Have you ever tried to quit smoking only to find your emotional stability had gone haywire, making the challenge overwhelming? Did quitting make you so irritable and grouchy that family and friends avoided you, perhaps even encouraged you to smoke again? Were feelings of anxiety and depression reasons to relapse back to smoking? If you can relate to any of these questions, know that you are not alone, and that emotional swings are common in the early stages of your quit. But they do not have to roadblock your success…quitting and staying quit is still an achievable goal!
Grieving the Loss
You may feel sad, lonely and miss smoking your cigarettes. Smoking is like a constant companion who is there in good times and bad, guaranteed to help boost your mood. Giving up this perceived friend may cause you to feel deprived of the enjoyment of smoking. No need to worry -- the loss of this friend is replaced with more money, more time and control over your life so you can live it in the healthiest way possible!
Anger and Mood Swings
Recently-quit smokers often get irritable, frustrated and angry. Emotions may swing from good-natured to snappy in no time flat. Be aware that this is normal and due to nicotine withdrawal. Nicotine elevates dopamine in the brain, which makes you feel good; when you stop smoking, these levels go down and so can your mood. In the past, you may have used cigarettes as a coping tool for dealing with these emotions. Now you will have the choice of practicing other healthier ways of managing these feelings.
Be assertive and deal with your feelings. Don’t stifle them with a smoke! Remove yourself from a situation before things get out of hand. Walk away and take a ‘time out’ to collect yourself by calling a friend and venting. Taking some slow deep breaths, or go outside for a walk if possible. Tell yourself “This too shall pass,” and it will.
Many people feel depressed when they quit smoking. Some depression is caused by nicotine addiction and the withdrawal and recovery process. You may smoke to control your moods and feelings. When you stop smoking you no longer have this mood enhancer and may feel a reversed affect. Depression of this nature is not long-lasting and may be helped along with regular exercise, a healthy diet, and the use of an NRT product.
Many times the depression is an underlying condition that develops when you stop smoking. Nicotine and some chemicals in smoke can decrease depressive symptoms by elevating the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine (feel good neurotransmitters) in the brain and you may smoke to keep this chemistry in balance. If this is your situation, consult your doctor, as there are many helpful treatments for depression due to this nature.
Return to Normalcy
The good news is that all this emotional upheaval is temporary. It will take some time and practice to get used to the new you – the person who no longer uses cigarettes to control moods and feelings. In the meantime here are some ways you can manage these emotions:
- Talk to your support person(s) and vent safely, or journal and write out your thoughts
- Do deep breathing exercises, use relaxation techniques
- Exercise, take a walk, get outdoors, breath fresh air, enjoy nature
- Do things you truly enjoy
- Practice your personal affirmation(s)- use positive self talk, "I love being a non-smoker!"
- Consider using a quit-smoking medication to help minimize the emotional withdrawal symptoms
Quitting smoking is about gaining back control of your life -- emotions and all!
Keep the Quit!
Bette Q TTS-M
Let's be clear about a few things before we begin. Most smokers try to quit smoking cold turkey (CT = without taking medication to manage detox symptoms). It's true. Also true? I quit smoking CT myself (from a 3-pack-per-day habit). And finally, I usually suggest that smokers try CT first, for the same reasons that most people do -- it's the quickest, easiest way to go for someone who wants to quit. No extra $$ spent, no waiting for NRT to arrive in the mail, no "Am I doing this right?"
There's only one problem. Decades of research repeatedly demonstrate that, for most smokers during most quit attempts, cold turkey offers the lowest odds of a successful quit. The conventional wisdom of pro-CT advocates (who often ignore the conclusions and summaries of the very studies they cite) focuses on the numbers of people who quit CT, not the % of quitters who succeed. If you're planning your quit now, be wary of three common myths about cold turkey quitting.
Myth #1. Cold Turkey is the most effective way to quit.
Only 3-6 CT quitters, out of every 100, will succeed during any given quit attempt. This makes cold turkey the least effective of all treatments, even less so than medication placebos. CT successes are so low because the physical, mental and behavioral components of withdrawal can prove too much to handle, and negatively impact quitters' work and personal lives -- especially for those who aren't that motivated to quit in the first place.
