Step 3: After You’ve Quit
Now that you’ve quit, don’t forget about all the hard work you put into coming up with a plan to deal with difficult situations. Refer back to your plan to help you get through stressful moments when you feel the urge to smoke.
You may find it hard to believe that one of your coping strategies could possibly be strong enough to get you through your worst cravings. But those cravings don’t usually last very long, and your coping strategies can be very effective at distracting you until they pass. Don’t forget to make a note of what works and what doesn’t and adjust your plan accordingly.
Take it one urge at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time. Remember, as each day passes, you’re closer to a future where smoking is simply not an option for you.
Hang in there!
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.
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
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.
If you slip up and have a cigarette or two, look at it as a learning experience You are still an exsmoker Don’t dwell on the situation, but ask yourself why it happened and do things differently next time. For example:
Were you simply tired and hungry?
Next time, don’t skip meals, and make sure you get enough sleep.
Were you having a drink with smokers?
Next time, if you drink, make sure there are no cigarettes around.
Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Just “re-quit” as soon as possible, and strengthen your will power in these ways: Read over your reasons for quitting. Repeat to yourself: “Smoking is not an option for me.” Avoid the situation that led to your puff.
Do not go on a diet that requires special foods or drinks. These are hard to stick to, especially when they’re combined with the stress of quitting smoking. They often leave you feeling deprived, and you may not be strong enough for that yet. Furthermore, the weight will come back — fast — when you go back to normal eating.
Do eat a balanced diet,
and follow these four rules for cutting out calories (and, as a bonus improving your general health):
- Switch to low fat or non-fat dairy products.
- Eat the leanest meats you can find, and only take small quantities. Take the skin off chicken. Do not fry.
- Eat at least five helpings of fruits and vegetables every day.
- Read labels of prepared foods and choose those lowest in fat.
Exercise is important for good health. Try to add more walking every day. Exercise does more than just burn up calories while you are exercising. It speeds up your metabolism, so you burn more calories even when you are resting.
Stop nibbling out of habit,
if that has become a problem. Try keeping track of everything you eat for two or three days. This will do two things: it will help you think twice before you eat, and it will alert you to those times of the day when you tend to overeat. Once you know where the dangers lie, you can make sure you have low-calorie food around at those times.
If No, Was It Because:
- The temptation to smoke was stronger than you had expected?
- You had not guessed which situations would be the hardest?
- You did not have the right strategy ready?
- All of the above?
You might want to review your plan based on your answers to the questions above. Think of new solutions to replace the ones that didn’t work as well as you had hoped, or add new situations as they come up.
What are you situations and new solutions?
The two-week milestone is an important one for many ex-smokers. The main physical symptoms are gone, and you’ve gotten through many tempting situations (or, if you did slip up, you learned how to avoid that trap in the future). Remember to stick to your plan and prepare for new situations as they arise.
Remember, you have not failed at quitting until you quit trying. Don’t quit quitting!
If you’ve made it this far (even with a slip-up or two), congratulations — this is graduation time! By the end of the first month, most of the hardship involved in quitting is gone and the risk of relapse is getting lower, week by week.
Of course, there is still some risk of a relapse. From now on, stay on your guard against the four main dangers for ex-smokers:
- The Feeling that Something is Missing
- Social Situations
- Weight Gain
If you are using a nicotine replacement product, you may feel strong enough to stop using it after a few weeks. It’s best not to. There is nothing to be gained by giving up these nicotine replacements too early, and it’s not worth the risk that you may start smoking again.
Warning: Do not smoke while using an NRT product. It can give you an overdose that can make you sick.
Watch Out For Days 3, 4 and 5
Sometimes people can sail through the first couple of days because they’re excited about quitting. But by the third or fourth day, they may start to get tired of the struggle. Don’t let your guard down. Remember, it will get easier soon!
Hey, you are doing something really hard! You already deserve a reward.
In fact, you probably deserve a new car or an exciting vacation. But perhaps something smaller will have to do for now. You may want to make up a list of rewards you will give yourself — day one, week one, week two, month one, year one.
My Rewards are.....
When the image of a cigarette comes into your mind, concentrate on something else that you enjoy.
- Pick up something to read
- Talk to a friend
- Write notes to yourself about what you want to do on your vacation
- Change the TV channel
- Get up and move
- Hug someone
Remember: this is your decision to quit smoking and you can do it.
Don’t Get Over-Confident!
At some point, you may feel so sure of yourself as a non-smoker that you feel you can experiment. If you take a puff, will you like it?
Unfortunately, the first puff all too often leads to a second, which leads to a whole cigarette, which leads to a pack. That’s just the way it is, because your body will remember its addiction. Stay strong — don’t take even one puff.