Stress is a common relapse trigger. Stress happens to all of us, and stressors range from mild to overwhelming. Since stress can build to a breaking point, a good stress management plan is crucial for a successful quit.
The minute you find yourself feeling stressed, stop. Stop everything you are doing and take a good deep breath. Pause, and feel the air fill your lungs. Exhale slowly. Repeat 5 times. Trust that everything is going to work out as it is meant to be, that you are capable of handling the situation and that your best is always good enough. All you can do is all you can do - then let go. Focus on the task at hand, only own what is yours to own, and let the rest go.
Many of us live days filled with an endless list of tasks, appointments, chores, responsibilities, obligations and work. Take some time out of every day to do a few things for you! It is your life and one worth living in joy, not stress.. The rest is just 'stuff'. What do you enjoy? Do it! Play music, take a long hot bath, take a walk, go to a movie, spend time alone, read, journal, fix a quiet & healthy meal, take a short drive, go window shopping or to your favorite restaurant. Give yourself permission to put you at the top of your list! Let someone else make dinner. Leave the floors or paperwork for later. Take a day off - ENJOY! You deserve a break, and nothing is worth more than enjoying the journey of our lives.
TALK WITH A FRIEND
A problem shared is trouble spared! Good friends offer you feedback, a space for you to be heard, a venue for you to process your thoughts (and often, your own solutions), a shoulder to cry on, a cheerleader, a confidant, shared joy, encouragement or comfort in times of need. Reach out! Be a good friend, and appreciate the good friends you have. Your life will be improved many times over.
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
It is easy to get caught up in the swirl of worry and everything that is not working (car, dishwasher, conflicting personalities) when in fact, the majority of our lives ARE working! The washer may be broken, but how is your heart? Your health? Do you have somewhere to live? Have you laughed lately? Focus on what you do have, what you love, and what is right in your world. The rest is just random ups and downs. What you focus on grows - focus on all the good things around you!
HONOR YOUR QUIT
Quitting smoking is a big change. It takes effort, commitment, will power, planning and daily attention. Quitting is a good exercise in effective goal setting and completion, and each step in your quit process adds successful tools to use in other parts of your life. Celebrate and protect your quit by making every day a smoke free, relaxing day!
Stay tuned for Part 2; Detox. Until then, keep up the good work and KTQ!
Vikki CTTS- M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
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
Expectations. Crowds. Obligations. Family Issues. Loneliness. Money. That wonderful holiday season is here again. Will yours be filled with joy, good company, relaxation and time off work? Or, will it be filled with stress, too little time, over spending, over eating and wishing it were all over with? Holidays can be a big relapse trigger, so today is a great day to set yourself up to succeed. How? Just say No!
Just say No to parties you have no interest in going to, that gathering that ends up in a fight every year, gift exchanges you can't afford and any other obligation you feel pressured in to. For some people, being alone is depressing. For some people, depressing is attending a dinner gathering of married couples when solo. Couples may prefer holiday alone time to enjoy each other's company minus the crowd. Feel free to stay home or go where you feel happiest. That may be a crowded theater, your favorite restaurant or some precious at home time off work with zero 'to do' items. You really don't have to be, go or do anything you don't want to. This year, commit to saying No to everything you don't have a heartfelt interest in doing. The secret to having a fun, relaxing, wonderful holiday is giving yourself permission to do Only Things That Are Fun, Relaxing And Wonderful to You!
Relax. You may have time off work, or time off family as they are out shopping and visiting and so forth. Take some well deserved time for You, whatever you want to do with it! Reach out. Call people you care about and want to spend time with. Meet for coffee, wrap presents together, catch a movie, go for a walk, have a nice holiday breakfast. A long holiday weekend means you can connect with friends your work schedules may not usually allow for. Married, single or somewhere in between, there are always ways to share the spirit of the season in a manner that is meaningful to You. You may want to just hang out in your house alone for once and relax - it is up to you!
Plan ahead. Think about about how you want to spend your time and your money, how you really feel about crowded malls, stressful obligations and so forth:
- The most relaxing enjoyable things I could do this year are:
- One thing I will say No to this year:
- One thing I will be sure to do for Me this year:
- To reduce stress I will:
- To enjoy my time off I will:
- One person I will be sure to reach out to:
- One thing I am not getting pressured into this year:
- I give myself permission to:
- I commit to keeping my quit my first priority. If I feel tempted, I will:
- As far as dieting or not dieting, I am going to:
Enjoy. By actively choosing to have a wonderful holiday, you can reduce stress and relapse triggers. By learning to say No to things that you feel pressured or obligated to do, you will be saying Yes to an enjoyable and rewarding holiday season. This year, give yourself a gift ~ the gift of Happiness:)
Happy Holidays, and KTQ!
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Have a Smoke-Free Holiday at the Q:
One minute you feel fine, the next you feel like crying at the drop of a hat. Other times you may feel like breaking something (or someone).
Welcome to the roller coaster of emotions called quitting smoking. Feelings of anger, stress, sadness, anxiety, and elation cycle back and forth, up and down, and take you for a loop-de-loop leaving you feeling physically exhausted and emotionally drained.
If you think you are on this ride alone, you’re not. Many ex-smokers experience mood swings when they quit smoking. This is because nicotine is a mood enhancing drug. Nicotine works by releasing feel-good chemicals (called endorphins) in the brain awakening the reward pathway. When you quit smoking, you lose not only this chemically induced happiness, but the behaviors, habits and associations you’ve also created with cigarettes as a “friend,” stress relief, a crutch, and as a way to deal with a myriad of emotions.
But smoking was never a way to cope with emotions. Smoking was a way to not deal with emotions. Smoking cigarettes literally teaches smokers to mask emotions behind a smoke screen. Freeing yourself from behind that smokescreen means learning new ways of handling emotions more effectively. Studies show that in the long run, ex-smokers are actually happier than when they did smoke!
The road to feeling more in control of your emotions may very well start with acknowledging that, at least temporarily, your emotions are out of control. Try reigning them back in with these suggestions:
- Talk things out. Call up a friend and vent. Or consider finding a therapist. If you don’t want to talk things out, then write them out in a journal, text message someone, or log into the Q and use the three post rule!
- Increase endorphins, naturally. Doing things you enjoy naturally releases endorphins: exercising, gardening, spending time with friends, working on a hobby, and playing an instrument or sport. It’s hard to be upset or sad when you’re doing something you love!
- Take a breather. Step outside and take some deep breaths. Inhale slowly through the nose and out the mouth, counting to 10 each time. Go for a brisk walk or bike ride. Exercising outdoors has been shown to improve mood!
- Use rote responses. These are mantras you repeatedly chant to yourself: One day at a time. This too shall pass. Just BREATHE!
- Ask your doctor about medications. Some quit smoking medications can help minimize withdrawal symptoms (like irritability and mood swings) while others have anti-depressant or anti-anxiety properties (Bupropion). Some herbal remedies like St. John’s Wort show promise in alleviating mild depression, anxiety and sleep disorders.
Learning new ways to cope with emotions takes time and practice. You may not feel like yourself again for days, weeks or even months after quitting. While the emotional roller coaster won’t come to an abrupt stop, the bumps and dips do eventually even out. Hang in there!