This doesn't necessarily mean that you won't be able to quit using CT. Any smoker who can make their quit their top priority, and do whatever it takes to not smoke one day at a time, can quit cold turkey like I did. But in the real world of randomized, controlled studies, most quit-medications demonstrate better quit-rates than CT. (See some references below the Join button)
Myth #2. Cold Turkey is the fastest way through withdrawal.
The longest, most intense detoxifications are usually suffered by CT quitters, depending on their level of addiction. Three days is commonly referred to as make-or-break time for CT withdrawal, but CT quitters can experience mild-to-severe detox symptoms, off and on, for weeks after quitting. I know this from personal experience; each of the three times I quit CT, I went through extended detoxes, what we called the Quit Flu in those days, lasting a week to a month.
Again, this is not to say you will suffer such withdrawal if you quit cold-turkey -- that's largely determined by your current addiction/smoking level and metabolism -- only that you're more likely to. And withdrawal symptoms are the top-reported reasons for relapse.
Myth #3. The intensity of a cold turkey quit inhibits relapse.
Though many CT quitters claim that their quit is/was so horrific that they never want to go through it again, there's no solid research demonstrating that past withdrawal experiences influence current quit-success, or that a bad past experience helps us keep the quit this time. What we often find instead is an increased resistance to the idea of quitting this time because of past difficulties, and higher rates of slips and relapses during intense detoxes.
All that being said...
Cold turkey quitting may still best the way for you to quit. If you're a middle-aged man or post-menopausal woman motivated to quit, have successfully quit before without medicinal intervention, and/or aren't being treated for depression or a bi-polar condition, your odds of quitting CT are better than average. If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, or smoke less than half a pack a day, you probably should quit smoking cold turkey (discuss this with your doctor).
However, don't assume that cold turkey means no assistance at all -- research consistently shows that behavioral support and/or assistance from healthcare professionals and other ex-smokers can make the difference between losing or keeping your quit.
But if you know or fear that severe withdrawal will negatively impact your life, or if you haven't been able to get through detox unaided in the past, don't worry. You don't have to quit cold turkey. There are more effective treatment methods available to you!
No matter how you quit, staying quit is your real priority. Good luck, visit QuitNet for help, and KTQ!
Alan Peters, CTTS-M
Note: This blog is about CT quitting for individual smokers. Public health officials sometimes promote CT treatment to large populations, because they feel that's more cost-effective than paying for, distributing, and supporting compliance with quit-medicines on a large scale.
Note: No QuitNet staff, authors, or treatment specialists receive research funding or other remuneration from pharmaceutical companies or quit-smoking medication manufacturers. Our recommendations are always based on science and evidence, and best practices.
Pharmacological interventions for smoking cessation: an overview and network meta-analysis.
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: "Higher rates of smoking cessation were associated with NRT (17.6%) and bupropion (19.1%) compared with placebo (10.6%). Varenicline (27.6%) and combination NRT (31.5%) (eg, patch plus inhaler) were most effective for achieving smoking cessation."
Nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation.
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: "All of the commercially available forms of NRT increase the rate of quitting by 50 to 70%, regardless of setting. The effectiveness of NRT appears to be largely independent of the intensity of additional support provided to the individual."
Usage Patterns of Stop Smoking Medications in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: "Approximately 3–5% of smokers who make an unaided quit attempt report remaining smoke free one year following their quit attempt . In the UK, an evaluation of the NHS indicated that smokers who attempted to quit using stop smoking medication and behavioral support were nearly 4 times more likely to be quit at 52 weeks than smokers who attempted to quit with no assistance ."
Meta-analysis of the efficacy of nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation: differences between men and women.
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: "NRT was more effective for men than placebo at 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month follow-ups. The benefits of NRT for women were clearly evident only at the 3- and 6-month follow-ups. Giving NRT in conjunction with high-intensity non-pharmacological support was more important for women than men."
Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update—Clinical Practice Guidelines.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: "Numerous effective medications are available for tobacco dependence, and cllinicians should encourage their use by all patients attempting to quit smoking—except when medically contraindicated or with specific populations for which there is insufficient evidence of effectiveness (i.e., pregnant women, smokeless tobacco users, light smokers, and adolescents)... Clinicians also should consider the use of certain combinations of medications identified as effective in this Guideline."
