically last several minutes; overcoming a craving will help you develop a non smoker image, greater confidence and higher self-esteem.
Track your progress
Monitor your progress. If you are cutting back, maintain a smoking log. Write down every time you are triggered to smoke and how you handled the situation. Keep track of your savings. List ways to reward yourself. Document your treatment plan. Reflect on how you feel. Make reminders of when your dosage changes. Include how many days you've been quit.
Utilize the QGadget together with your journal. The QGadget will automatically compute the lifetime and money you'll save by quitting (a quit date has to be entered for calculations). Devote journal entries to reflect on your stats! Document any recommendations made by your doctor, including the quit smoking medications you are using. If you have discontinued a medication, write about what worked and what did not work. If you are not sure you want to commit to a quit date, write about your reasons. Discuss what information would help you make a decision. Journal the steps to obtain the information you need.
Manage your stress
If you are stressed about quitting, consider writing about these stressful events. It will help you come to terms with them, thus reducing the impact of these stressors on your physical health. Listen to music while you journal. Write about how good you will feel after you quit. Write about the immediate health benefits and your strong reasons for quitting. After writing, you will feel in a more relaxed state. Review your previous entries, and notice your progress.
In conclusion, journaling is a therapeutic method that will help keep you close to your quit. It can be very liberating. You will feel a sense of control over your quit. Rereading your entries can be empowering and offer insight and understanding about yourself and your quit!
Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Keep Going and KTQ!
Are you in the process of planning your quit? Are you overwhelmed and not sure where to begin? Are you going through withdrawal symptoms and not sure where to get answers? Quitting smoking is an empowering and life-changing experience. Taking control of an addiction involves some commitment. Make QuitNet part of your quit plan. QuitNet will help you set goals and keep you informed about the quitting process. Every member can benefit from QuitNet's Community, Expert Support, and Resources.
Do you have limited social support for your quit? As a QuitNet member you have access to thousands of other members. You can interact with them through 10 forums, 98 clubs, Qmail, and chat rooms. Former smokers are always on standby, ready to answer questions, in the QuitStop forum. You can ask them about their quits. Create friendships and find a quit buddy. Let them know how they can help you.
The QuitNet community holds virtual events like bonfires and pledges that you can participate in, and commit publicly to keeping your quit. As a member of QuitNet, your Qmunity is there to support you! It might not be long before you say to yourself "this isn't so bad." You will find yourself with an abundance of Q social support.
Need advice from a Q Counselor? Help is available in the Ask an Expert forum or through 1-2-1 Counseling (under the Expert Support tab onsite). Post a message in Ask an Expert Forum and a trained Tobacco Treatment Specialist will respond to your question. Other members can see your questions and the responses. You can also read previous posts, thus increasing your knowledge about the quitting process. If there is a post you would like to keep you can add to your library. If you prefer more privacy, your other option is to send your question by 1-2-1 counseling and communicate through qmail.
Expert advice is also available through Expert Qchat, offered twice a week. Members have the opportunity to interact directly, in real-time, with QuitNet Expert counselors and each other -- as well as occasional Special Guests. Previous topics include Tools for Smoke-Free Socializing, Making Healthy Choices and Keeping Your Quit during Holiday Triggers.
Avoid boredom and play a QGame! Enjoy some humor and read a QComic. Need more information? QuitNet has put together a variety of resources to help you. There are downloadable QuitGuides and MedicationGuides. If you are not sure what medications to use, try the recently updated Medication Wizard; it will assist you in deciding which medication is best for you. Find links to more quit resources and information. Read the latest Tobacco News or read a QBlog here. QBlogs are written by our Q Counselors covering a variety of topics.
As you can see, there is light at the end of the tunnel! Quitting could be easier than you think, and you do not have to quit alone. QuitNet has a variety of tools to help you quit for life. Stay close to the Q and protect your Quit! Keep The Quit!
Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Keep Going and KTQ!
Quitting smoking is an empowering and life changing experience. Taking control of an addiction involves your complete commitment. As you move through this quitting process it’s important to recognize and reward your accomplishments. Doing this builds confidence and reinforces a positive attitude towards quitting.
