For most smokers quitting doesn't come easy; it’s hard work. Feelings of irritability, anxiety, and generalized discomfort abound. Getting through your first week smoke-free is especially important, as this is when withdrawal symptoms are the strongest and it’s easy to get lured back into lighting up for a quick fix. Week one is also a time when you are laying the groundwork for behavioral change. Quitting takes careful planning and a strategy for all the possible situations that could trip you up. It's not a time to be impulsive and just wing it. It's easier to navigate through the often difficult first week of quitting if you plan ahead and are prepared for the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms and any strong cravings to smoke. Along with a solid quit plan you will need determination, commitment and support to get you through the tough times.
Create a Winning Strategy
Set yourself up to win by ditching all your cigarettes/tobacco products before the big quit date. If the cigarette is not there you can’t smoke it. While you are at it, trash the lighters and ashtrays too. Get rid of all evidence of a smoking life. You are on the road to better health!
Evidence shows that using nicotine replacement therapy, Zyban or Chanix to reduce craving for cigarettes increases your chances of staying quit. By lessening the withdrawal symptoms, these medications allow you the ability to work on changing smoking behaviors and focus more on your quit. If this is the route you decide to take, make sure you have the chosen quit medication actually on hand before your quit date. Your addicted mind will be looking for any available excuse to smoke or delay quitting.
In the early days of quitting it’s best to change your daily routines, as they are usually tied into your smoking habit. Smoking is often associated with certain activities like coffee/tea in the morning, getting behind the wheel of your vehicle, after meals, or socializing with other smokers during a work break or at home. By changing the routine of your usual ‘where, when and who’ you break these ties with smoking and reduce triggers and cravings to smoke.
Have a list of coping tools ready for handling withdrawal and cravings to smoke. You may have withdrawal symptoms for the first couple of weeks or so after quitting. Remind yourself that they are only temporary and that the benefits of quitting outweigh the discomfort. For example: If you are feeling irritable, moody or stressed, go out for a walk, listen to music, or practice deep breathing. Have water, gum and fresh fruit/veggies available as an oral substitute for smoking. Keep your hands active by using a squeeze ball, gardening, cooking or playing a game on your phone/laptop. When a craving appears use one of the 5 D’s – Delay, Distract, Drink Water, Deep-Breathe and Discuss. Cravings to smoke only last a few minutes and they disappear whether you smoke or not.
Beforehand, get your support people and resources ready and waiting on the sidelines. Let your family, friends and co-workers know how they can help you quit. If you live with a smoker, ask them to smoke outdoors, out of view, and not leave tobacco products in sight. Being around people smoking or seeing cigarettes, lighters, etc. are strong triggers to smoke. Use your cell phone or computer to connect with our community at QuitNet.com, for added support. There really is no need to quit alone!
Take your quit one day at a time. Forever is too mountainous. Stay determined and commit to doing whatever it takes to make it through the day tobacco-free. At the end of each day reflect back on what was helpful and what wasn’t, planning the next day accordingly. Reward yourself for any challenging situations you overcame smoke-free; this will keep you motivated and moving forward in your quit. Each day you chose not to smoke makes you stronger and moves you closer to the reality of a smoke-free life.
Keep Going and Keep the Quit!