Center for Disease Control Quit Smoking Fact Sheet
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: "Medications for quitting that have been found to be effective include the following: Nicotine replacement products: Over-the-counter (nicotine patch [which is also available by prescription], gum, lozenge); Prescription (nicotine patch, inhaler, nasal spray); Prescription non-nicotine medications: bupropion SR (Zyban®),6 varenicline tartrate (Chantix®)."
Ever wonder what compels you to smoke, knowing full well the health risks? Most likely the answer is nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes, and a cigarette is the perfect delivery system for nicotine. It takes only ten seconds from inhalation of smoke for nicotine to reach your brain, quicker than an IV drug injection! It's this speed of nicotine to the brain that makes cigarette smoking so easily and heavily addictive. Other additives in cigarettes, such as ammonia and theobromine, also play a part in maximizing this rapid delivery (and are added by tobacco companies for this reason).
Once nicotine reaches your brain, it changes the way your brain cells communicate to each other. Nicotine mimics the neurotransmitter acetylcholine by attaching to special receptors on your brain cells, stimulating the release of chemicals that make you feel good. Dopamine, a main neurotransmitter of the reward pathway in the brain, is one of the chemicals released. Dopamine helps regulate moods and gives you a feeling of pleasure and calm. It's part of what encourages you to keep going back for more tobacco smoke.
When you smoke and expose your brain to nicotine, it increases the number of nicotine receptors, which then require more nicotine for the brain to feel normal. This alteration in brain structure is what makes quitting smoking so difficult. The level of dopamine drops during the time in between smoking cigarettes. You may feel irritable, fidgety, and stressed when that happens, and craving a cigarette to make the withdrawal symptoms subside, so you can feel good again.
As long as you keep on smoking, this cycle of craving, smoking, relaxing, craving will continue. Over time, you build up a tolerance to nicotine and need to smoke more cigarettes to get the same feel good effect. This is why if you switch to a 'low' or 'light' cigarette you will inhale more deeply or smoke more of the cigarette to compensate for the lower dose of nicotine.
Nicotine can have both a stimulating and relaxing effect on your brain. Ever been tired and taken a couple short puffs on a cigarette to perk up...or taken in a few longer drags to help feel relaxed when feeling stressed or tense? That's just another way nicotine gets you hooked in.
The changes nicotine causes in the brain makes smoking highly addictive and difficult to stop. Not only do you deal with the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, such as irritability, anxiety, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, and strong cravings to smoke, but you also have to contend with the behavioral and environmental triggers that crop up, like having a glass of wine, driving the car, or getting into a heated argument -- all times your brain is used to getting a jolt of nicotine and pleasure. Once you do quit smoking you need to stick with the acronym N.O.P.E -Not One Puff Ever, because even a single cigarette can risk triggering the same cravings to smoke you had before quitting.
As overwhelming as this may sound, quitting smoking is an achievable goal that can make all the difference in leading a healthier life. Consider using a quit-medication if the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms get in the way of a successful quit. The encouraging news is that, though it may take up to six weeks, quitting for good enables the nicotine receptors in your brain to return to normal.
Keep Going and KTQ!
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
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 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
Last week we talked about the many benefits of drinking water. This week, we will look at how certain food choices may help you KTQ by reducing cravings.
Smokers usually smoke the minute they feel anything. That can make it difficult for the newly quit to even know what they are craving! It takes practice to identify thirst, hunger, fatigue or boredom. Chances are a tall, cool glass of water and the right snack can have a quitter feeling back on track in no time. Selecting foods that may help kill craves can also help prevent overeating and weight gain. Eating small amounts throughout the day can manage blood sugar levels, reduce cravings, increase energy, kick up metabolic rate and stabilize moods. Sounds like a good plan, doesn't it? Here are some great food choices:
• Fruit For sugar cravings, reach for fresh fruit. Eating fresh fruit is a good way to increase your fiber and water intake, and to fill up without filling out. Most fruits are alkalizing, which may help reduce nicotine cravings in the beginning of your quit. Blueberries, apples, cherries, watermelon, grapes, plums, and oranges are a few of the many fresh fruit options.
