Many people have used smoking to deal with stressful situations in their lives. So when you experience stress after quitting, it may trigger a strong craving for a cigarette. It’s therefore important that you try to learn how to cope with stress in your life without using tobacco and how to avoid stressful situations where possible.
While stress is a normal part of life, there are healthy ways of dealing with stress that don’t include reaching for a cigarette. First, you can choose to avoid situations that cause you stress. Second, where you can’t change the source of your stress, you can change the way that you respond to stress in your life.
Here are some tips that you might find helpful to deal with stress in your life:
- Talk to your friends or family for support. Sharing your feelings will help reduce stress.
- Address any problems or conflicts head on. Stress can build when you don’t deal with what’s happening in your life. Talk to your friends and discuss how you can resolve the issue.
- Learn one or more ways to relax. Listen to some music, start yoga classes, take a lingering bath or go for a massage.
- Take a break from what you are doing – even for just a few minutes.
- Try Deep breathing. Take a few slow, deep breaths. For an extra benefit, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. You will feel your body relax.
- Try visualization – close your eyes and go to a place where you feel happy, comfortable and relaxed. Download some relaxation music.
- Exercise to help reduce your stress and improve your mood.
- Try cutting out caffeine and getting more sleep.
When you first stop smoking, you will likely experience strong cravings for a cigarette. But these are the temporary symptoms you experience as the nicotine leaves your body – and you don’t have to give into them. Cravings come in waves and will pass – so you can ride them out or distract yourself with tried and true methods used by other quitters.
Remember that physical withdrawal symptoms only last between 7 to 10 days. Stop smoking medications can greatly reduce the intensity of the symptoms. View the Coping with Withdrawal chart for tips on dealing with common physical withdrawal symptoms.
Once the physical withdrawal symptoms have gone however, you are still not out of the woods. Many people still experience cravings to smoke long after the physical symptoms have stopped. While you can’t avoid cravings, the good news is that you can teach yourself to manage the cravings. Most cravings only last about three minutes. If you can distract yourself for a few minutes, the cravings should pass – so try to wait it out and distract yourself with some of the tips below.
Control your Cravings: Practice the 5 Distractions (5D’s)
- Delay for three minutes: In most cases the cravings to smoke will pass in about three minutes, so don’t cave to the crave.
- Do something else: Keep your hands and mind busy. Do something that makes it difficult to smoke, like having a shower or exercising.
- Deep breathe: Take long, deep breaths through your nose and hold for five seconds. Slowly breathe out through your mouth for a count of seven.
- Drink water: Drink a glass of cold water – take slow sips and hold the water in your mouth for a few seconds.
- Dial a friend: Call someone that supports your effort to quit smoking.
Change your Routine
Changes in your routine help you avoid times and places that trigger the craving to smoke. When you quit, it’s important to break the connection between your smoking and your daily routines. If you completed the Cigarette Tracker to monitor when you routinely want a cigarette, then you will know when you most crave a cigarette, and it will help you plan for an alternate coping strategy.
Common triggers that make you want to smoke include drinking coffee or alcohol, after meals, talking on the phone, and driving. It’s therefore important to change your smoking routines to give you the control and motivation to change for good.
When the cravings hit, review your Know Your Triggers chart for ways to distract yourself until the craving passes. Give your strategies a try – or come up with some new distractions.
Find New Things To Do
When you quit smoking, you may want to find some new activities. Here are some things you might want to try:
- Take up a new activity. Jogging, playing tennis, swimming, riding a bike or joining a hiking club are a few examples.
- Keep your hands busy. Take up needlepoint or try your hand at crossword puzzles. Paint. Do woodworking, gardening, or household chores.
- Stretch. Do some stretches when you’re tempted to reach for a cigarette.
If you would like further support dealing with cravings, consult your pharmacist, physician or a Quit Specialist at the Smoker’s Helpline to discuss other options to help you get through the difficult times.
Why should you quit smoking? Every person who smokes has his or her own personal reasons for quitting. Here are some common reasons. Think about what is most important to you.
- Quitting smoking is the single most important step a smoker can take to improve the length and quality of his or her life. As soon as you quit, your body begins to repair the damage caused by smoking. Of course it’s best to quit early in life but even someone who quits later in life will improve their health.
