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
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
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
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 :)
Vikki Q CTTS-M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
You don't have to Quit alone;
When you stop smoking, you may have no idea what else to do during those moments you used to smoke. The things you come up with may not really 'do the trick' at first. Finding new emotional coping tools and behaviors can be challenging. The newly-quit often feel lost. Rest assured, most every smoker goes through this during their quit! Allow yourself a month or so to get to the 'feeling better' part. To help you navigate the beginning phase of your quit process, give these 3 tips a try:
1. Get To Know Yourself
What interests you? Motivates you? Inspires you? What do you find relaxing, rewarding or fun? Identify new meaningful activities, effective emotional coping tools and daily routines that really appeal to You. This is your quit, so get involved!
2. Plan For Success
Planning ahead for your personal triggers will ensure you make it to the other side successfully! Identify your top 2 smoking triggers, and that is where you'll want to put your time, energy and focus during the next month. Make a plan. What are some things you can do instead of smoke whenever you encounter a trigger? Could you take a walk, call a friend, listen to music, write in your journal, repeat a mantra or wash the car? What has worked for you before? What else can you try? Where will you go to enjoy yourself that is smoke free & supports your quit? How will you handle anger, stress or boredom? Know your triggers and have a clear plan of action for each and every one of them.
3. Smoking Is Not An Option
If you do not smoke today, you will never smoke again! The new you does not reach for a cigarette, no matter what happens, no matter how you feel. Smoking is not an option, so always ask yourself, "What is an option?" "What can I do?". It is in that moment of choosing something else that you will find the very answers that work perfectly for you. You will also reinforce your identity as a nonsmoker, increase your self confidence and strengthen your quit resolve. N.O.P.E. - Not One Puff Ever!
It takes more than just not smoking to become a nonsmoker! It takes ongoing, daily effort and practice. Try these 3 tips so you can work your quit effectively, make healthy lifestyle changes and gain long term quit success!
Keep going and KTQ,
Vikki Q CTTS-M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Remember; you can quit smoking for good, and QuitNet is here to help:
Quitting smoking isn't easy, and at times your motivation can begin to lose steam. To ensure success you will need to power up your desire to stay quit.
REASONS FOR QUITTING
One way to boost your motivation is to review all the reasons you wanted to quit in the first place. Are those reasons and motivating factors still important to you? If not, then reevaluate and come up with a new list of valid reasons to quit smoking. Keep in mind that the more reasons you find to motivate yourself in favor of quitting the more likely you are to stay quit.
Make your reasons personal and specific. For example, instead of saying 'To feel healthier' you might say 'So I don't feel out of breath when I play with my children.' Think about the personal costs of smoking for you and those you love. Being a good role model and protecting your family from second hand smoke may pull at your heart strings. Imagine yourself five or ten years down the road if you quit; picture that same time period continuing to smoke and what do you see? Think about the consequences of continued smoking. Where do you want to be? Perhaps you are upset with the control cigarettes have over your life and you want to be free of the addiction. You can't leave out the spiraling cost of cigarettes today, either. With the money saved by not smoking, you could take a trip or pay a bill.
BENEFITS OF QUITTING
Acknowledging the short and long term benefits you receive from quitting smoking, and reframing your thinking to focus on the positive aspects of quitting, will help get you out of a motivational slump. Smoking is detrimental to every organ in your body. Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do to improve your overall health. Within minutes of your last cigarette your body begins to heal itself. In the first twenty minutes your blood pressure and heart rate decrease. There are other immediate benefits you become aware of right away, like fresher breath and clean smelling hair. The benefits of quitting get even better over time. Soon you may notice that your morning cough has disappeared, you can walk up the stairs and you are not out of breath, and the food you prepare smells and tastes good. Quitting helps improve self image and self esteem. You conquer an addiction, set a good example and take back control of your life. Your risks for smoking-related diseases decline and you get a chance to live a longer life. Focusing on the positive benefits of quitting will improve your motivation to move forward.
The more people you have cheering you on the better. This is especially helpful when you are going through a tough time and experiencing a lapse in motivation. Words of encouragement can spur you on and help you keep the focus on the positive. Involve yourself with others who are trying to quit smoking or have already quit. Most quitters have experienced dips in motivation; you can learn from them by listening to their stories. A great source of support can be found here on QuitNet, in the forums, clubs and chat. It's also important that you support yourself by recognizing your own quitting progress and the lifestyle changes you made to get to this point. Celebrate your quit milestones and reward yourself by buying something enjoyable with the money you have saved not smoking. Gathering support from others and acknowledging your quit success keeps you motivated and moving forward.
Keep Going and KTQ!
Quit With Us!
Welcome to this week's installment of QMember Stories, featuring JudM! Enjoy her story, in her own words:
I grew up in a smoking home. My parents smoked everywhere all the time. My mother smoked unfiltered Kools and Dad smoked Lucky Strikes.
I hated being around the smoke as a kid, but started smoking while at school in England in 1970, at the age of 20. How dumb is that? I really had to work at teaching myself how to smoke. I learned way too well.
I quit smoking several times, for a few months each time. One quit lasted almost 2 years. The 2 year quit began when I became pregnant with twins; I didn't smoke through the pregnancy and stayed smoke-free up until the twins were almost a year old.
All the time the boys were growing up, they and my husband wanted me to quit smoking, and repeatedly urged me to do so. I did have several short-lived quits over the years from 1981 to 2005 (when I first joined the Q). You're welcome to read my journal at QuitNet.com under my username, JudM. Many of my quit-attempts are journaled there.
My last quit date, the one I count from now, was November 21, 2009. I quit cold turkey, but believe that any way that you can quit is the right way for you. I did have one slip at 9 months into my quit, and almost relapsed back to being a full-time smoker. Thanks to several wonderful people here at the Q, a possible total loss of a quit was kept to just a slip. I actually realized during that slip that the only thing that could make me smoke was me. Sure, I could blame stress, or something a negative person said, but it was still my choice to smoke. In truth, once I made this quit mine -- quitting for me -- it became a lot easier.
Even so, it has been difficult to learn how to live without cigarettes. I have had many tears during my quit. I still seem to cry at the drop of a hat sometimes. What has helped me to get thru craves and stress is learning deep breathing techniques. The Expert QChats provide great help, too. And I enjoy the general chatrooms and all the fantastic people and information here on QuitNet.
What I like most about being quit is not smelling like an ashtray, and saving all those $$$ I used to spend on tobacco. By the fall of 2012, I'd saved enough money to buy a 2011 Dodge Caravan! I say thank you to the Q, and to all the great people here, for that.
You can find me at QuitNet by my user name, JudM. I'm in the chatroom a lot, and people there call Jud-Mud, because Jud is what I go by in 3-D Land (Jud being a nickname for Judith). I tell everyone it's pronounced 'mud', only with a J.
May you all find and have that forever quit you are looking for.