Quitting smoking is one of the most challenging yet rewarding decisions you can make for your health. The detrimental effects of smoking on health are well-documented, leading to diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke and the good things start to happen in just 20 minutes of giving up. However, the journey to becoming smoke-free is not just beneficial to your health alone; it also improves the quality of life for those around you and can provide financial relief.

Understanding the Addiction and Preparing Yourself

We know it’s hard. Nicotine addiction is powerful and quitting requires more than just willpower. But it’s never too late to give up smoking. Understanding this addiction is the first step towards overcoming it. Nicotine changes your brain chemistry quickly, which is why withdrawal symptoms and cravings are significant when you stop. Preparing to quit involves recognising these challenges and planning how to address them.

Find a strong reason to get yourself out of it. Let it be for your family, to protect them from secondhand smoke or for yourself, to lower the chances of getting lung cancer or heart disease. Setting a quit date is also a proven method to begin this journey; it provides a clear starting point and mental preparation for what’s to come.

Find a Quitting Method That Works For You

There are several effective methods to stop the urge and go back to smoking that has been backed by many types of research. Below are some of the ways you can control your nicotine cravings instead of going back to square one. Make sure to consult your healthcare professional to find one that suits your health condition.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT):

NRT products such as nicotine patches, gums, lozenges, inhalators, and nasal sprays, help to reduce withdrawal symptoms and smoking urges by delivering small amounts of nicotine without the harmful gases found in cigarettes. The gradual weaning off nicotine this way helps to lessen the intensity of cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Prescription Medications:

Medications like Varenicline (Champix) and Bupropion (Zyban) work in relieving your nicotine cravings by interfering with the nicotine receptors in the brain, reducing pleasure derived from smoking and easing withdrawal symptoms. You require a prescription and they are typically used in a structured smoking cessation plan.

E-cigarettes:

Known as vaping, e-cigarettes provide a lower-risk alternative by delivering nicotine in vapour rather than smoke. They are less harmful than smoking cigarettes and can be an effective quitting aid for smokers who haven’t succeeded with other methods.

Behavioral and Alternative Support

Behavioral support together with quit-smoking methods significantly increases the chance of success. This can include your loved ones, face-to-face or telephone counseling with professionals, group support, and even digital platforms offering support and tracking progress. Although alternative therapies like acupuncture and hypnosis are available, they lack robust scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness in smoking cessation.

Dealing with Withdrawal

Though it’s hard, we believe every smoker can quit. Withdrawal from nicotine is often the toughest part of it. Symptoms include irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and increased appetite. Strategies to cope with these include physical activity, which can also alleviate stress, and using short-acting NRT products like gum or lozenges when intense cravings hit.

Find out your triggers and try avoiding them occurring. This may involve changing routines or the company of certain friends during the initial quitting phase. For example, tobacco urges are highest when you revisit places you smoked often. Try avoiding these places or plan ahead to keep yourself busy when you go.

Lifestyle Changes

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help in quitting smoking. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate hydration all play a role in detoxifying the body and reducing cravings.

What If You Slip or Relapse?

Staying smoke-free is a long-term commitment and relapse can be part of the journey. Developing strategies to manage stress, regular check-ins with a support group or counsellor, and rewarding yourself for milestones can help maintain motivation. If a relapse occurs, it’s important not to view it as a failure but rather as an opportunity to learn and strengthen your quitting strategy.

If you start smoking again, it doesn’t mean you can’t try again. Think about what led you to relapse and use it as an opportunity to step up your commitment to give up smoke and then try again.

Conclusion

Quitting smoking is undoubtedly difficult, but with the right approach and support, it is possible. The benefits of quitting smoking begin within the first 20 minutes and continue to improve health over time. Remember, with each smoke-free day, you enjoy a better quality of life and health benefits that can add years to your lives.

The key to quitting smoking lies in understanding the addiction, choosing the right quitting method, seeking support, and being prepared for challenges. Remember, every attempt to quit smoking is a step forward in the journey towards a healthier life.

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