If you’ve decided that this is going to be your year to stop smoking, congratulations! You’ve taken the all-important first step. Every attempt to stop smoking will come with its challenges. You may feel the desire to smoke at social occasions, or during periods of high stress, but remember, stopping smoking is all about taking it one hour, one day and one week at a time. Here are some tips to help get you through those tough moments and help you resist the urge to smoke when it strikes.
1. Be choosy
For many people the desire to smoke can be triggered by certain cues.1
If you know that attending a certain get-together will make you want to light up, think about skipping it this year. You can always return next year when you’re feeling stronger.1
2. Make a plan
You may find that certain situations trigger cravings, making you want to smoke.2 It’s important to determine what your triggers are, and come up with a plan to avoid, or manage those situations. This may include turning to your doctor for advice and letting your friends and family know that you’re trying to stop smoking – the more support you have, the better.3
It’s important to remember that cravings and the urge to smoke are unlikely to remain. But, it may take several weeks for intense cravings to stop completely.1
If you’re worried about triggers and cravings, talk to your doctor. Your GP may be able to help you develop strategies to cope with some of the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.3
3. Give people the heads-up
By letting your friends and family know that you’re trying to stop smoking you may be able to develop a social network around you to help with your attempt.3
You may find that some people still pressure you to smoke. If you’re worried about high-pressure social situations, you may need to avoid them when you first start going smoke-free. You may also find it useful to rehearse how you will say “no” when offered a cigarette.3
4. Make smart choices
Alcohol and caffeine can be big triggers for many smokers. So, if you know that alcohol or your morning coffee is one of your triggers, try to avoid or decrease them, especially in the early days of your attempt to stop smoking.3
If you’re worried about gaining weight while stopping smoking, make sure you have a healthy diet, avoid sugary and fatty foods, and exercise regularly.3 Here are some more tips to help you manage or avoid potential weight gain.
5. Time to chill
Stopping smoking can be stressful, and it may add additional stress to an already busy life. So, make sure you make time to relax. Muscle relaxation techniques and concentrating on your breathing may help overcome the urge to smoke during high-stress situations.3
6. Stay in the moment and turn to your support network
Mindfulness techniques may help you to stay in the moment and change the way you deal with cravings. It might also help you develop coping strategies to deal with triggers and cravings.3
A support network might be helpful for some people. Both individual and group counselling have been shown to be effective in helping people stop smoking and deal with some of the negative emotions you may experience as a result of nicotine withdrawal.3
If you feel like you might benefit from counselling, talk to your GP. Your GP may be able to help you find a support service to suit your needs.
7. Be kind to yourself
Self-compassion can be an important part of giving up smoking. In addition to taking pressure off yourself, self-compassion has actually been shown to improve your chances of stopping smoking.4
If you find yourself having extra dessert once in a while, or don’t manage to get to the gym today, don’t stress too much about it – you’re significantly improving your health by stopping smoking.3
Remember to celebrate your victories!
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1. West R and Shiffman S. Fast Facts: Smoking Cessation 2nd Edition. Oxford UK: Health Press Limited; 2007.
2. Shiffman S, et al. J Abnorm Psychol 2013; 122(1): 264-80.
3. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Supporting smoking cessation: A guide for health professionals. 2nd edn. East Melbourne, Vic: RACGP, 2019.
4. Kelly AC, et al. J Social and Clinical Psych 2010; 29(7): 727-55.