You are more likely to remain smoke-free if you attach a positive response to saying ‘no’ to any thoughts of smoking a cigarette. Rewards for not smoking are best when they are experienced short term. If you pass on a strong urge to buy a pack of cigarettes, or reach a one month smoke-free goal, then reward yourself. Have lunch with a friend; go to a movie, etc. After awhile, you will associate these pleasurable moments with not smoking.
Many smokers say that they smoke because they enjoy it and when they quit they feel deprived and miss their cigarettes. Cigarettes were a reward for a job well done. Cigarettes were like a constant companion, there through thick and thin and could always be depended on to feel better. Smoking is often associated with a good time; some smokers say it makes a good time better. If you found smoking pleasurable then you will need to find other sources of enjoyment in your life. A good way to support your new nonsmoking life is to try introducing different activities or hobbies. Join that class you’ve always wanted to take, or start that exercise program. Choose something you find fun. Eventually activities that you linked to smoking will be enjoyable again as a non-smoker.
You probably found that smoking cigarettes reduced anxiety, increased concentration and quelled your appetite. Nicotine has a dramatic effect on the brain's reward system, conditioning you to want more of this drug that relaxes, energizes and improves mood. When the nicotine was taken away withdrawal symptoms occurred and the rewarding effects disappeared. Change your reward pathways away from nicotine by rewarding yourself regularly. Treat yourself with the money you saved not smoking. Get some pampering, a massage, pedicure or haircut. The rewards need not be costly. A walk on the beach, curling up with a good book, a scented candle and relaxing bath all help to relieve stress and manage cravings. Acknowledge the changes you’ve made in your new smoke-free life and continue to reward yourself for making it to this point!
Keep Going and KTQ!
No matter how busy you are this holiday season, be sure to keep your quit going strong! Around this time of year, some quitters may find themselves losing momentum. You may be second guessing your reasons for quitting, or feeling overwhelmed by a seemingly endless to-do list. Rest assured, life is not getting in the way of your quit; this is life! Moving forward as a nonsmoker means keeping the quit regardless of what is happening to you or around you.
Reaffirm your commitment to keep your quit going no matter what. Make sure your quit stays your number one priority. Reflect on why being a nonsmoker matters to you, how far you have come and what it took to get here. If you do have a craving or weak moment, address your feelings! What do you really want? Are you seeking comfort, reward, assistance, sleep, enjoyment, social interaction, or a break? Stress free living requires flexibility. There is nothing wrong with giving yourself permission to change plans or take a time out to relax. Celebrate the new habits you have worked so hard to put in place. You have made it this far, so that means you have a successful smoke-free daily routine in place. Acknowledge how awesome you are for quitting smoking. You did it - you actually did it this time! You are amazing, and so is your quit.
Reviewing your quit progress and celebrating your accomplishments ensures your continued success during stressful times. Staying motivated will help prevent relapse. Remember that at this very moment, you are Quit! Congratulations! Cherish your quit and commit to spending the holiday season as a nonsmoker this year. As a nonsmoker, you continue to gain:
- Healthier lungs
- A reduced risk of cancer
- Increased longevity
- More energy to enjoy life
- A healthier smile and fresh breath
- Better immunity to fight off colds and flu
- More money to spend on things you need or want
- More time to spend doing things that matter to you
- More time with the people you care about
- Freedom from guilt or pressure about smoking; you're finally free!
- Increased self confidence
- Fresh air around you, your home and your vehicle
- Prettier skin
- Improved mood
- Decreased stress
Those are a lot of gifts to appreciate. Keep giving yourself the best gift of all; a smoke-free life! Keep up the good work, keep going, and KTQ:)
Happy Holidays to you and yours,
CTTS-M Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Friends don't let friends Quit alone:
That wonderful holiday season is here again. Will yours be filled with joy, good company, relaxation and time off work? Or will it be filled with traffic, crowds, stress, too little time, overspending, overeating and wishing it were all over with? Holidays can be a big relapse trigger, so consider today a great day to set yourself up for success.
The secret to having a fun holiday is giving yourself permission to do Only Things That Are Fun, Relaxing And Wonderful to You! This year, commit to saying 'No' to anything you don't have a heartfelt interest in doing.
