We all know that giving up smoking is tough; that your craving won’t go away overnight and even when you’ve quit smoking for a considerable amount of time, that desire for a cigarette, cigar, pipe etc. may suddenly catch you unawares.
One of the most effective ways to manage the bad days is to understand what the triggers are that make you want to smoke. While sometimes they may be to do with social situations, the really strong cravings are more likely to be as a result of stress.
What are your triggers to re-start you smoking habit after you have quit smoking for a period of time?
These triggers can be difficult to overcome when you are on this smoking cessation journey. In general, people think that smoking can calm you down in stressful situations, which is why this is the main trigger for so many people.
Smoking Increases Stress
The action of inhaling and exhaling can help reduce your stress levels, it’s not dissimilar to taking a calming breath, and many smokers report feeling calmer once they have a cigarette. However, nicotine has been proven to exacerbate stress, with studies showing that smokers have higher levels of stress than non-smokers, and that smoking only normalises their stress levels temporarily, which then increase in between cigarettes.
Once you understand what factors trigger your craving, you can then start to control them and find alternative ways of managing stress, boredom or anger.
Managing Cravings – Giving Up Smoking For Good
There are tools and techniques you can utilise to be in control of your triggers. This starts with understanding what’s happening to your body and mind and preparing in advance to fight those cravings.
Managing your withdrawal from your nicotine addiction
Physically your body is reacting to withdrawal from chemicals that are present in the brand of cigarettes you have smoked. It is a stressful process and you must be prepared mentally and physically to cope with it. Have an awareness that you will need be strong to deal with some of the discomforts and to manage and cope with your symptoms of withdrawal.
Fortunately, this does not last very long. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms peak at around day 2 or 3, so you should feel better by the end of week 1. However, it can take up to 3 months for the withdrawal symptoms to be completely gone.
Managing your smoking habits and behaviours
Healing yourself from the habits and behaviours that are linked to the smoking is an important aspect as well. This will take shape when you learn to manage your cravings and feelings. Take it one step at a time and allow this recovery process to unravel by being patient about these struggles you will face.
Unfortunately, nicotine withdrawal can cause the type of symptoms that would normally be a trigger to have a cigarette – irritability, anxiety etc. – but if you understand why you’re feeling like this and have prepared for it, you will have a better chance of managing those triggers and cravings.
These thoughts and feelings together with your smoking cravings can be changed by CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) techniques and you will put them into perspective about how smoking will damage your body.
Tips for managing the bad days:
- Make healthy choices:
- Choose healthy choices with your meals daily. By removing the toxins out of your body you will be moving towards a healthy mind and body routine.
- Drink plenty of water. As the stress of quitting will dehydrate your body and water is the best way you can keep hydrated. This will reduce the cravings and flush any remaining nicotine toxins from your body.
- Take some vitamins daily. Your body will get a boost from these vitamins you need to get through your withdrawal process faster. The nutrients from your body are also depleted due to cigarette smoking and these vitamins will boost your immune system.
- Reduce your caffeine intake: By cutting your intake of caffeine (either coffee or cola) will calm your nerves. This will also help you to sleep at night as caffeine make you feel energised and you need to be relaxed when you go to bed.
- Relax in a warm bath: de-stress in a bath with some scented candles and bath salts.
- Calm yourself with a massage: this will relax you and get the tension out of your muscles.
- Try to get plenty of sleep: Stress can cause your mind to overthink things and worrying about issues that will cause stress. Allowing your body to rest and your energy levels will return.
- Choose some form of exercise to do regularly even if it is a 20-minute walk at least 3 times a week. This reduces the edginess you feel when you are stressed and boosts circulation. Your ‘feel great’ hormone endorphin is released when you exercise or go for a quick walk. You will feel refreshed and this is a great way to de-stress.
- Imagine being calm and relaxed. Create a picture in your mind of a place where you felt calm and relaxed, focus on that image. Every time you feel stressed think about this place and imagine being there again.
- Deep breathing technique: A quick way to relax when you feel stressed and calm your edgy nerves. Breath into a count to three through the nose and by exhaling with your mouth to another count of five. Do this 4 to 5 times and you will your body relax and let the tension drift away.
- Taking one day at a time: Focus on each day as it comes you can feel a sense of pride that you have been without cigarettes for today. Let tomorrow be another day and be positive in your ability to give up smoking for good.
- Don’t give up, giving up: you might have some bad days where it will be a struggle not to start smoking again and take it one step at a time. Try to keep your mind away from small or big issues that might cause you to have a bad mood. Look after yourself and give yourself a treat or two and be grateful for every day you are smoke-free.
Triggers, such as stress and anger, are one of the biggest reasons that people are unsuccessful in their attempts to give up smoking. How we respond to these triggers and the habits and behaviours we have formed around them, are often very deep-rooted and hard to overcome. This is why a supportive programme of cognitive behaviour therapy is so effective a breaking the cycle of this behaviour and instilling within you new, healthier, ways to manage and cope with stress.
Find out more about my Stop Smoking Course here.