• Vegetables For hand-to-mouth snacking options, try fresh, sliced vegetables. Vegetables are high in vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, and are low in calories. You can eat enough to get full without affecting your waistline. Most vegetables are alkalizing, which may help reduce nicotine cravings in the beginning of your quit. Try sliced bell peppers, zucchini, cucumber, celery and carrots. Or, mix up a salad with lettuce or spinach greens.
• Mint To reduce sugar or nicotine cravings, try strong mint flavors. Peppermint, spearmint, and menthol-flavored cough drops, gum, sugar free hard candies and breath mints may help kill a crave.
• Sour/Tart To reduce sugar or nicotine cravings, you can also try sour or tart flavors such as lemon, lime, lemon drops, dill pickles or stuffed olives.
• Spicy Try spicy foods like hot salsa, Tabasco sauce, red or green chilies, and jalapenos to kill cravings. A generous sprinkling of black pepper may help take the edge off of cravings, as well.
• Warm Eating a warm meal is often more filling than a cold one. Oatmeal is a good choice. Add some cinnamon, applesauce or raisins to increase fiber and crave fighting properties.
• Hot Sipping hot tea is time consuming, and hot liquid may help satisfy cravings. Choose licorice, peppermint, lemon, cinnamon or other such flavored teas to help kill the crave. Green tea is high in antioxidants, and detox teas may offer added support for the newly quit.
• Crunchy The hand to mouth habit associated with smoking is hard to break. Eating crunchy foods like apples, almonds, seeds and raw vegetables can help to satisfy this trigger.
• Fat Foods that are high in healthy fats help you feel full longer and experience cravings less. Olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and avocados are some examples of healthy fats.
• Fiber Healthy foods that are high in fiber help you feel full longer and can counteract some of the constipation associated with quitting. Oatmeal, raisins, vegetables and legumes are some examples of high fiber foods.
To help yourself make good food choices, stock up ahead of time. Arrange your cabinets so the best food choices are front and center. Better yet, make a 'Quit Shelf' with all your go-to crave-killing foods and tape up a few motivational cards with images, mantras, or inspiring statements on them. You can even add your quit stats to your cards weekly. :) With preparation and commitment, you can make this quit your healthiest quit, your best quit - and your last quit!
Keep up the good work, keep going, and KTQ!
Vikki Q CTTS-M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Quit with us!
Not enough can be said about the wonderful properties of water! Drinking water is healthy for your entire system, and helps you keep the quit! The human body is up to 70% water, and yet many people do not drink enough of it throughout the day. The American lifestyle itself can be dehydrating given our frequent consumption of caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, sodas and high sodium meals. Mild dehydration can cause water retention, bloat, constipation and other symptoms including:
• Dry skin
• Lack of energy
• Dry mouth
Are you drinking enough water? Moderate to severe dehydration can be dangerous; even fatal. Drinking enough water can help your body in many ways. The ‘8 glasses per day’ conventional wisdom is not carved in stone (or substantiated by research) so how much water you need to drink per day varies. The more you sweat or exercise, the more water you need to replace. If you consume dehydrating foods and beverages, you will need to drink more. Fruits, vegetables, tea, soup and other diet choices contain water, so you can allow for some of the water content in your diet to count towards your overall daily water intake. Try aiming for 6 glasses a day to help get your water drinking habit moving forward. This can easily be accomplished by substituting a glass of water for every soda, sugar laden juice or junk food snack you would normally reach for. Water actually makes you want to drink more, so after a few days of drinking 6 glasses per day, you will actually feel thirsty. It is that easy!
Here are a few of the many benefits of drinking enough water per day:
• Helps you KTQ! Water is great for ‘hand to mouth’ triggers, reduces physical cravings, distracts from smoking urges and takes up empty time previous spent smoking.
• Helps clear toxins. Your kidneys use water to help break down, process and clear toxins from your system.
• Aids your digestive system. Your intestines use water to keep things moving smoothly! If you don’t drink enough water, your colon pulls water to maintain hydration and constipation is a likely result.