Choose your activities wisely. Take some well-deserved time off. Do whatever you feel like doing. You may want to just hang out in your house alone for once. Maybe you're a 'go out and mingle with the crowds' person; here are some smoke-free things you could do:
- See a movie matinee with a friend.
- Enjoy a pedicure or manicure.
- Drive through decorated neighborhoods, stop for dessert on the way home.
- Go to dinner somewhere new.
- Visit someone special.
- Volunteer wherever your heart leads you (hospital, animal shelter, elderly neighbor, local shop).
- Buy yourself new, warm flannel sheets and sleep in!
- Go out to breakfast by yourself.
Plan ahead. Actively think about and choose how you want to spend your time! Learn to say 'No' to things that pressure or obligate you needlessly. Say 'Yes!' to an enjoyable and rewarding holiday season, and give yourself the gift of Happiness, today and throughout the coming year.
Happy Holidays, and KTQ!
Vikki Q CTTS-M; Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Have a Smoke-Free Holiday at the Q:
The time of the year from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day is loaded with triggers to smoke. A successful quit depends on your ability to remain focused on your goal of a smoke-free life. This is no easy task, especially for the newly quit. The holiday distractions and being with people in places where you used to smoke can lure you back into old habits and lifestyle. Be prepared and get your game plan in place before the festivities begin.
Keep Your Stress Levels In Check
Holiday travel, traffic, shopping, finances, and family issues can pile on the stress and trigger strong cravings to smoke. Do your holiday shopping early and stay within your budget to prevent debt-incurred stress. Homemade gifts or planning a family draw for a gift exchange will keep the costs down but still express the sentiment. Plan your trips, give yourself plenty of time, and avoid travel during busy traffic hours. Exercise is one of the best stress reducers, so get moving daily to boost your mood, relieve tension and any urges to smoke.
Family members grow, move away, pass away, and sometimes hold grievances against one another. Try to be accepting and understanding. If you find yourself getting stressed at a holiday gathering, just step aside and take a breather by going for a walk and getting fresh air. Or simply take in a few deep breaths, hold, and slowly release. Make sure you take some alone time if the holiday cooking, cleaning, and entertaining are getting to you. A hot relaxing bath or listening to soothing music may be all you need to quiet your mind, focus inward, and calm down.
Don't Overindulge In Food Or Drink
Food often seems to play the biggest role in holiday celebrations. Tables are laden with family members' favorite recipes. Expect the temptations to be looking you square in the eye and make the decision beforehand to enjoy in moderation. If you let yourself go hog wild, it may be easier to give in to other temptations or find yourself craving a cigarette to squelch the over-stuffed feeling in your stomach.
Stay away from or limit drinking alcohol. Your resolve not to smoke dissolves the more you drink, making it easier to slip back to smoking without thinking. Alcohol is a smoking trigger for many, so stick to juices, club soda with a splash of cranberry juice, apple cider or water with lemon. Have a plan in place on how you will navigate your way around the table and bar. Promise yourself a reward for getting through the holiday event smoke-free. By not overindulging in food and alcohol you will remain in control, able to make wise decisions and stay strong in your quit.
Seek Out Support
Going to gatherings or parties where others are smoking can be challenging when you are quitting. It's beneficial to let your friends and family know ahead of time you have quit smoking and ask for their support by not smoking around you. Keep your distance. Watching others smoke can trigger strong cravings to light up. Move away from smoking situations and socialize with nonsmokers. Go outside for fresh air at times when there's no avoiding the smoke. If possible bring a nonsmoking friend or support buddy with you to the holiday event. There's no need to quit alone; with a Smartphone you can always find online non-smoking support 24/7 at QuitNet in the forums or chat rooms. Getting through the holiday season with your quit intact is absolutely do-able with careful planning and support!
Happy Holidays and KTQ!
In lieu of a written blog this week, I thought it would be nice to include a history of the Great American Smokeout, which has brought millions of smokers into smoke-free living. The story of how the Smokeout has shaped public perception throughout the years is a fascinating one, and many of us literally owe our lives and our health to the people who made it happen:
ACS Smokeout Story
Thanks to the American Cancer Society for this account.
KTQ, and Happy GASO,
Alan Q, CTTS-M