I often see patients who want to quit smoking. Many of these people fear what life will be like without the cigarettes. "Will I put on weight? Will I sleep at night? If I can't smoke, then how will I handle stress?" They've tried other methods but have failed. Maybe they tried a patch, or a weekend hypnosis seminar, or some herbal remedies -- nothing has helped. Here are my tips on how to fearlessly become a former smoker:
- Forget the programs that guarantee results in two days. There's no magical pill or workshop that will lead to instantaneous and lasting results. Breaking an addiction requires dedication, commitment, and hard work -- the same ingredients you need to achieve any goal.
- Deal with the short-term stress. Accept that immediately after quitting, hunger may increase and you may snack a little more. Your metabolism (which increases during smoking) will also be restored to a normal rate. This is part of the process of quitting, but it's temporary.
- Remind yourself of the choice you made. In order to reap the long-term benefits of better health, you've made the choice to endure the temporary stress and discomfort of withdrawal symptoms.
- Make a list of all of the reasons you want to stop smoking, such as better health, saving money, and fresher breath. Review your list daily.
- Set a quit date. Put it on the calendar and enlist friends and family for support and motivation.
- Line up a sponsor. Find someone who can keep you accountable and give you a kick in the butt when necessary.
- Get rid of all cigarettes, matches, lighters, and ashtrays. You're quitting, so you don't need them. And keeping them around will only give you visual triggers that cause you to think about smoking.
- Understand that the first two to three weeks will be the toughest. That's when your psychological withdrawal symptoms will be strongest. Remind yourself that this tough time is temporary. You can get through it. During this time indulge in lollipops, gum, carrots or celery sticks to keep your mouth occupied and satisfy your oral fixation.
- Anticipate tough times. Stressful situations may increase likelihood for relapse, so anticipate them and come up with a plan to manage your stress. For instance, tap into support or take up a new hobby that distracts you from thinking about smoking.
- Form new habits. Replace what was once your smoke-break with a new activity such as a brisk walk or healthy snack. If you paired smoking with drinking, limit the alcohol and eat nuts instead of smoking. If you used to smoke following a meal, do something else to replace that habit. For instance, get up, wash dishes, and brush your teeth.
- Place notes in key places around your house and office to remind yourself of your goal. They might say something like, "I'm a nonsmoker and feel healthy, clean, and strong."
- Put the money you normally would spend on cigarettes into a jar or bank. Use it to reward yourself for the progress you've made. Movies, dinners, and nights on the town will motivate you to enjoy your new smoke-free life.
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