Knowing what to expect when quitting is a necessary measure in ensuring long-term success. Understanding and being prepared for what is to come is a valuable tool you have at your disposal.
It’s a fact of quitting for almost all smokers: cravings happen. The longer you’ve smoked cigarettes and the more you’ve smoked each day, the stronger those cravings can be. Some go into their quitting experiences believing cravings will be no big deal, while others enter it with dread. Neither attitude is particularly beneficial, as they both set up unrealistic expectations. Quitting may not be as easy, or as hard, as you believe.
Whether your cravings are passing annoyances or unbearable burdens, there are ways to get through them without lighting up. The key is to plan ahead and to be aware of when you smoke most often. This will help you ensure you have a plan of action when something triggers a cigarette craving.
Tips on How to Avoid Cravings
Make a List of Your Triggers
Many smokers have specific times of day or situations which cause them to pick up a cigarette. Your own triggers may be something as simple as enjoying a cup of coffee, or something more serious, such as dealing with an illness or stressful situation. Before you quit, make a list of the times of day when you are most crave cigarettes. Take note of what you are doing and how you are feeling. After several days of keeping notes, look for common factors. Do you always smoke during your noon lunch break? Do you get the urge to go out and smoke when your boss comes around? Write it all down.
Make a Plan
You know what they say about people who fail to plan. Come up with ways to reduce smoking urges before they hit, or even before your first day quitting. There are numerous things you can do to alleviate or even prevent cravings.
Keep Your Hands Busy
Stay busy, distract yourself, and try to relax. If you are able to avoid stressful situations during your first several days without cigarettes, that would be ideal. If you can’t take time off work or you have other obligations, try to quit on a Saturday or another day you have off.
When a craving does hit, keep in mind that they are usually at their worst during the first few short minutes. If you can make it through those first few moments when the craving is most intense, you can ride out the rest of it. Most cravings will fully subside within half an hour or less.
Be Strong and Don’t Give Up
At the first sign of a craving, take several slow, deep breaths. Try to clear your mind, or think of something positive. If the craving persists, find something that will distract you for a few minutes. Take a walk, if that is an option. Chew a piece of gum or play a game with your child or a loved one. You may even have a quick and healthy snack, like fresh fruit or a handful of almonds.
Make a list of possible distractions before cravings hit, and ensure you have a plan of action for various locations and scenarios. You obviously can’t go for a walk while driving in the car, but you can crank up the radio and sing along to the music. You can’t play a game with your children while at work, but you can take deep breaths for a few seconds at a time and focus on the task at hand.
Use Smoking Cessation Aids When Needed
If you’ve been smoking for a long time or you are a very heavy smoker, there is no shame in needing a little help. Smoking cessation aids, such as nicotine patches, can help reduce cravings for nicotine and help you quit more gradually over time. Know what to expect by creating notes based on your daily routines, and be prepared by using the necessary tools such as NRTs, medications, meditation, and support methods.