- To save money! It’s getting more expensive to smoke cigarettes. A package of cigarettes costs about $15.00 in Manitoba.This translates into over $5,000.00 a year for a pack a day smoking.
Manitoba Smoking Facts:
- 20 % or 200,000 people in Manitoba smoke cigarettes
- 70% of people who smoke would like to quit
- 60% of people who smoke are addicted
- people will succeed if they have available support
Support can be in the form of:
- peers who are encouraging
- self help readings and groups
- nicotine replacement like the patch or gum
- It can take up to 7 tries before a person can quit for good.
Key Facts About Smoking
- Cigarette smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer.
- Smoking is directly responsible for approximately 90 percent of lung cancer deaths and approximately 80-90 percent of COPD (emphysema and chronic bronchitis) deaths.2
- Among adults who have ever smoked, 70% started smoking regularly at age 18 or younger, and 86% at age 21 or younger.
- Among current smokers, chronic lung disease accounts for 73 percent of smoking-related conditions. Even among smokers who have quit chronic lung disease accounts for 50 percent of smoking-related conditions.
- Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, and is a main cause of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema). It is also a cause of coronary heart disease, stroke and a host of other cancers and diseases.
Smoking and Mental Health
Quitting or reducing smoking is good for mental health – you will breathe easier and feel better emotionally!
There is a strong correlation between smoking and depression and smoking and anxiety
Smoking does not reduce stress. On the contrary, nicotine is a stimulant which increases heart rate restricts blood vessels and increases blood pressure. These are all symptoms of stress in the body.
Benefits of Quitting
20 Minutes After Quitting:
- Your heart rate drops to a normal level.
12 Hours After Quitting:
- The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
2 Weeks to 3 Months After Quitting:
- Your risk of having a heart attack begins to drop.
- Your lung function begins to improve.
1 to 9 Months After Quitting:
- Your coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
1 Year After Quitting:
- Your added risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.
5 to 15 Years After Quitting:
- Your risk of having a stroke is reduced to that of a nonsmoker’s.
- Your risk of getting cancer of the mouth, throat, or esophagus is half that of a smoker’s.
10 Years After Quitting:
- Your risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a smoker’s.
- Your risk of getting bladder cancer is half that of a smoker’s.
- Your risk of getting cervical cancer or cancer of the larynx, kidney or pancreas decreases.
15 Years After Quitting:
- Your risk of coronary heart disease is the same as that of a nonsmoker.*
Here are a few steps for getting through your quit day and beyond.
Use your Support Program
- You can call the Smoker’s Helpline any time for support or to deal with a crisis.
- If you plan to use quit smoking medications, follow the directions.
Studies show that, if you get counselling and use nicotine replacement therapy like the patch, gum or lozenges, you can double your chances of successfully quitting.
Call your Friends and Family
- Remind your friends and family that this is your quit date and ask for their support over the next few days and weeks.
- Talk to your Quit Buddy and discuss a plan for getting through your rough spots.
Manage Your Environment
- Keep healthy snacks on hand, like carrots, sugarless gum, cinnamon sticks, sunflower seeds, and grapes.
- Get rid of cigarettes and smoking paraphernalia, including lighters and ashtrays, from your home and vehicle.
- Make things clean and fresh at home and in your vehicle. Clean your drapes and clothes and wash the inside of your vehicle.
- Post no-smoking signs on your home and vehicle windows.
- When cravings hit – do something else – and remember they only last a few minutes. For more help, see manage your cravings.
- Drink lots of water.
- Do anything out of your regular routine. For more help, review your Know Your Triggers.
- Keep your hands busy. Do crossword puzzles or needlework. Paint. Do woodworking, gardening, or household chores.
- Get some exercise – take a long walk, go for a jog, ride your bike or take your dog for a brisk walk.
- Try to avoid doing things that you associate with smoking, including:
- Coffee in the morning
- After meals, get up from the table immediately and brush your teeth. Consider going for a walk after meals.
- If you always smoke while driving, take a different route, or take transit for a while if you can.
- Go places and do things where smoking is not allowed.