Nicotine in the cigarette is an addictive substance. It stimulates the reward center in the brain and creates a temporary feel-good sensation. As the body gets used to this and craves for more of this pleasant sensation, the smoker inclines to smoke more cigarettes to remain in this feel-good state. And, when smokers try to quit smoking, the levels of Nicotine in their blood fall. As a result, the person starts experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Since most of the people use smoking as a way to relieve stress, depression, and anxiety as well as a way to remain alert, they not just become physically but also emotionally dependent on smoking. Therefore, smokers find it difficult to quit smoking even though it negatively affects all the parts of the body. Some people quit smoking only to return to it after some days.
The person, who is habituated to smoking, starts experiencing nicotine withdrawal effects as he stops smoking. These nicotine withdrawal effects include the craving for smoking, restlessness, irritability, inability to concentrate, dizziness, headache, weakness, etc. These symptoms peak in 2-3 days and gradually subside in a week after quitting smoking, and it takes 3-4 months for nicotine to get out of the system completely. Later on, some people can quit smoking completely, whereas others may resume smoking. After all, old habits die hard. If you are the one who finds it difficult to quit smoking, you should read this article.
Quitting smoking is a step-by-step procedure that includes making a decision, planning, and executing it. Also, quitting smoking is easier when done in combination with behavior therapy and medications for smoking de-addiction. Behavioral therapy helps to develop a change in the thinking pattern for the thoughts that trigger a desire for smoking.
If you want to quit smoking, you need to decide to quit smoking. Write down on a piece of paper your desire to quit smoking, and, below it, mention all the reasons for which you have decided to quit smoking. This serves as a reminder to keep you on track in case your waiver from the decision.
Just abruptly deciding to quit is not enough to prevent you from smoking for a long time. You also need to make strategies for identifying the triggers of smoking and how to avoid them as well as how to handle it when you get the cravings for smoking. Read about smoking deaddiction so that you are well aware of the symptoms and what you are going to face, and this will help you to be well-prepared for it.
A. Identify and make a list of the times when you smoked in the past. Everyone has some fixed timings for smoking.
E.g. Some smoke immediately after waking up, after reaching the office with coffee, mid-afternoon, in the evening with coffee, after returning home and relaxing, and after dinner. There could be other times too like when you are trying to think, are stressed, or talking over the phone. Some may simply smoke when they have nothing to do.
You may try to replace the association of these events with new ones.
E.g. If you have a craving to smoke after waking up in the morning, try going out for a walk to divert the mind or join a gym.
If you are smoking in the office while drinking coffee, replace the coffee with green tea or try to have your coffee with a friend who is a non-smoker. This will prevent you from smoking in front of the person.
If you smoke in the mid-morning, try to replace it with some healthy mid-morning fruit or chew a piece of gum.
Keep yourself as busy as possible, because if you are idle then you could be taken over by the thoughts of smoking.
B. Inform your friends, colleagues, and family members about your decision to quit smoking so that they encourage you and remind you of your goals even if you stray off the path. Also, if any of these is smoking, you may request them not to do so in your presence so that your cravings do not get triggered. You can talk to them about your feelings when you are trying to quit smoking.
C. Remove all the things that remind you of smoking, such as cigarette cases, matchboxes, lighters, and ashtrays. You may, for the time being, also avoid the group of colleagues you accompany during the smoke-break. Discuss the reason for your behavior with them.
D. Get rid of the smell of smoke at your desk, your car, and your room as it could serve a trigger for your smoke craving. You may use essential oils, such as Black pepper essential oil, Angelica root essential oil, Lavender, Bergamot essential oils, etc. to freshen up the air as well as reduce the craving and soothe your nerves craving for a smoke.
E.Stock up Healthy Foods: When you stop smoking, your appetite would increase and you may also experience food cravings. So, stock up healthy things so that you do not gain weight in an unhealthy manner. Try to have salads, fruits, and gums when your appetite increases.
If you have started smoking because of stress, depression, or anxieties, discuss these with a mental health counselor. The counselor can suggest ways to cope up with these in the absence of smoking so that they no longer serve as a trigger for your smoking. Here, behavioral therapy is important. You need to start the therapy before you quit smoking so that while quitting smoking you are strong enough to handle these emotions by yourself without smoking.
- Execution of your decision to quit smoking:
So, you have decided to quit smoking and also have made strategies to tackle the cravings if you get any during this period. As mentioned earlier that it takes about 1 week for the symptoms to subside or become bearable, this would be quite a challenging week for you. If you are a chronic smoker, this may continue for a couple of weeks before the symptoms subside. What can you do at this time?
- Keep yourself motivated and remind yourself of all the reasons that made you quit smoking.
- Keep yourself as busy as possible.
- Talk to a friend or loved one to share if you are feeling uneasy or to distract your mind.
- You may also need the help of smoking deaddiction medications to manage the symptoms.
- Practice the techniques of stress-relief taught by your counselor when you are feeling restless or anxious.
There could be chances that during this period you may give in to your urge to smoke and may smoke a stick. But, get back on the track as soon as possible. There are high chances that you may develop anger on self or feel guilty for this behavior. Accept your mistake but also remind yourself that you are not a failure because you have taken the first bold step of quitting smoking, and remember the number of days you have been without smoking.
Join the support group and get encouraged by the other people’s stories who quit smoking successfully. Share your own story to encourage others to quit smoking.
Hope this article helps you in quitting the harmful habit of smoking. If you have any tips with your experience, you may share them in the comments below. We would love to hear your story.
- Written by Dr. Yafta S. Associate doctor to Dr. Rajesh Shah