If you have ever relapsed, this blog is for you! A relapse is a red arrow pointing to your unmanaged personal trigger(s). You can avoid a relapse by learning how to navigate through the following high risk situations.
1. HANDLE STRESS LIKE A PRO
One of the strongest relapse triggers is stress. Stress is particularly dangerous for women, but men and women alike have lost solid quits during stressful times. Today is a great day to identify new, smoke-free coping tools to help you relax, step away, let go. By planning ahead now, you will be prepared before you end up in a difficult situation. This is your quit, so get involved! Brainstorm an answer or two for the following statements, and write them down:
- When I need to relax, I will __________.
- When I feel stress building up, I will __________.
- When I want a reward or comfort, I will __________.
- When I want to socialize or fill my time, I will _____________.
- When I need a break, I will __________________.
If smoking is the only thing you can think of for each item on the above list, that's only because it is only thing you've tried so far! By replacing cigarettes with things that actually do help you diminish stress, you will be able to avoid relapse and keep your quit going strong.
Rethink your stress = smoking connection! Did you know that smoking increases stress levels by causing anxiety, withdrawal and a craving for another cigarette? Smoking prevents you from doing the very things that ease stress, boost confidence, entertain you, and help you feel better. Give other things a chance to work - really work - to help you cope with day-to-day life effectively!
2. PREVENT BOREDOM
Avoid sitting in your usual chair, pondering, "What now?" Do something - anything - to occupy your mind! Boredom leads to bartering, slip justification, romancing the smoke, and the ultimate delusion of 'just one'. Fill your time with every activity, task, project and chore you can think of to keep you away from old habitual smoking patterns. Read, do sit ups, call a friend, take a walk, clean a drawer, do your nails, pay the bills, wash the car, clean a closet, bake something, write something, repeat a mantra, watch a movie, drink ice water, make a cup of tea, knit, surf the internet, clean the top of the refrigerator, take a class, follow an exercise video, brush the dog, talk to your kids, do laundry, stretch, deep breathe, make a meal - stay busy, busy, busy! This will prevent your mind from wandering off towards smoking thoughts. Even if a fleeting smoking thought does occur, you can redirect immediately to the task at hand. Also, be sure to find a personal mantra that is meaningful to you, and repeat it often:
- To inspire myself to keep going, I will repeat this mantra: _________.
3. DEAL WITH OTHER SMOKERS
At some point, you will have to venture out from your super busy, relaxing, controlled home environment into the real world. There may be cigarette ads on gas station windows, smokers gathered at entryways, or even a friend extending a pack toward you! This is where all of your home practice, redirecting smoking thoughts, repeated mantras, advance planning and new coping tools combine to lead you through temptation.
Avoid going on autopilot! Right up front let friends know you have quit, and thank them for their support. Repeat your quit motivations, repeat your mantra, and keep your hands full and busy. Hold a water bottle, hold your cellphone, hold your car keys, have mints or hard candies in your pockets, chew on a toothpick or straw - do all you can to replace the old habit of holding a cigarette. Last but not least, if the going ever gets too tough - leave! You can't relapse if you are driving away from a risky relapse situation while repeating your mantra.
As you work your way through your strongest triggers, you will gain all the confidence, new behaviors and coping tools needed to ensure permanent quit success! Plan ahead, follow your plan and KTQ :)
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
You don't have to Quit alone;
A healthy diet can be an effective quit tool to help reduce cravings, mood swings, withdrawal symptoms and weight gain. Fear of weight gain is a common barrier to quitting smoking, as well as a primary relapse trigger. Following a healthy diet can put you in charge of your weight and wellbeing. Myths surrounding diet and exercise create justifications for weight gain, continued smoking, and relapse. Many people assume the following:
- If I keep smoking, I won’t gain weight. Did you know many quitters are over their ideal weight, so smoking hasn't helped prevent weight gain?
- If I relapse, I will lose the weight I gained during this quit. Did you know most people do not lose weight when they go back to smoking, and that quitting is not usually the cause of weight gain?
- I can’t afford to gain any more weight; it is bad for my health. Did you know that the stress on your heart from a pack a day habit is equal to an extra 90lbs of body weight?
