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;
You’ve quit smoking and you’re glad you did. You’re happier and healthier for it! So why does the thought of facing society again without cigarettes strike fear into your heart? Why is it that all you really want to do is to crawl under a rock somewhere and hide?
Let’s face it: having a social life after cigarettes can be daunting. For many ex-smokers, that sense of “self” was wrapped up in cigarettes. Every work break, holiday party, after work drink, pool party, camping trip, and other social gathering involved cigarettes. Many people around you might still smoke—your friends, co-workers, family, and perhaps even your spouse. When you quit smoking, not only does your lifestyle change, but so might your relationships with people. But change is not necessarily a bad thing!
First recognize that there was always more to you than your smoking. Quitting smoking is an opportunity to re-discover yourself! Many people find that quitting unleashes a torrent of emotions. Consciously or not, you may have used cigarettes in the past to deal (or not deal) with emotions. Now you have to find new, healthier ways of coping with stress, anger, boredom, anxiety, happiness, etc. These new emotions may feel more intense and you may not feel like yourself. In time you will be feeling more like yourself. Perhaps even “new and improved”!
You can and will re-learn how to enjoy social activities without lighting up. If you are newly quit, you may find that you have to avoid social situations, at least until you are feeling more solid in your quit. Social gatherings, where alcohol and other smokers mix, can be a huge trigger. But social situations cannot be avoided forever. Eventually you will have to face the world! Here are a few suggestions:
- Avoid alcohol. Not only is there a strong association between alcohol and cigarettes, but alcohol lowers inhibition and judgment. Order a non-alcoholic drink when going out or eating at a restaurant. If you must drink, give yourself a limit. Plan ahead by creating an "exit plan," connect with other ex-smokers when you first get to the club, etc.
- Practice effective coping strategies. If you find yourself in a situation where you might light up, step out for a "fresh air break," bring your list of reasons for quitting and review them, chew some gum or suck on hard candies, have objects in your pocket you can fidget with--coins, dice, a stress ball, etc.
- Practice what you will say if someone offers you a cigarette: "No thanks, I've quit!"
- Bring a buddy (preferably non-smoking) who can help keep you on track.
- Find a smoke-free social activity like a dance or exercise class, join a sport, pick up a hobby (how about photography?), go to the movies, etc.
Ultimately, with a little planning and a lot of practice, you can still enjoy many of your old social activities, but without smoking. Perhaps you may find you do them better!
As for you how your relationships with others may change, some of them might. But hopefully they change for the better. Consider this: friendships should not be based soley on smoking status. You can enjoy shared interests or find new ones without smoking. Good friends, co-workers, and family should support you in your quit. And if they don't, then maybe it's time to hang out with a new crowd. Make new friends and connect with other quitters at QuitNet or in the real world.
You've quit smoking because you want to have better health, more time, more money, a better quality of life and freedom. Quitting smoking is truly something to be proud of! So come out from hiding and enjoy your newfound social life!