You’ve probably been prompted to quit smoking cigarettes by worries over your health. Smoking is toxic for your lungs, causing cancer and myriad other diseases. You may want to quit, but giving up tobacco is tough. Stopping smoking is difficult because cigarettes contain nicotine. The continual delivery of nicotine to the brain while you smoke causes you to have a temporary high. As your brain changes to adapt to these effects over time, you need to smoke more to get the same effect. Smoking also makes your heart beat faster and increases your blood pressure. Unfortunately, these are all symptoms of stress and not the stress reduction you thought your cigarette was giving you.
As nicotine is addictive, you can develop depression and anxiety symptoms if you’re deprived of cigarettes. Quitting smoking should address both the addiction to nicotine as well as the addiction to your habit of smoking. Here are five ways to overcome your tobacco addiction.
It’s well known that nicotine is what keeps people addicted to puffing those cigarettes. By slowly weaning yourself off of nicotine, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can be less of a shock to your body when compared to quitting cold turkey. One of the most popular forms of NRT is the nicotine patch, which contains a permeable layer dosed with nicotine. By sticking this patch on your skin, the nicotine releases into the layers of your dermis until the drug reaches your bloodstream. These patches offer a lower concentration of nicotine compared to smoking cigarettes.
The patch gives you a nice baseline nicotine level to lower your cravings. NRT also comes in lozenge, gum and inhaler forms. The latter three options offer the advantage of flexible dosing when you have a nicotine craving. They also take advantage of the familiar routine of putting something containing nicotine in your mouth.
Using willpower to quit works for many people. According to Gallup surveys, over 50% of smokers who try to quit cold turkey can eventually achieve a prolonged abstinence from smoking. But many people who try willpower alone to quit will relapse within the first week. But don’t let these statistics mislead you into thinking that it will be easy. It’s true that most people who quit will do so by themselves. But while many won’t make it to one year on their first attempt, those trials provide a useful learning experience that can eventually pave the way for later success. The cold turkey cessation technique is also generally more effective than a gradual reduction strategy.
Studies show that medications, especially when combined with behavioral therapy, can increase your chances of successfully quitting smoking. Taking drugs to stop smoking is also one of the easier methods of kicking your habit. You simply have to take medication for a few months with the promise of stopping smoking for the rest of your life. Two such drugs prescribed for smoking cessation include bupropion and varenicline. These drugs do have side effects, which your doctor will discuss with you before writing a prescription.
Behavior intervention support is always available for people looking to quit. Governments take in a lot of money (in the form of tobacco taxes) from people who smoke, and these taxes help fund programs that are geared to helping citizens quit smoking. These programs include professional counselors who you can call should you need some emotional support. There are also numerous support groups in your local community for people dealing with the same thing as you’re going through.
Alcohol and parties increase the risk that you’ll smoke as many people have formed an association between alcohol and cigarettes. When you’re consuming alcohol at a party, you’re also consuming a substance that tends to lessen your inhibitions and lower your resolve. And when you meet people at parties, you often want something in your hand for comfort. That might be a trigger for some people to want to pick up a cigarette. In these instances, some people have found success by preoccupying their hands with their smartphones. This helps reduce the urge of wanting to handle a cigarette when you get triggered.
Once you quit smoking, you’re now a non-smoker. But because you’ve already been a smoker, there are some things you need to do to prevent yourself from slipping back into that habit. Some people miss the ritual of smoking when they finally stop. Some additional maintenance strategies you can take include:
Learn to avoid certain places that trigger you. We’ve already covered party situations, but there are many other triggers you’re going to have to prepare for. If you always bought your cigarettes at a certain store, maybe you need to avoid it to stay smoke-free. Think of all the different places in your environment that could trigger you, and come up with a plan to avoid those places.
Develop healthy habits in place of smoking. Some people carry around carrots and celery with them to replace their tobacco habit. Other people take up juicing to replace their unhealthy habit with a healthy one.
Mix up your daily routine. Many smokers like taking part in the ritual of going out for a smoke break. If you need a new routine at work to replace smoke breaks, perhaps you schedule some visits to the coffee machine twice a day. You can also schedule a walk or some other outdoor exercise to break up the monotony of the day.
Quitting cigarettes is a great step towards improving your health. Smoking cigarettes might have started as a pleasant sensation, but this can turn into a feeling of being chained to an unhealthy habit as you grow older. The feeling of nicotine withdrawal happens almost every hour like clockwork, which makes you anxious for the relief of that next cigarette. Stopping smoking fundamentally comes down to making a change, which is, unfortunately, something that most people aren’t too good at. Many smokers are at the contemplation stage, where they think about quitting but aren’t ready to commit. There’s never going to be a perfect time to quit. At some point, you just have to go ahead and do it.