Cigarettes have a bad rap for good reason. According to Health Canada, smoking negatively impacts almost every organ in your body and is linked to over two-dozen diseases and conditions, such as various cancers, coronary heart disease, emphysema and high blood pressure.
If you’re a smoker, one of the great gifts you can give yourself is to quit. That’s because butting out comes with major benefits! For example, within 48 hours of not smoking, your chances of having a heart attack go down; two weeks to three months later, your lung functioning improves by 30 percent; and 10 years post-quit, you’re 50 percent less likely to succumb to lung cancer, according to Health Canada. (And just think about all the money you’ll save when you don’t buy costly cigarettes!)
Are you ready to let go of your unhealthy habit? If so, congratulations! It’s no easy feat, but you can do it. Here are some ways that can help you give up cigarettes for good.
Your cessation action plan
The first thing to do is pick your stop-smoking date. Decide when you will no longer smoke and mark it on the calendar. “Choose a relatively ordinary day where you feel like you’re in a position to face some changes,” says Krista Bennett, senior communications coordinator for the Smokers’ Helpline at the Canadian Cancer Society. Avoid known stressful or out-of-routine times, such as holidays. As well, make sure quit-day is a bit in the future, so you have time to establish your action plan. Have the following strategies in place before you officially butt out, and you’re more likely to stop once and for all.
1. Identify and avoid your triggers
Jot down a list of the things and situations that really make you want to smoke. Perhaps it’s your morning coffee, stress or relaxing in front of the TV at night. Then think about and make note of how you can deal with these triggers after your quit-date. “For example, if coffee is a trigger for a craving, you may opt to switch to tea for a week or two,” says Bennett. Establishing a tweaked daily routine that keeps you out of temptation’s way will help control your desire to smoke.
2. Get ready to curb cravings
Expect cravings and withdrawal symptoms (which can include coughing, headaches, nervousness and irritability) to be at their peak within the first week or two of quitting, says Bennett. In order not to succumb to a hankering, you have to know how to manage them. Here’s what to do:
• Delay. Most urges go away in just a few minutes, so hold on to your resolve as the craving passes through.
• Distract. Take your mind off the craving by immediately doing something else, such as brushing your teeth, picking up a book or chewing on a carrot, suggests Bennett.
• Deep Breaths. “This helps to relax the body as well as pass the time,” she says. Inhale and exhale purposefully and slowly for a few minutes.
• Drink water. Have a glass of chilled H20, holding each sip in your mouth for a minute or two. “It provides a new sensation for the mouth, and it helps with the habitual aspect of the craving by doing that hand-to-mouth activity,” Bennett says.
3. Choose a cessation method
By using a stop smoking aid, and avoiding going cold turkey, you can give up cigarettes without packing on the pounds. Here’s how. There is no time like the present to give yourself the gift of health by putting down the cigarettes without letting the scale go up. Clinical studies have shown when smokers quit cold turkey, they can gain on average nearly 10 pounds. But the good news is that when smokers used a stop smoking patch, no weight gain was reported.
Source: © McNeil Consumer Healthcare, division of Johnson & Johnson Inc. 2007
4. Know how to keep your hands and mouth busy
You have a hand-to-mouth habit. So, it’s important to find healthier ways to occupy your hands and mouth after you butt out. Build quit-kits before your quit date, filling them with things such as gum, hard candies, worry stones and healthy snacks (think raw and crunchy veggies like carrots and celery), and keep them at home, in the car and at work, says Bennett.
5. Surround yourself with a support team
Have cheerleaders by your side as you go through this healthy yet challenging change. You will need encouragement and listening ears as you transition from smoker to non-smoker. Enlist family, friends, your local Rexall pharmacistor doctor, and also consider joining a peer-group. Consider smokershelpline.ca, where you can connect with others who are also butting out. And don’t forget about quit-coaches, as they can provide you with professional support 24/7 and put together a personalized cessation program for you.