Plan to Quit Smoking, Part Two: Prepare for Triggers and Manage Cravings

In last week’s blog, we talked about the importance of developing a plan to quit smoking and how taking preparatory steps beforehand can vastly improve your chances of success. By now, we’ve outlined our rationale for kicking the habit; set an achievable quit date; and identified a support group—and now it’s time to put our plan into action.

Cigarettes are a major health risk—no surprise there, right? Stripping that dangerous habit, or any other corrupting quirk we’ve sponged up over the years, marks the first steps towards leading a healthy lifestyle. And that’s important to anyone.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that tobacco use kills more that 480,000 Americans per year. That’s 1 in every 5 deaths in the United States. But quitting is a formidable foe and can prove to be a nearly overwhelming challenge for most. Luckily, like any Super Villain, smoking isn’t invincible (well, most Super Villains; my apologies to Apocalypse), and so improving your lung health and being done with cigarette butts isn’t impossible.

1) Eliminate Your Triggers

Small things can trigger a craving in a big way. Oft-overlooked items laying around the house—ashtrays, tiny red lighters, even a tin of breath mints you routinely dip into after having a smoke—can flick a switch in your brain and before you know it… yup. You’re back on the horse.

Remove these items from your sight and from your house. Anything and everything that you suspect may trigger your desire for a cigarette has gotta go. If there are certain physical locations that you know compel you to smoke, try to avoid them for a few weeks.

2) Design a gameplan to fight cravings

Triggers can (and will) pop up at random points during the day, so you’ll need to be prepared. If you’re feeling the urge to give into a tobacco craving, trick your mind into a delay. Tell yourself you need to wait ten more minutes before having a smoke. As those ten minutes tick on, you’ve provided yourself a distraction, and ultimately, an opportunity to crush your hankering. Once those ten minutes are up, why not give yourself another ten? Or twenty? Twenty years, maybe?

Mental acrobatics may not be a failsafe, so here are some other simple steps you can use to battle even the toughest, skin-crawlingest temptations:

Take several deep breaths

Taking the time to focus on your breathing can be a subtle and effective way to pull your attention away from the right now. You may even find yourself having forgotten what you were distracting yourself from! Bonus points: soon those breaths will be deeper and feel better, so there’s an extra dose of motivation for ya.

Drink a glass of water

Hydration is important on its own, and doubly so as you’re flushing nefarious chemicals from your system. The process of pouring a glass of water and drinking it takes just enough time to get your mind off smoking and onto anything else.

Chew on something

Smoking cultivates an oral fixation: having an item between your fingers and then sandwiched between your lips—that becomes an automatic action, a twitch of the hands and mouth. So chomp on sugar-free gum or nibble on some carrots—transform those subconscious tics into something actually beneficial.

3) Be Prepared to Work for Some Time

It’s true that for most, the first two weeks will be the hardest during the smoking cessation process.

Be patient with yourself. Remember why you’re doing this, and how much better you’ll feel when all’s said and done.

Over time, you’ll find that cravings are less frequent and less severe. Patience is a virtue, as the kids say nowadays, and when you’re trying to quit smoking, it’s rewarded.

4) Don’t Let A Slip Up Bring You Down

Everyone makes mistakes, and having a puff of a cigarette doesn’t mean that you’ve failed completely; it isn’t proof of your inability to follow through. It’s just a speed bump. Be good to yourself and focus on your victories. The path to any success is framed on both sides by a forest of difficulties. Don’t give up because of it; use it as an extra motivational nudge to keep on keepin’ on.

These strategies aren’t foolproof, and they won’t be effective for absolutely everyone. If you find them incompatible with your cessation blueprint, don’t let that get you down—there are oodles of others out there. Whilst keeping your optimism at full-throttle, take the time to research and test each method. It’ll help you figure out what’s effectual for you.

Next week we’ll cover the tools you need to stay focused—the stuff that’ll make you Stick with your Quit.

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