The Awesome Truth About Weight Gain
Weight gain does not happen overnight. To gain 5lbs of actual body fat, you'd need to consume 17,500 calories more than what is required to maintain your current weight! This means you are in control of weight gain - it does not attack you against your willl.
Weight gain is almost always a result of overeating. many people eat too much or eat foods high in sugar and fat. When this is done consistently without exercising, you take in more than you can burn off -- and you gain weight. Eating within individual caloric requirements prevents weight gain.
And, that weight gain alters your muscle to body fat ratio, further slowing your metabolic rate. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabiloc rate. The more fat you have, the slower your metabolic rate. Men generally lose weight faster than women, as they tend to have more muscle. People who are overweight tend to store more fat from the calories they eat than those who are slender. This is why losing weight is harder each time you give it a try. Overweight smokers may already have a reduced metabolic rate as a result of current eating habits, lack of exercise and weight gain. The key to managing weight successfully lies in making different food choices than those that led to weight gain. Adding exercise is a great way to help get a sluggish metabolism going again.
Nicotine is a stimulant, so stopping smoking can potentially affect metabolic rate to a small degree. Reducing calories by just 200 per day can offset any changes in metabolism after quitting. This is the equivalent of bypassing one tall mocha from Starbucks (no whipped cream) or half a ham & cheese sandwich per day. Preventing weight gain realted to quitting smoking requires minimal changes to current lifestyle.
‘Scale Weight’ fluctuates from day to day based on multiple factors, including food consumption, sodium intake, water retention, hormones, medications, amount of sleep and stress levels. Weighing daily is not advised for this reason, as it can needlessly discourage the quitter. Most quitters gain less than 10lbs, which can be managed by making reasonable daily diet choices.
Hormones and Weight Gain
Women who quit may experience symptoms from hormone fluctuations similar to PMS. These symptoms may include increased appetite, bloating, cravings and water retention independent of dietary intake. Women quitting during or after menopause may experience increased fat storage (usually in waist/abdomen area) and reduced metabolism independent of quitting smoking. Hormone levels usually balance out within several months of remaining smoke free.
Some studies show quitters who use nicotine gum, lozenge or bupropion to support their quit may be less likely to gain weight during their quit. However, this effect only lasts while on the meds.
The Best Kept Secret: Fruits and Vegetables!
Research shows that among current smokers, those who ate the most fruit and/or vegetables were more likely to smoke less than a pack a day and wait at least 30 minutes before smoking their first cigarette of the day. This reduced dependence on smoking is huge, and a testament to the importance of dietary choices during your quit. Research shows abstinence rates were higher for quitters that consumed the highest amount of fruits or vegetables, and 3 times higher for those who ate both. (1)
Fruit and vegetable consumption, non-caffeinated beverages and dairy products worsen the perceived taste of cigarettes. On the other hand, meats, caffeinated beverages and alcohol were perceived as enhancing the taste of cigarettes. Drinking coffee or a cold beer may increase your cravings, so choose wisely for success.
Fruit comes to the rescue! The sugars in fruit also increase dopamine levels and thus reduce the craving for a cigarette, resulting in fewer cigarettes smoked each day and less nicotine dependence. Fruit contains fiber and many other beneficial nutrients (such as vitamin C) which also interact with the dopamine system. By getting your sugar crave fed with fruit, the newly quit can avoid candy and other junk foods that lead to binging and weight gain.
Daily Diet Tips for Success
Eat small, healthy, frequent meals to keep blood sugar levels steady. This will reduce cravings, fatigue and mood swings while revving up the metabolic rate. This one tip alone may counteract potential metabolic changes from stopping smoking.
1. Eat lots of fresh fruits, vegetables! Half of your plate should be filled with F&V.
2. Eat nonfat dairy products, lean protein and whole grains.
3. Drink plenty of water, for both fullness and cleansing.
4. Avoid soda, junk food and excess sugar,fat and sodium.
Pay attention to what you eat, how much you eat and how often while consuming as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible. These steps will ensure you keep both your quit and your waist line. The quit process brings opportunity to reach your weight management goals, as well. Another key component to success is exercise, which will be my next blog topic!
