Whether you’re a social smoker or a lifetime pack-a-day smoker, quitting can be tough. But the more you learn about your options and prepare for quitting, the easier the process will be. With the right game plan tailored to your needs, you can break the addiction, manage your cravings and join the millions of people who have kicked the habit for good.
Smoking tobacco is both a physical addiction and a psychological habit. The nicotine from cigarettes provides a temporary- and addictive – high. When you remove that regular fix of nicotine, your body will experience physical withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Because of nicotine’s “feel good” effect on the brain, you may also have become accustomed to smoking as a way of coping with stress, depression, anxiety or even boredom.
Smoking is often a highly ingrained ritual. You may be used to always having a cigarette after a meal, while taking a break from work or school or while talking on the phone. In order to quit you will need to address both the addiction and the habits that go along with it.
While some smokers successfully quit by going cold turkey, most people do better with a plan to keep themselves on track. A good plan will address both the short-term challenge of quitting smoking and the long-term challenge of preventing relapse. It should also be tailored to your specific needs and smoking habits.
Take a bit of time to develop your own quit plan – one that also takes into account your reasons for quitting. Here are some useful tips:
Understand and keep track of your triggers – What are your triggers – those things that make you want to light up? You will need to change your routine to avoid these as much as possible. For example, if having a coffee has you also reaching for a cigarette, try switching to tea or water for a while.
Don’t cave to your cravings – Cravings are tough, both mentally and physically, no doubt about it! But they are temporary and almost never last more than a few minutes. You just need to wait them out. It also helps if you can figure out ahead of time how you will handle withdrawal cravings when they occur. For example, if you are feeling irritable, one strategy could be going for a walk. Being prepared for withdrawal symptoms will make dealing with them easier.
Hang in there. Withdrawal is temporary! – In the first few days after you quit, you may feel some withdrawal symptoms as your body heals from its addiction to nicotine. These are uncomfortable, but they will pass in time.
Withdrawal symptoms are usually the worst in the first 3-5 days after you quit, and will begin to disappear after 7-10 days.
To be continued next week.
Dr. Andre Corriveau, Chief Public Health Officer, Northwest Territories