One of the reasons why it’s so hard to quit smoking is that it’s woven into our everyday routines. A meal / cup of coffee/ drink doesn’t feel complete without a smoke. Or, there’s that mid-day smoking break with co-workers or that morning bathroom ‘constitutional.’
These situations act as triggers. The minute I finish eating, I automatically feel the urge to reach for my pack—and its these triggers that have pushed me back to smoking each time I tried to quit. Now I know that understanding smoking triggers is crucial to beating the habit. Here are some tips.
Triggers can be things (coffee, wine), actions (driving, going out with friends, reading a book), emotions (stress or anger) or people (your smoking buddy at the office). They can be positive or something you enjoy (like parties) or negative (like rushing to meet deadlines).
Understanding triggers lets you do three things 1) avoid them, 2) defuse them, or 3) replace them. Weeks before you quit, write down what you’re doing when you feel the urge to ‘light up.’ Pay attention to the time, place, situation, whoever you’re with, and your emotion. Then note the intensity of your craving, using a scale of 1 to 5.
At the end of at least two weeks look at your journal and take note of the most common triggers. You’ll also see patterns that may surprise you, or discover the intensity of an association. I knew I liked cigs with my coffee, but I didn’t realize that the smell of coffee alone was enough to make me want to smoke.
Once you know your triggers, prepare yourself for your quit date by slowly adjusting your routines. For example, I always had cigs with my morning coffee, so one of the first things I did was to put off my first stick until later in the day. Instead of smoking with my coffee, I played an iPad game (kept my fingers busy).
Identify too the triggers that you may have to avoid in the first weeks of smoking, when the cravings are most intense and it’s easier to backslide. These could be the smoking buddies at the office, or habits/rituals that just don’t seem complete without a stick. (For me, that’s watching television.) Now, think of 5 other things you can do instead of that.
If you can’t avoid a situation, then prepare yourself or it. Bring gum, candy, a thermos of ice cold water that you can sip through a straw. Take along a stress ball or listen to relaxing music on your mp3 player. Each time you confront a trigger and don’t light up, its hold on you becomes weaker.
Photo from tobaccoreviews.net