• Helps your blood and bones. Water is used by your body to make healthy new bone and muscle cells.
• Prevents puffiness. Water has a diuretic affect in your body. Inother words, drinking lots of water will increase the excretion of water from your body. Your body holds water to preserve it. If you drink enough water, you will not retain water (unless you have a medical condition).
• Helps your metabolism. Water contributes to weight loss by stimulating your metabolism, killing hunger pangs and filling you up.
• Helps your comfort level. Water is involved in balancing your body temperature.
• Saves your joints. Water lubricates your joints and may reduce pain.
• Gives your face a healthy glow. Water improves your skin through internal hydration.
• Saves You. Water may help prevent a heart attack! Drinking a glass of water before bed or a hot bath/shower may reduce your chance of a heart attack.
• Saves money. Water is cheaper than other beverages (or free).
• Improves your smile. Water has a slight alkalizing affect which helps reduce acidity and is good for your teeth and overall mouth health.
Drinking enough water is very good for all of you! You can add lemon, lime or a splash of juice to add flavor. Try ice, a straw and your favorite glass to make drinking water a pleasant part of your day. Next week we will talk about ways to kill your cravings with certain foods.
Drink up, and KTQ!
Vikki Q CTTS-M Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Visit QuitNet for inspiration and support!
It's taken a lot of hard work, with possibly some challenges to get to this tobacco-free place. This is where you want to remain. Being a recent quitter increases the risk of relapse. Quitting smoking can be physically uncomfortable and mentally exhausting. Consider using a quit medication if you have a difficult time during the first couple of weeks maintaining a quit. Connecting with a support network, reaching out to a quit-buddy, or talking to a smoking cessation counselor is helpful in keeping you focused and on track.
Staying quit and preventing a relapse requires a plan to maintain your new healthy lifestyle. Recognize behavior that could get you in trouble and plan ahead with coping skills, strategies for distraction, and emotional support. You will need to find alternatives to the temptations to smoke; learn from your quitting history where your stumbling triggers lie and seriously commit to doing whatever it takes to not smoke.
Pay attention to signs of a potential relapse. Have you noticed your mind wandering down memory lane? Perhaps thinking of smoking a bit more than usual? Watch out if you find yourself rationalizing that you can smoke just one or feeling over confident and falsely believing you are solid in your quit and can take a few puffs. Slips and relapses all start with one puff so avoid the risk. Ask yourself why you are questioning or contemplating going down this road. Practice countering your smoking rationalizations with truthful statements that support quitting smoking. Respond to ‘I feel healthy.’ and ‘Smoking doesn’t affect me because I don’t inhale.’ by telling yourself ‘Smoking affects every organ and system in my body, including my mouth, teeth and tongue’ ‘Quitting smoking now will reduce my chances of a smoking related illness.’ The only sure way to stay quit is by adhering to the “Not One Puff Ever” maxim. Continue to stay focused on your quit and reward yourself for all your good efforts.
Weight gain associated with quitting smoking is often another reason given for returning to smoking. Try not to become overwhelmed with taking on too many life changes at once. Keep the priority on your quit, knowing that the weight can be dealt with by eating healthy food choices, smaller portions and getting some physical movement daily. A little weight gain is far less harmful to you than continued smoking.
Be prepared to anticipate and identify high risk situations. Being out socially where smoking is prevalent, drinking alcohol or being in a heated argument are all situations that could trigger a relapse. Risky occasions happen when you least expect, during fun times at family gatherings, visiting old friends, even when you’re bored with nothing to do. Protect your quit by rehearsing mentally how you will cope with these varying situations. See yourself saying no to the cigarette offered to you by a friend at a party, or whatever scene may play out in the future and responding with the alternative coping strategy you’ve decided to use instead of smoking. Get suggestions for good trigger strategies from the coaches or members at QuitNet.
Balancing a healthy lifestyle is essential in maintaining a quit. Find new ways to manage the stress in your life; get some physical exercise, meditate, keep a journal and take care of yourself doing things you enjoy. Planning ahead for potential triggers will help you avoid the snare of relapsing.
Keep coming back, and KTQ!