Withdrawal symptoms are often considered one of the greatest hurdles for folks trying to stop smoking. Tobacco use impacts our bodies and minds in such different ways that trying to juggle daily responsibilities while quitting smoking can feel overwhelming. While evidence-based research shows that cessation medications (i.e., the nicotine patch, gum, lozenge, inhaler and spray, as well as the pills – bupropion and varenicline) are helpful in controlling withdrawal symptoms, they are not “silver bullets”. Even with a solid medication plan, it’s likely that we’ll experience symptoms of withdrawal from time to time. Developing a core set of coping skills can be significant in helping us overcome these challenging moments.
Here are some common suggestions my counseling staff discuss with our patients.
1.) Get Physical: Exercise is one effective way to deal with withdrawal. Instead of using nicotine to get that “feel good” response in the brain, you are doing it more naturally thanks to the endorphin boost you can get from physical activity. If you exercise regularly, keep it up! If not, try doing something physical when you get a craving – even if it is simply taking a stretch break at work or a walk around the block. You may be amazed at quickly it can crush a craving. Remember, getting physical is not limited to structured workouts but anything that moves your body!
2.) Find Distractions: This can take on many forms – reading a book, diving into helping your child with homework, or cleaning the house. Perhaps it’s trying to beat the next level of Candy Crush or binge-watching several episodes of your favorite show online! Whether you smoke or not, cravings will pass. Find the activities that will keep your mind engaged for those few minutes
3.) Create a smoke-free environment: If a cigarette is not immediately available, you are less likely to smoke during that tough moment. If you’re committed to staying quit, throw out any tobacco, lighters, or rolling machines – you won’t be needing them anymore! Hang a “No Smoking” sign as a visual reminder. Empower yourself by letting others know that your home, your car, etc. are now smoke-free zones.
4.) Develop NEW stress management skills: The cigarette was a short-term solution to stress, a band-aid. Developing healthy, effective alternatives to stress now will benefit you for the rest of your years. Things as simple as deep breathing, drinking water or talking to a friend are ways to re-energize yourself and let the stress go.
Quitting tobacco is truly a lifestyle change. Adding new coping tools and polishing off old ones can help you work through the tough patches of recovery. Remember to experiment with different strategies and tap into the experience and wisdom of others and the Ex Community. You can do this, one craving at a time.