Keep going and KTQ,
Vikki Chavez CTTS-M
You don't have to quit alone:
(1) Reference: A Longitudinal Evaluation of Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Cigarette Smoking Jeffrey P. Haibach, M.P.H., Gregory G. Homish, Ph.D., & Gary A. Giovino, Ph.D., M.S., Nicotine Tob Res (2012) doi: 10.1093/ntr/nts130
There are some misconceptions about quit support products, specifically surrounding the ‘support’ part! Take Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) for example. As tobacco treatment specialists, we sometimes hear "My NRT is not working". Let's look at the role NRT plays for a basic overview of what to expect. NRT does not make you quit smoking. It does not remove the habitual want to smoke, or the emotional need to smoke. NRT does not eliminate withdrawal symptoms, nor does it prevent the detox process from occurring.
So what does NRT do? It takes the edge off cravings so you can focus on breaking your lifelong habitual, behavioral and emotional attachment to the daily ritual of smoking. NRT supports your efforts by reducing the physical cravings and withdrawal symptoms so you are more likely to stick with the quit process long enough to succeed.
NRT is not designed to match your smoking habit nicotine consumption milligram for milligram, but rather to reduce cravings by delivering a slow, steady dose of nicotine in your system based on the average amount of cigarettes you smoked prior to your quit date. This slow, steady dosing avoids the rapid and addictive 'rush/crash/crave' cycle that smoking provides (and makes quitting so difficult). NRT helps by lessening the intensity of physical withdrawal symptoms. Physical withdrawals will still occur as your body detoxes, heals and adjusts after years of inhaling toxic, chemical filled smoke, tar and gasses into your lungs and throughout your entire system. Nicotine is just one of the many thousands of chemicals in cigarette smoke.
NRT is advised to be used for at least the first 8 weeks of your quit while stepping down gradually. 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, such as being a nonsmoker! Doing so with overwhelming physical cravings often leads to relapse before any of the learning new behaviors or habit breaking part takes place. Nicotine and temporary cravings are a small part of the Big Picture. Long term quit success comes from having 8 weeks of practice and actively working to learn new behaviors and coping tools, not from 'using NRT'. The Quitter must actively work their quit process in order for NRT support to be most effective.
So, how do you work your quit process? Start by identifying your top 3 tobacco triggers. Then, come up with effective new coping tools that will work for You. This is where you want to put your time, energy and focus during the next 8 weeks you have NRT support. Practice getting through stress, boredom, relationships, disappointments and day to day life situations without using tobacco. Practicing new coping tools ensures your quit process gets easier as time goes by. No amount of NRT can do this particular part of the quit, which is a good thing! It forces the newly quit to start really thinking about living their day to day lives without a cigarette. In each of those moments where you choose to do something else instead of smoke, you will be laying the foundation for becoming a nonsmoker.
The key to success is to let NRT do it's job by using it correctly as directed, while you do your job - actively work your quit process! Along the way, you'll discover lots of new things to do as you enjoy your healthy, smoke free lifestyle.
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Don't quit alone! We can help:
You've been quit for awhile and feeling pretty confident that you're over the hump. You rarely think about smoking, and can easily say no to the idea of lighting up a death stick. That is, until today. Suddenly it seems like a good idea to have 'just one', and you have a knot of fear in your belly because of it. What the heck happened between yesterday and today? How did you lose all that resolve? Where did things go wrong?
The truth is there's probably nothing wrong. Some days are harder than others, or like my father used to say, "Some days you eat the bear; some days the bear eats you." The fact that your feelings or perspective about your quit have shifted doesn't necessarily mean your resolve has, too. Do you quit your job every time you feel like sleeping in, or break up with your partner every time they annoy you? We can't always be confident and strong in our quits; in fact, part of our success is learning to stay the course when our emotional scenery changes. Base your quit on fundamental concepts and principles, and accept that your feelings may change from time to time.
Here are some of the recovery principles I've built my own 21-year quit upon. Not all may resonate with you, so Take What You Need And Leave The Rest (that's the first principle of all):
Quitting Is A Process, Not An Event. You've initiated a process of change, and that's going to be happening for a long time. Roll with it.
