Have you tried to quit smoking? Do you wish you could offer more support to a friend relative or co-worker who is trying to quit the habit? Have you successfully quit but still struggle with the smoking cravings? Here is why it is so difficult to do it alone. Tobacco cravings or urges to smoke can be powerful. This is attributed to the highly addictive nature of tobacco. Nicotine is one of the chemical substances found in tobacco and acts at the level of the brain to stimulate the nicotine acetylcholine receptors to release the pleasure or feel good hormones.
Smokers have another challenge, and it is overcoming the very unpleasant side effects of nicotine withdrawal. The symptoms include anxiety, irritability, depression, insomnia, inability to focus and weight gain. This is one of the reasons for smokers to abandon the Plan to Quit.
Overcoming the tobacco craving oftentimes requires professional help, a commitment to a plan to beat the cravings and the caring support of friends, family and co-workers.
Common Triggers for Tobacco cravings
Know your triggers so that you are aware of them and can plan ahead to beat them. Common triggers are:
- Pubs and bars trigger the urge to smoke even if the place is smoke-free.
- Taking a work break is usually associated with taking a break… to smoke.
- Many smokers light up a cigarette after a meal without even giving much thought to it.
- Long distance drivers who are smokers habitually light up several times.
- Being around alcohol or drinking alcoholic beverages can be a strong trigger.
- We have seen those images of the smoker chatting on the phone and continuing to puff away.
- Stressful situations and anxiety/nervousness will cause a smoker to light up as a means of calming down.
- For smokers, drinking coffee causes cravings for cigarettes.
- After having sex is another of those times smokers tend to light up.
- After an argument or fight, smokers calm themselves down by smoking a cigarette.
- Being in the company of a smoker who lights up. This craving is due to second hand smoke.
A Quit Plan to achieve Smoking Abstinence
Achieving smoking abstinence is long term and requires a Smoking Cessation Plan which should include a Plan to deal with Withdrawal and a Plan to deal with cravings. Cravings are intense and usually last for less than 15 minutes. Technically if one can be distracted for 15 minutes, then the urge to smoke passes. So, knowing the triggers for your cigarette cravings means you can distract yourself until the urge subsides. A combination of a self-help plan and professional program make for a good plan to succeed.
Self –help for Tobacco cravings
Firstly, having a quit plan and a start date ahead of actually quitting is highly recommended. Secondly, knowing the strategies tricks to distract you when the urge arises is extremely important. Here are a few useful strategies to decrease tobacco cravings:
- Remind yourself of your reasons for quitting: money saved, less respiratory issues etc.
- Distract yourself with an activity which will keep you busy for at least 15 minutes.
- Call a Support Helpline or a member of your Support Group or family.
- Head for a public place where smoking is absolutely prohibited.
- Play a video game or any game you enjoy, for at least 15 minutes.
- Do physical activity such as walking, jogging, yoga, tai chi, or aerobics.
- Go up and down the staircase a few times until the urge to smoke passes.
- Keeping the mouth busy by chewing gum or having healthy snacks that you enjoy, is among the popular choice.
- Take slow deep breaths, inhaling through one nostril and exhaling slowly through the next. Repeating this action 10 times or until the urge to light up passes.
One stands a better chance at quitting and resisting the cigarette cravings working with a professional counselor and or trained medical professional whose long-term goal is to increase the quit rate and reduce the side-effect profile for smokers while reducing the cost of the professional services. There are many services that are dedicated to tobacco cessation and overcoming the smoking cravings. The ability to resist cravings gives back the smoker or recovering smoker control and a greater chance of achieving smoking abstinence.
- Recruit close friends and relatives to encourage you as you work towards your goal to quit.
- Throw away all remaining cigarettes. Give away matches and lighters.
- Remove the smell of cigarettes from your car, home and office, by vacuuming and cleaning carpets and drapes. The retention of nicotine in fabric is what is called third hand smoke.
- Have your dentist clean your teeth. You will want to avoid staining them again.
- Try out a new sport or workout routine.
- Adopt a new healthy lifestyle and eat healthy.
- You may wish to add acupuncture, meditation and visualization to your plan.
The most important advice is to have a good support system. This cannot be emphasized enough. You stand a better chance of overcoming the cravings.