It's quitting time. You've talked with your doctor, made a plan, picked a quit day, lined up support, prepared your environment, and...aahh!
Relax. You can do this. Yes, you will have powerful cravings, and nicotine withdrawal often causes effects such as anxiety, sleeplessness, irritability or increased appetite. But as your nicotine addiction eases, everything will get easier.
Take it hour by hour, day by day, and eventually, week by week. Think of the many ways your life will improve. And think of the many strategies that can help you:
- Keep your body active. Enjoy a walk, bike ride, swim, racquet sport or yoga session.
- Occupy your mind by meditating, praying, reading, doing puzzles or watching a movie.
- Occupy your hands by doodling, writing, sewing, knitting, using a computer or playing a musical instrument. Or hold a water bottle, dumbbell, lucky coin, pen, notebook or paperback.
- Occupy your mouth with carrot and celery sticks, pickles, peppers, fruit wedges, sunflower seeds, low-calorie candies or gum, ice cubes, toothpicks, straws or cinnamon sticks. Keep water or herbal tea handy for sipping.
- Feel a strong craving coming on? Fight it by washing the dishes, washing your hands—or taking a shower, suggests the federal government's Smokefree program.
- Spend time in places that ban smoking, such as libraries, theaters, museums, concert halls, houses of worship, gyms, schools, stores, public transportation, office buildings and homes of nonsmokers.
- Stay away from places that allow smoking, especially bars.
- Beware of situations you associate with smoking, such as having a martini after work, or watching a DVD in your favorite recliner. The key is to develop new habits, especially for the next few weeks. If you used to enjoy smoking while you drove, for example, see if you could carpool with a nonsmoker or take the bus or train to work. If you used to smoke during your break at work, go for a stroll or a brisk walk, climb stairs, munch on an apple or focus on a computer game instead.
- Don't dwell on the places you can't go and things you can't do. Trying something new can help distract you from cravings. The American Cancer Society suggests varying your routine by taking a different route to work, trying new foods or having breakfast in a different place.
- Make a list with phone numbers and Web sites for stop-smoking groups; keep a copy in your wallet, by the phone and by the computer.
- Ask family and friends to overlook any irritability and help distract you with activities such as long walks or board games.
- Follow through with the stop-smoking plan you created in advance, such as doctor appointments, counseling, support groups and medication. Put reminders in your day planner and calendars.
- Carry a reminder of why you are quitting, such as a photo of your family or a copy of your last EKG or lung test.
- Pay attention to the improvements to your health and appearance. Each day, you'll be breathing easier, coughing less, feeling more energy. Your breath is getting fresher, your teeth whiter. Picture your lungs, heart and blood vessels beginning to heal.
- Write down how you can invest or enjoy the thousands of dollars you'll save.
- Write down all the places you'll visit and activities you'll enjoy in the extra years you'll have in retirement.
- You've gotten through a day without smoking? Reward yourself with that best-seller with the money you've saved.
- Survived a week without lighting up? Congratulations? Buy that leather jacket to thank yourself.
- It's been a month without a cigarette? Fabulous! Take a skiing trip, or visit the beach, to pat yourself on the back.
Most of all, feel good about yourself. You've been thinking about this for a long time, and now you're finally doing it. Count your milestones: The first day, the first weekend, the first week, the first month. Keep your focus on conquering one day at a time, while also keeping all your long-term benefits in mind. And remember that things will get easier with every new day.