Smoking Thoughts Are Not Commands. They're just thoughts, perfectly natural in the minds of those who have smoked for years. If we don't act on them, they'll eventually go away. Remember that it's impossible for you to relapse without your permission -- no power in the universe can force you to choose smoking.
You Are Not Alone. If you're thinking you might trip up, log onto www.quitnet.com and talk to another ex-smoker. Ask them what they do at times like this. Don't underestimate the powerful potential for change inherent in simply discussing your quit with other ex-smokers. It can be fun, too, and lead to rewarding relationships.
You Only Have To Stay Quit For Today. Yesterday is already in your success files, and tomorrow never comes. Today is the only day you'll ever have, and the only day you'll ever have to not smoke in.
You Make Your Own Odds. If your quit is your #1 priority today, if you're willing to do whatever it takes to not smoke today, your odds of success today are 100%. Keep The Quit #1, and you'll keep your quit.
You Don't Have to Quit Perfectly. As long as 51% of your smoke-free mind wants to stay quit, it doesn't matter that 48% of it may not want to -- that 2% difference is all that's needed. Few of us were certain that we wanted to quit at first; the certainty can often come long after our quit-dates, and disappear completely sometimes.
Quitting Smoking Is Only The Beginning. Be ready for recovery on multiple levels. Addictions are physical, mental, emotional and behavioral, and require some treatment in all areas. Ingrained habits and routines, thought patterns and physical responses need time and effort to change (that's where a support network, no matter how large or small, comes into the picture). Sometimes that change will be uncomfortable, but that discomfort will be your proof that you're on the right track.
Don't Listen to the Lie. Beware that little voice telling you that quitting is too hard, or not worth the effort. Believing that voice is how we all got into this pickle in the first place.
You Get Out Of Your Quit What You Put Into It. Every action you take in favor of your quit is 'money in the quit-bank' when you need it. And on days like this, you'll be glad you've been investing in your quit. Tonight, when you lay your smoke-free head on the pillow, you'll be a success -- no matter how you feel about it.
Alan P, CTTS-M
With the summer 2012 Olympics just around the corner, you may feel inspired to get out and cycle, swim, row, or play a sport. The good news is that exercise is not only for athletes, but for quitters as well!
A recent, small study from the University of Exeter showed that moderate, physical exercise can help reduce cigarette cravings. Researchers believe this may be due to the fact that exercise releases chemicals in the brain, called endorphins, which improve mood and hence reduce a smoker’s perceived need for a cigarette. But the benefits of exercising when quitting go beyond brain chemistry.
Exercise will not only help you feel better, but it might also give you longer and better quality of sleep at night, help you reduce stress, and perhaps even influence healthier eating habits and food choices. Specific benefits for ex-smokers may mean that exercise counter some of the side effects of quitting like insomnia, fatigue, and weight gain. Best of all, exercise provides time to yourself; something many ex-smokers say they miss when quitting smoking.
Previous literature assumed that focusing on one behavior change at a time was best. We now know that to be untrue. In fact, ex-smokers who address weight management (through diet and/or exercise) while quitting smoking are more likely to quit successfully. Weight gain and stress are two of the biggest triggers ex-smokers often contribute to relapse. Hence adopting other healthy habits--healthy eating, exercise and stress management techniques--in addition to quitting smoking, make good sense.
What’s the best exercise to do when quitting smoking? The one you enjoy and will do consistently and regularly!
Perhaps you’ve always wanted to try a sport or a new class (spin, yoga, or Zumba). Get outside and go for a walk, take a hike, or paddle in a canoe or kayak. If weather is a deterrent, join a gym or a group of mall walkers. If you have pain and/or mobility issues, look into home videos or chair exercises.
If you are new to exercise, start with a small, attainable goal. Initially you may start with ten minutes of exercise one or two days a week. Over time you will build muscle strength and stamina and will eventually be able to increase duration and frequency of exercise. Don’t forget to bring water and warm up properly before engaging in any type of physical activity. Also, finding a buddy who can work out with you can help you stay motivated and accountable! Last, always consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
Ultimately, you may not win a gold medal, but you can definitely quit and still be a winner.