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
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
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:
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
For many of us, the first reaction to any conflict was a cigarette or a dip. Tobacco seemed to level us off, cool us down, help us focus during or after an upsetting situation. We shouldn't be surprised if we find ourselves getting angry more often, or getting more angry often, after we quit tobacco. Some of us seemed to be in all kinds of disagreements for awhile after quitting, and have even been asked by significant others to please start smoking again!
We didn't quit smoking just to be angry and miserable, did we? And we certainly don't want emotional firestorms to jeopardize our quits. The good news is that we can manage confrontations without alienating everyone around us, or by turning to the numbing distraction of nicotine. We do this by managing ourselves in tense situations, following these three simple rules:
Rule #1: Remove Yourself From The Conflict (or, It's Ok To Walk Away)
You don't have to go to every fight you're invited to. Trying to resolve conflicts while emotionally super-charged is counter-productive; it's too easy to misread and escalate. Remind yourself that your quit is your #1 priority, and that arguments can be a relapse trigger. You don't have to exit gracefully, just get out of the argument by any means possible. Tell the other person that you're too fired up to continue right now, that it would be a good idea to take a break. Then leave the room, hang up the phone or log out, take a walk. The problem won't just go away, but you won't have worsened it by adding tobacco to the mix.
Rule #2: Get a Handle on Your Emotions (or, Don't Try to Control What You Can't)
Nobody and nothing has the power to make you smoke against your will, so take responsibility for your own feelings and choices. Deep breathing is a stress reliever (we used to do it when smoking, with smoke), so start by regaining control of your breath. Have a seat, and take five to ten deep breaths. Breathe in as much air as you can hold, count to five, and then push your breath out through tightly-pursed lips. If you use any kind of prayer or meditation tools, or affirmations like, Easy Does It, now is a good time to employ them.
When you're reasonably settled, log in or call a quit-buddy or trusted confidant and run the situation by them. Listen to yourself as you recount the story; we often tell ourselves exactly what we need to hear when we open ourselves up a little to someone else. The humor with which others respond to our crises is often a great anger deactivator. Our friends' similar experiences, or objective observations, can enlighten us, too.
Rule #3: Clean Your Side Of The Street (or, Do You Want To Be Right Or Be Happy?)
Sooner or later, you'll have to re-engage with the person or situation you were fighting. Nothing frees us more, or resolves conflicts more effectively, than first getting clear on our own part in them. Think over the beginning, middle, and end of the situation, asking yourself:
"Is any of this mine to own? What is my role in it? Is this really an issue important to me, or am I just blowing off steam? Is my anger appropriate to the situation?" We often use anger to cover our own culpability, no matter how small, or to re-direct the anger we feel over someone or something else. Sometimes we're just mad because we can't smoke!
Looking ahead toward a solution to the conflict, consider:
"What is the result I desire most here? Am I trying to punish, or just to be heard? Am I trying to control or change someone else's thinking or behavior? Is there any of my behavior or thinking that needs to change?"
Writing about your thoughts in a journal can help you calm down and see more clearly.
Finally, the most important questions of all:
"What is the best course of action to achieve my desired result? What's my next move, or 'next right thing' that needs to be done here? Do I owe an apology? Do I want to be right, or be happy?"
When you feel ready to move on, stand up and do a nice hard stretch, letting the internal tension release itself. You've done some important work, without an iota of nicotine in the mix.
There's no easy fix for post-quit anger. It just slowly dissipates. We develop new behavioral responses to life the same way we formed the old ones -- one day at a time, one situation at a time. And the best we know how to do is always a little ahead of the best we're able to do, so don't be too critical of your progress. Practice makes perfect, but it's progress, not perfection, that we should seek.
Alan Peters, CTTS-M