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How to Stay Smoke Free After Quitting Smoking

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Smoking is highly addictive. It’s not easy for smokers to quit smoking in one go. Even if they have set up their mind to kick their smoking habit, still their body and brain might not let them do so.

If one has been smoking for years or decades and have finally done quitting smoking, it’s the healthiest choice one have made! But now as one is going to be smoke-free, they need to stay the same. Many smokers relapse and pick up the habit again. That’s usually when they think of cigarettes as their stress coping mechanism or they can’t tolerate the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Here one can learn about some of the ways to cope with the smoking habit and stay smoke-free for a lifetime. [1]

Why it’s Difficult to Quit smoking?

It is because of powerfully addictive nicotine- a natural drug present in tobacco that is just as habit-forming as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol. If smokers have smoked or used any other tobacco products heavily for many years, more nicotine is used to make them feel normal. When that amount of drug is no more in the body, such people start to experience cravings and unpleasant feelings commonly called nicotine withdrawal.

Nicotine withdrawals exhibit both mental and physical symptoms that are not life-threatening, including:

  • Anger, frustration and irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Nicotine cravings
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Depression
  • Increased appetite or hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Coughing
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation

Smokers who have quit smoking must be prepared to deal with these above-mentioned symptoms and avoid a relapse. Breaking smoking habits and creating new daily routines and patterns so that there is no longer an urge to smoke daily, do take some effort and time. [1, 3]

Tips to Remain A Non-Smoker After Quitting Smoking

1. Identify the Triggers– To help in the planning of how to deal with nicotine cravings, first identify the triggers that can make one relapse. The triggers are the reminders that people face in their daily life of situations when they had used tobacco products. These triggers could be:

  • Social triggers– like being with people who smoke or being a part of an event or gathering having smokers
  • Emotional triggers– such as being lonely, bored, stressed or anxious, excited, happy, or relieved; or upset, sad, or frustrated
  • Activity or pattern triggers– such as the starting of the day, drinking tea or coffee, being in a car, or enjoying a meal or an alcoholic beverage

Knowing the triggers can help one to control themselves as one chooses to avoid them or keep their mind busy and distracted when they cannot avoid them. [3]

2. Beat the Nicotine Cravings– In the first week of quitting smoking, it can be hardest to not relapse as nicotine cravings are intense and frequent. So, it’s best to make a list of things to try when having the urge to smoke and keep it handy. When having cravings, try these-

  • Practice Deep breathing– Take 3 slow, deep breaths. Inhale fresh, clean air.
  • Delay acting on the urge to smoke– After a few minutes, the cravings may reduce
  • Drink water– Sip water slowly and savor its taste
  • Get distracted– Go for a walk, talk to others, or listen to music to not think of smoking
  • Keep mouth busy– Try chewing gums, crunchy vegetables, or gnawing on a straw to feel like something is there inside the mouth
  • Occupy time– Look for tasks that keep one’s mind and body busy. Some of these include needlework and gardening. [1, 2, 4]

3. Focus On the Benefits of Quitting Smoking– If one chooses to remain a non-smoker, they have fewer chances of:

  • Having heart or blood vessels disease and stroke
  • Having Wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath
  • Getting lung cancer, oral cancer, or other types of cancers
  • Having the risk of lung diseases like COPD
  • Becoming infertile [1]

4. Be Positive– Quitting smoking is a process that takes time. It’s hard to resist the urge to smoke in the first few hours, days, or weeks. One can start by cutting down the number of cigarettes in a day and reduce it on daily basis. By keeping a positive outlook, they can pass through this easily. There are ways to deal with strong emotions including anger, irritability, frustration, anxiety, and depression without smoking. [2]

5. Manage Stress– Smoking cigarettes cause temporary changes in brain chemistry that can provide one with pleasure, and reduce anxiety, and relaxation. But as soon as one quits smoking, it makes one aware of stress. So, instead of lighting up a cigarette again, try some stress reduction and relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, guided imaging, breathing exercises, and meditation. But, first, know the reason behind the stress so that affected people can handle it better. [3]

6. Keep Track of The Food Choices– Most people who quit smoking get tempted to replace nicotine cravings with unhealthy snacks. So, get a general sense of your eating pattern and make any improvements if needed. [1]

7. Celebrate – Quitting smoking and staying smoke-free for a long is a big accomplishment. So, one must treat themselves regularly. As with quitting one can even save on their pocket money and use that money to buy something special. The rewards don’t need to cost one a lot. One can even hang out together with their friend or relatives who don’t smoke or enjoy outdoor physical activities. Remind yourself about your quit smoking plan, if one has made it already, or else make one as it’s not too late. [2]

8. Get Support– One can get support to help one remain smoke-free through:

  • Support of family and friends
  • Online communities or usage of smoke quitting app
  • Connect with a doctor or pharmacist
  • A quit buddy or friend who has managed to remain smoke-free
  • Emails and text messages
  • Visit Smoke-free on social media- Grow your support network and stay connected
  • Talk to a expert
  • Chat with a quit-smoking counselor.

References:

  1. https://www.webmd.com/smoking-cessation/staying-smoke-free-after-you-quit
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/quit-smoking/guide/staying-smokefree.html
  3. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/tobacco/withdrawal-fact-sheet
  4. https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/smoking-and-tobacco/how-to-quit-smoking/coping-with-quitting-and-staying-smoke-free

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