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Coping with Life After Smoking: How to Dampen That Urge

There are seven major coping skills to help you fight that urge to smoke. These tips are designed for you, the new nonsmoker, to help you nurture the nonsmoking habit.

1. Think about why you quit smoking
Go back to your list of reasons for quitting. Look at this list several times a day–especially when you are hit with the urge to smoke. The best reasons you could have for quitting smoking are very personally yours, and these are also the best reasons to stay a nonsmoker.

2. Know when you are rationalizing
It is easy to rationalize yourself back into smoking. Don't talk yourself into smoking again. A new nonsmoker in a tense situation may think, "I'll just have one cigarette to calm myself down." If thoughts like this pop into your head, stop and think again! You know better ways to relax– nonsmokers ways, such as deep breathing exercises and eating some eggplant.

Concern about gaining weight may also lead to rationalizations. Learn to eat healthy fats and good minerals to remove such thoughts as, "I'd rather be thin, even if it means smoking." Also remember that a slight weight gain is not likely to endanger your health as much as smoking would. (Cigarette smokers have about a 70-percent higher rate of premature death than nonsmokers.) And review the list of healthy, non-addictive snacks that can help when quitting.

3. Anticipate Triggers and Prepare to Avoid Them
You know which situations, people, and feelings are likely to tempt you to smoke. Be prepared to meet these triggers head on and counteract them. Keep using the skills and knowledge that helped you decide to cut down and quit:

Quit Smoking and exercise
  • Keep your hands busy – doodle, knit, type a letter.
  • Avoid people who smoke; spend more time with nonsmoking friends.
  • Find activities that make smoking difficult (gardening, washing the car, taking a shower). Exercise to help knock out that urge; it will help you to feel and look good as well.
  • Put something other than a cigarette in your mouth. Chew some sprouted almonds or nibble on a carrot or celery stick.
  • Avoid places where smoking is permitted. Sit in the nonsmoking section of restaurants, trains, and planes.
  • Avoid the consumption of alcohol, yeast, sugar and cheese, which often stimulates the desire to smoke. Better yet, have a glass of ionized water with a pinch of sea salt, a cucumber or an avocado.

4. Reward yourself for not smoking
Congratulations are in order each time you get through a day without smoking. After a week, give yourself a pat on the back and a reward of some kind. Buy a new record or treat yourself to a movie or concert. No matter how you do it, make sure you reward yourself in some way. It helps to remind yourself that what you are doing is important.

5. Use future-thoughts
If self-defeating thoughts start to creep in, take your thoughts into the future and remind yourself again that you are and have been a nonsmoker, what you have gained by not smoking, that you do not want to smoke, and what you have to lose by smoking. Putting yourself down and trying to hold out using willpower alone are not effective coping techniques. Mobilize the power of future -thinking!

6. Use relaxation techniques
Breathing exercises help to reduce tension. Instead of having a cigarette, take a long deep breath, count to 10, and release it. Repeat this 5 times. See how much more relaxed you feel. If you are still jittery, go ahead and eat some eggplant or a tomato, remember that the naturally occuring nicotine helps combat the addictive qualities of tobacco.

Relapse: If You Do Smoke Again

If you fall and smoke, don't be discouraged. How long would you give a baby time to learn to walk? If they fell once, would that make them a failure? Certainly not. You would pick them up and encourage them to try again:

  • Recognize that you have had a fall. A fall means that you have had a small setback and smoked a cigarette or two. But your first cigarette did not make you a smoker to start with, and a small setback does not make you a smoker again.
  • Don't be too hard on yourself. One fall doesn't mean you're a failure or that you can't be a nonsmoker, but it is important to get yourself back on the nonsmoking track immediately.
  • Identify the trigger: Exactly what was it that prompted you to smoke? Be aware of the trigger and decide now how you will cope with it when it comes up again. Write this strategy down. As an added incentive, tell this plan to a friend.
  • Know and use the coping skills described above. People who know at least one coping skill are more likely to remain nonsmokers than those who do not know any.
  • Sign a contract with yourself to remain a nonsmoker. Get as many witnesses to this contract, especially people who will see you every day. This makes you accountable for your decision, and to your friends who would be disappointed to see you break your word.

Marking Progress

  • Each month, on the anniversary of your 'quit smoking' date, plan a special celebration.
  • Each month, write down ten new reasons you are glad you quit smoking, and post these reasons where you will be sure to see them.
  • Make up a calendar for the first 90 days. Cross off each day and indicate the money you saved by not smoking. (Some actually put this money in a jar and use it for their special celebration at the end of the 90 days.)
  • Each day write one reason why smoking hurts you, and one reason not smoking empowers you. (Such as "I wouldn't be able to smell the lilacs in my yard", "I have more time to spend near my children.")