Regional Cancer Center ~ Erie, PA

The Four Main Danger Zones

Oct 28, 2013 | Posted in Step 3: After You've Quit

After the withdrawal symptoms of the first week or two pass, the urge to smoke becomes more psychological than physical. Most smokers find that there are four main factors that eat away at their will power.

1. The Feeling That Something Is Missing

Cigarettes may have become an important part of your life when you were a smoker. So you’ll probably get into situations that just don’t seem right without a cigarette. They’re different for everyone, but some of the most common are after dinner, parties, or driving. You probably anticipated many of these situations when you made up your plan to quit. The key is to remember the strategies you came up with and use them to get through these times.

2. Stress

You probably feel like you’re under more stress since you stopped smoking. Don’t let it discourage you — many ex-smokers say that quitting has actually helped them make their lives less stressful. Since they can no longer use cigarettes to get them through difficult situations, they’ve found more constructive ways to cope.

Remember, using cigarettes to put poisonous chemicals into your body is a terrible way to deal with stress. It ultimately makes things worse, not better. We think you’ll find that other methods are much more effective. It’s the transition from cigarettes to those other methods that can be difficult, and we’re here to help you through it.

Stress Can Be A Problem In Two Ways

Sudden Shocks:

Although you usually can’t tell when (or if ) sudden stress will hit you, you can and should still prepare ahead of time. Decide on your strategy. For example:

  • In the case of a sudden shock, plan to tell someone, “This makes me want to smoke again, but I am not going to.”
  • Always tell yourself that smoking will not reduce the stress — it will only make things worse in the long run.
  • Plan alternatives — a quick walk, a hot bath, a cup of hot chocolate, a talk with a friend.

Stress at Home or on the Job:

In the old days, you relied on cigarettes to help you through. Now you can’t — you’re a non-smoker.

  • Communicate. If a situation at work or at home is bothering you, sit down with the people involved and talk it out.
  • Exercise is a great way of easing stress. Try to exercise briskly for at least 30 minutes at least four times a week.
  • Consider a stress control course. Your local adult school, community college, YMCA, or medical center can refer you to one.
  • If possible, relax for 15 minutes every day. Seek out a family member or friend for words of encouragement.

3. Social Situations

Social situations are often difficult for new ex-smokers, especially when there are cigarettes around. Alcohol makes things even more difficult. Just one drink can make holes in your will power. Stay in control by practicing what you’ll say if someone offers you a cigarette. It may seem silly, but it really does work. And it’s probably a good idea to avoid alcohol for now, especially when there are smokers or cigarettes around.

If you do drink, be prepared beforehand. You can expect strong cravings — so plan not to go near the cigarette machine, and not to get cigarettes from friends or strangers. If possible, plan to stay away from smokers altogether for a short period of time.

4. Weight Gain

Ex-smokers may put on weight for two reasons:

  • Without nicotine, your metabolism returns to a normal, slower speed. So, if you do not lower your food intake or increase your exercise, you may add a few pounds.
  • You may eat more to help decrease the urge to smoke. Whatever the reason, don’t feel guilty about it. Being five, ten, or even twenty-five pounds overweight is far healthier than smoking! But if you want to stop the weight gain now, follow these rules:
    • Whenever you can, avoid food with fat in it.
    • Keep fruit and veggies handy for a healthy snack.
    • Exercise throughout the day, even if it’s just a few more trips upstairs, an extra sweeping of your patio, or a walk from one store to the next.

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