Quitting smoking is possibly the most important change you can make to improve your health. Although there are serious health risks associated with being overweight and obese, smoking is responsible for some of the most fatal cancers and other life threatening diseases. If you stop smoking, you will feel much healthier, with renewed energy, and also lower your chances of developing lung cancer (the most fatal form of cancer). Also, you will save a lot of money, which during the current global economic crisis, can only be a good thing.
To help you quit smoking, we have put together an action plan, which provides a step-by-step guide to giving up smoking.
The Stop Smoking Action Plan is a Four Stage Process:
- Prepare to Quit: In stage one we encourage you to prepare mentally – write down your goals, why you want to quit, what benefits you hope to see, what your fears are and your concerns.
- Giving Up: This is the vital point where you actually stop smoking. This is the first step on your journey to giving up smoking for good.
- Staying Focused: This stage is about keeping motivated, learning not to give in to temptation, and managing your progress. It is essential to keep monitoring your progress to ensure that you stay on track.
- Living Without Cigarettes: This is the final stage, which is ideally a life long stage of completely giving up smoking.
Stage 1 – Preparation for Quitting Smoking
- Write down your reasons for wanting to quit. You have got this far for a good reason, so write it down, spell it out. Keep the list in places that you will see it. On the fridge door, by your computer screen, on the bathroom mirror. The list could include fear of cancer, wanting to be more active, living to see the grandchildren grow up. These are all powerful reasons to quit.
- Decide on your quit day. Plan ahead, and chose a day that will be easier to quit on. A day that will be less stressful than normal is ideal. It will not be easy to start with. You need to prepare mentally and physically. When you decide your quit day, go out and buy enough cigarettes to last until then, and no more.
- Prepare yourself mentally now! Take a cigarette, and crush it in your hand. Do it now. Throw it in a bin. This is a symbol of your fight against smoking. Remember that you can win.
- Get support -Tell your family, friends and colleagues what you are doing, and why. Search online for forums where people provide help – WhyQuit is a good resource.
- Tidy Up – On the night before you quit, go through your house and possessions and throw out everything related to smoking – ashtrays, lighters, emergency packets etc. If you have anymore cigarettes, take them and crush them in your fist while saying “I can win this fight!”.
- Remember that it will be emotional – smoking is often an emotional support. You may smoke to cope with stress, to relax, or feel at ease at parties.
Stage 2 – Giving Up Smoking
- From this day you are a non-smoker. The aim here is to be completely cigarette free within 2 weeks. Forget about those claims from dubious companies that claim you can quit in an hour. This addiction takes time to kill. Focus on each day individually. When you wake up, think, or speak out load, to yourself “I will not smoke today”. Cement this thought into your mind.
- Seek Professional Help. There are many bodies that can provide counselling and help regarding quitting smoking. It is sensible to speak with your family doctor too, to let them know of your plans to quit. They may be able to provide you with some specialist advice to help support you.
- Consider using NRT’s (nicotine replacement therapy). These usually come in the form of a nicotine patch, which slowly releases nicotine into your system so that you do not suffer severe withdrawal symptoms.
- Other NRT’s include inhalers, which mimic the smoking action, sprays and microtabs.
- Chew Gum – Some people find that chewing gum helps them to control the desire to smoke, especially for those that smoke at set times throughout the day.
- Learn the Four D’s – If you are finding it hard to control the urge to smoke, adopt some breathing exercises and activities to help you keep control:
- Deep Breathe – to calm yourself
- Drink Water – To occupy your hands and help to flush out the toxins that are still in your system
- Do something! Simply find a distraction, a change of scene. Go places where smoking is not allowed – museums, shops, cinemas etc.
- Delay – Do not grab a cigarette as soon as you get a craving, wait a while, learn how it feels to crave and deny your body of cigarette. In time this will allow you to control cravings better. Usually the urge goes within 5 minutes.
Stage 3 – Staying Focused:
You have quit smoking, well done! You are doing great. Over the next few weeks you may struggle at times. These steps should help:
- Learn to recognise your triggers – By now you should have a good idea when your cravings will hit you. Make a note of the trigger events, then look for a way to cope with them, such as grabbing a glass of water, some gum or mints, doing some exercise or talking to someone to take your mind off it.
- Tell yourself – I Can Win This Fight! – You have almost quit smoking. If you have one cigarette, remind yourself it was just one, and that you do not have to have another one. Take a deep breath, forgive yourself, and move on.
- Break old habits – many people smoke out of habit while doing other things. Change those other things. Learn to cook, wash your car, do some decorating, work in the garden, go shopping, watch a film, do some exercise! Do anything that will stop your from smoking.
- Think Positively, Stay Focussed – Nicotine withdrawal can be very unpleasant for some people. Some cope well, others struggle. Remember that withdrawal symptoms are a sign that your body is starting to recover, and that you are winning the battle. Consider each day a day in battle against nicotine. Everyday that you go without smoking is a battle victory. The goal is to win the war, but to do that, you need to win every battle.
- Know the Withdrawal Symptoms – Anxiety, irritability, dizziness, hunger, interrupted sleep, poor concentration. These can all occur. If you suffer, refer back to your reasons to quit. Long term health far outweighs short term discomfort.
Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking:
In case you do not know, these are just some of the health benefits of quitting:
- Your Skin will have fewer wrinkles and will look far healthier, vibrant and full of life.
- Your teeth will look better, the stains will go, and your breath will be thresher.
- Your liver will start to function better, you will have more energy and less chance of liver disease.
- Your heart will pump more efficiently, and you will have reduced risk of heart disease.
- Your blood will circulate better, making you feel healthier, fitter and stronger, as it carries nutrients and oxygen throughout your body.
- Your lungs will be healthier, you will breathe easier, have more puff, and reduce risk of lung cancer.
Stage 4 – Living Without Cigarettes:
This is the final stage, which is ideally a life long stage of completely giving up smoking.
- To stay focussed, continue with your new routines, hobbies and past times. Do not fall back into old ways, as this leads to temptation.
- Visualize your future. Picture yourself in five years time being healthy, active, waking up with a clear chest and being able to get up and be active without first having to reach for a cigarette. Remember how it could be – serious illness, hacking coughs, phlegm, lethargy, ageing skin.
- Reinvest your savings. Calculate how much money you have saved, and treat yourself to something you have always wanted – a holiday, spa treatment, new car. Do something that symbolizes your victory!
- Always stay focused – Most people that bum the odd cigarette after quitting, soon fall back into the smoking habit. Once you have quit, there is NOT REASON AT ALL to have a cigarette. None. No matter how stressful a day may be, you now KNOW THAT SMOKING IS NOT THE ANSWER.
We wish you all the luck in your attempts to quit. You may find it helpful to review your action plan at times in the future, and keep your notes on why you wish to give up at hand, for those times in the future that temptation may cross your path. Once you give up, you have made a great achievement. You have won many battles, and the war. Never forget the pain and hardship of quitting, as this could lead to denial and disaster. But always remember, YOU CAN WIN THIS FIGHT!