How to Maintain Success When Quitting Smoking

Once you quit you’re going to have to completely change your habits and your lifestyle. Most importantly, you’re going to have to change your attitude. The first couple of days are going to be difficult, physically, psychologically, and emotionally.

You will go through nicotine withdrawal and some of the more common symptoms will include:

  • Nicotine cravings
  • Cramps and nausea
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety and depression

These are just some of the symptoms you can expect once you quit smoking. Some of them last longer than three days but going through those first 72 hours without lighting a cigarette is going to be crucial to your success.

The best way to ensure that you are prepared for every eventuality is coming up with a quit smoking plan. A quit plan is a detailed list that contains everything you need to do prior to quitting. It’s also where you set your quit date and outline the reasons why you want to quit smoking.

  • Health reasons
  • Financial reasons
  • Lifestyle reasons

The next thing your quit plan needs to address are your smoking triggers. All smokers have certain activities, times of day, or actions that trigger a need for a cigarette. Those triggers can bring about intense nicotine cravings and it’s important to identify them early on so you can know what to expect and how to deal with them most effectively.

Common smoking triggers are:

  • Meals
  • Work breaks
  • Alcohol
  • Driving
  • Stress
  • Sex
  • Down-time
  • Celebrations

These will vary from smoker to smoker but what they have in common is that they are strongly associated with smoking. There are certain quit smoking methods you can employ to deal with those triggers.

Some of the more common methods of dealing with nicotine cravings are:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids – avoid coffee or alcohol if they are your triggers
  • Keeping your hands busy – have a straw or a pencil at the ready
  • Keeping your mouth busy – sugar-free gums and snacks can be a lifesaver
  • Distracting yourself until the cravings pass – play a video game or call a friend
  • Picking up an old hobby – start jogging, playing tennis, or even knitting – whatever helps

Managing Stress

Quitting smoking can induce stress, which is unfortunate as most smokers smoke when they are stressed out. It’s important to recognize this for the vicious circle it actually is – early in the cessation period you’re actually stressed out because of smoking – it’s one of the symptoms of withdrawal.

Lighting a cigarette to deal with it will set you back to square one. Once the withdrawal period ends, you’ll notice that you’re less stressed out. However, stress is a natural part of life and you will have to find other ways of dealing with it.

Ways to deal with stress:

  • Solve every problem you can in advance – Need to write an awkward email to a colleague? Need to have a tough conversation with your employee? Deal with stressful things as you would with a Band-Aid, quickly and efficiently. Don’t let things fester– if they grow too big they are only going to cause you more stress.
  • Stop drinking coffee – or at least, seriously reduce it. Caffeine makes everyone jumpy and wired up. In addition to that, it’s probably one of your triggers. Quitting coffee will help you feel more relaxed – if you need to have a hot beverage every once in a while, switch to herbal tea.
  • Exercise regularly – In healthy body, healthy spirit. Start jogging or participate in a physical activity regularly and you will notice that your stress levels are much lower. Your subconscious mind deals with things while you’re sweating your body out.
  • Take a break – sometimes you have to cut yourself some slack. If you start feeling that you just can’t handle things anymore and if that prompts cigarette cravings, stop whatever you’re doing, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Use that time to meditate in silence and remind yourselves that cigarettes are not a solution, they are the problem.
  • Practice mindfulness and visualization – close your eyes and imagine yourself somewhere you’ve always felt safe – or invent a place where you feel safe. Whenever stress becomes too much to handle close your eyes and retreat to your secret place. Make sure you always use the same location so it becomes familiar – a refuge of sorts.

Rewarding Success

While it’s definitely possible to argue that becoming healthier is reward enough in itself, you don’t have to be so tough on yourself. Quitting is hard and you deserve an occasional pat on the back, even if it means that you have to pat yourself.

Decide on a series of milestones – 1 day smoke-free, 3 days smoke-free, 1 week smoke-free and so on. Put the money that you would usually spend on cigarettes to the side but have two loose change jars and split the money between them equally. The money in the first one is for the important stuff – your next holiday, a new car, your child’s education.

However, the money in the second one is just yours – you get to spend a part of it whenever you reach a new milestone. Treat yourself regularly – you’ve earned it.

Reward ideas:

  • Massage
  • New clothes
  • Dinner in a restaurant
  • Movies
  • Theatre
  • Tickets for a concert
  • A night on the town
  • A new gadget
  • Staycation
  • Wellness and spa
  • Day trip
  • Gym membership
  • Subscription to pay TV

Managing Weight Gain

Smokers gain anywhere from 4 to 8 pounds in the first couple of months after they quit smoking. It’s understandable that this serves as a major de-motivator to people who are planning on quitting smoking. However, keep in mind that it’s healthier to be slightly overweight than to continue smoking.

Of course, there are things you can do to minimize weight gain during the process of cessation. If eating helps you with cravings then try to eat healthy and sugar-free foods.

  • Carrot sticks
  • Sugar-free gums
  • Sugar-free hard candy
  • Fruit
  • Sunflower seeds

Try to limit your calorie intake if possible but expect to gain some weight – it’s normal and expected. Quitting smoking is tough enough even without starving. Remind yourself that whatever you gain in the first couple of months you’ll easily shed soon after with regular exercise.

Also, brush your teeth often during the first couple of weeks. The act of brushing will help you with the cravings as it will give you some sort of an oral gratification. In any case, cigarettes always taste funnier to smokers after they’ve brushed their teeth so you will probably have less of an urge to smoke.

The most important thing throughout the whole process is going to be your mindset. You have to decide early on that you’re now a non-smoker and a recovering nicotine addict. Building a new life without cigarettes can be difficult but it’s also immensely rewording. Learn to go through life as someone who has turned it around – be ready for pitfalls and difficulties, expect them and work on avoiding and overcoming them. You will end up healthier, richer, and more satisfied with yourself.