Often the most difficult part of quitting smoking for good is managing the nicotine cravings. The longer you have been smoking, the more intense your cravings are likely to be. Learning how to manage the powerful urge to seek relief in a cigarette is therefore, a vital element of your ‘quit-smoking’ program.
The fact is that nicotine is an addictive substance, so when you quit smoking you are bound to face withdrawal symptoms. Acceptance is therefore, the first step you need to take in order to manage those powerful cravings.
The next thing to do is to consciously distract yourself or put yourself in situations where you cannot give in to the urge to smoke. For instance, you can adopt strategies like the following-
Create new habits
Make a note of the times during the day when your cravings are the strongest. Create new habits to replace smoking during these times. For instance, if the urge to smoke is the strongest after dinner, make it habit to go for a little leisurely walk after your last meal of the day, use that time to check your personal mail or catch up with friends on a networking website. The point is to do something that you find enjoyable, in order to distract yourself from the need to smoke.
Learn something new
Use the money you save by quitting smoking and invest it into learning or doing something you have always wanted to. For example, you may join a hobby class, enrol for swimming or dance lessons, etc. Not only will it give you something constructive to do in your free time, but will also constantly remind you of the positive effects of quitting.
Find harmless or healthy substitutes
Some people also find replacing cigarettes with harmless or healthy substitutes like sugar fee gums, carrot sticks, nuts, etc, useful.
If you are at home when the craving strikes, you might find taking a cold shower (yes it works with cigarette cravings too!!) or washing your hands helpful.
Taking a few deep breaths and or drinking water is also believed to help in reducing the urge to smoke.
Doing something with your hands whenever the craving strikes, like, drumming your fingers on the table, rubbing your nails together, doodling or even sketching (if you have got the talent and the time), is believed to be an effective strategy as well.
Stop hanging out with smokers
Hanging around smokers when you have just quit smoking would be a terrible idea. It will be hard to resist the need to light up, when your nostrils are filled with that familiar ‘scent’. Therefore, it is a good idea to visit places where smoking is not allowed and spend time with non-smokers. As they say, out of sight is out of mind! Keeping cigarettes out of your sight will make it easier for you to keep them out of your mind!
Build your personal support network
Tell your friends and loved ones of your intention to quit and allow them to guide you back whenever they think you are slipping. However, you must make sure that people who you include in your support network can deal with you firmly without resorting to nagging.
It takes a while to form a habit, letting go of it takes even longer. So, when you decide to stop smoking, remember to be patient with yourself. The abuse you have subjected your body to, will take a while to heal and your cravings are really side effects of that healing process. So, don’t lose heart and march on, the reward of a life free of cigarettes is worth the effort.