Quitting smoking can be tough at the best of times and with recent research suggesting that smokers are at an increased risk of developing COVID-19, it’s not surprising that many smokers might be feeling anxious and overwhelmed at the thought of quitting, and staying smoke-free, in lockdown.
Whilst it’s normal to be feeling anxious or uncertain at the moment, the current lockdown situation means you are not exposed to as many of the social pressures or environmental triggers that you might usually face - and then there’s all that extra time inside! Albeit a strange and uncertain time, lockdown might actually prove to be a helpful time to ditch the cigarettes, and kick start your smoke-free life!
A key factor in making any type of behavior change is awareness. Awareness of when you normally smoke, why you normally smoke, who you normally smoke with, and even where you normally smoke. Understanding this means you can begin to think ahead of time and put a plan into action that will pre-emptively remove or help manage these triggers.
For example, for many people having a cigarette and an alcoholic drink go hand in hand (literally!). Recognizing this means you can start to think about ways to combat this dynamic duo. For most people, it might include slowing down on the drinking for a while, and with pubs and restaurants currently closed, it’s probably the best time to give this a go!
Sometimes just seeing a cigarette or a lighter is enough to trigger a craving, so now might also be the best time for a spring clean. Throw out any lighters, ashtrays, leftover cigarettes, etc. - you won’t be needing them anymore anyway!
Keeping busy is a great way to preoccupy yourself with something else other than smoking. It doesn’t mean you are ignoring any thoughts or cravings to smoke, rather you are keeping them at bay by refocusing your energy and attention on something else, preferably something you like doing. You might find it helpful to actually schedule some of these activities into your day, especially around those times and situations that you recognized above.
For example, if you usually smoke after a meal, schedule in something to do straight after. This might mean leaving a book on the dinner table next to your plate or setting a timer on your phone to call a friend. Many of us have a little more time up our sleeves at the moment, so it might even be a chance to discover a new hobby, or learn a new skill! If you need some inspiration, check out this article “70+ alternatives to Quit Smoking”
Smoking is a habit that has been formed over (usually) many years, and for most smokers is part of a routine they probably do without even thinking about it. In other words, you’re on auto-pilot. The best way to start disrupting these routines is to change them up. This forces you to become more aware of your actions and make conscious decisions about what you are doing. Even the smallest change can help. For example, if you usually have a cigarette with your coffee after waking up, try having a shower first, or having your coffee while you eat breakfast. You could even change where you keep your coffee mugs - this will really get you paying attention!
Quitting smoking can be a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions. One minute you might be feeling motivated and empowered, and the next you might be doubting yourself and your ability to quit. It’s also normal to experience withdrawal symptoms like headaches and irritability. Because of this, it’s always helpful to have a support system there to give you an extra boost of motivation, listen to your worries, and celebrate your successes. If you live with someone who smokes, don’t be afraid to ask for their help too. Simply asking them not to smoke in front of you, or not to offer you a cigarette, can go a long way in keeping you on track and maintaining your motivation.
Your support system might be your friends or family, or it might be getting professional support from a program like Quit Genius where you can speak to a certified quit smoking coach who can help support you through your entire quit journey.
Quitting smoking is a life-changing decision, and changing your life is a big deal! So it’s only natural for there to be bumps and challenges along the way, especially with the increased stress and uncertainty we are all currently facing. If you do slip up and smoke after you quit, don’t be too hard on yourself. All is not lost, and you can absolutely get back on track from here. Use any slip-ups as an opportunity to figure out what went wrong, and what you might be able to do differently next time.
Remember, that making the decision to quit smoking is a courageous one and that in itself is worth celebrating! Everybody’s quit journey will be different, so keep reminding yourself why you want to make this change, and that you absolutely can do it!
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