Collaboration: Trigger Separation Exercises

Document created by Mark Employee on Aug 14, 2018Last modified by Mark Employee on Aug 15, 2018
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A couple recent comments have asked where Trigger Separation Exercises have gone.  Triggers and Trigger Exercises  


Since I cannot yet locate those prior suggested exercises we can use this document to provide triggers and possible exercises to avoid giving in to those triggers.


If you have come up with a list of steps for a particular trigger, share it in the comments below. I'll establish a consistent format and use this document to list them all. Those who are looking for examples on how to beat their triggers can then be referred or reference this document as the need arises.


As steps are added the text below will become links the will jump to the recommended steps.


  1. Coffee
  2. Drinking
  3. After a Meal
  4. Driving
  5. Morning Routine
  6. When kids argue
  7. Sex
  8. Stress
  9. Friends who smoke
  10. Certain locations
  11. Celebrating
  12. Relaxing
  13. Mornings
  14. Feeling blue
  15. Your Jerk-face boss
  16. Fighting with a friend
  17. Feeling bored
  18. Paying bills
  19. Getting Upset


If one of your triggers is your first cup of coffee in the morning, do the following:

  1. Stop. Do not light up.
  2. Instead drink your coffee first.
  3. Eat breakfast.
  4. Then smoke.

You’re just putting a little time between your coffee trigger and your first cigarette of the day.


The next morning, do the same thing. But this time wait 10 minutes after you finish your breakfast. Then smoke.


The next day, see if you can wait 15 minutes. Do this every morning for a few days. Soon you will not always think about smoking when you drink coffee.


  • You might also hold your cup in your OTHER hand or drink in a place you never smoked.
  • Switch to tea or hot chocolate or another beverage for a while



  • Limit yourself to just one early in your quit - or better yet, none!!!

After a Meal


  • Get right up from the table and start clearing it.  Do the dishes. 
  • Have just a small piece of chocolate (like a Hershey Kiss) to get that dopamine hit. 
  • Go for a quick leisurely stroll or anything physical, don't just sit there.


If you smoke when you are driving, do this:

  1. Put your cigarettes in the trunk of the car or in the bottom of your bag.
  2. Drive.
  3. When you get to your destination, then smoke.

The next morning, do the same thing. But this time, after you get to work or wherever you are going, wait 5 minutes before lighting up.


The next day, try to wait 10 minutes before lighting up. Once you’ve tried this for a week or so, you won’t always think “I need a cigarette” when you drive.


  • Count the number of red/blue/white cars you see, or the lights you hit or miss. 
  • Make up stories about the drivers/passengers in other cars. 
  • Find a different route to your usual places so the scenery is new. 
  • Play tunes and sing aloud to them. 
  • Keep a cold bottle of water handy from which to sip.
  • Hold a straw between your smoking fingers.

    Morning Routine/Mornings


    • Put your tennies on right out of bed and first go for a quick walk.
      • THEN your shower, then your coffee (see #1 above).

    When Kids Argue


    • Get yourself away from the drama, count to 10, take slow/deep breaths.  Don't react - stay calm!





    • Slow/deep breaths, count backwards from 1,000.
    • Say the alphabet backwards.
    • Take a brisk walk, or march in place.

    Friends who smoke


    • Put a little Vicks under your nose to negate the smell. 
    • Stay away from them until you feel confident in your quit. 
    • If they are GOOD friends, ask them not to smoke in front of you.

    Certain locations


    • Stay away from triggering locations as long as you can.  Be sure to have an escape plan the first time you go there.



    •  Find a NEW reward. 
      • Example: If you stopped drinking soda well before you quit, your new celebration/end of task reward became an iced cold soda over crushed ice.  



    • Listen to quiet music.
    • Get a bit of chocolate.
    • Go for a walk. 
      • Listen to the birds, feel the breeze on your face. 
      • Breathe in the clear, clean air into your lungs. 
      • Take some slow/deep breaths and feel deep down the peace that quitting has brought to you.

    Feeling blue


    • Make a list of all the thing for which you are grateful. 
    • Write down all the GOOD things you have noticed about quitting smoking
      • Examples: You don't stink anymore, you have extra $$ in your pocket, there is no cough at the end of every good laugh.

    Your Jerk-face boss


    • Visualize your boss with snot running down his/her face. 
    • Think of ways you can sabotage their pet project. 
    • Take slow/deep breaths. 
    • Go for a quick walk. 
    • Play a computer game. 

    Fighting with a friend


    • Take a break from the drama. 
    • Go for a walk, get a cold drink, think about what is really going on. 
    • Apologize if it's your fault.  Forgive them if it's not.  Then - move on!

    Feeling bored


    • Find something to DO!  Clean out a drawer, play a computer game, go for a walk, march in place, read a book or magazine,  find funny YouTube videos to watch, do a crossword or jigsaw puzzle, call a friend, arrange your spices in alphabetical order, clean out your freezer, 'fridge or pantry, blow bubbles....Get busy!!!
    • Find the 100+ Things to do instead of smoke in Best of EX and cross something off your EX Bucket List

    Paying bills


    • Get this chore over with in a place where you never smoked. 
    • Get some bubble bum and chew the heck out of it.


    If you smoke when you are upset, do this:

    1. Stop. Do not light up.
    2. Take a few deep breaths.
    3. Call a friend or a relative.
    4. Wait 10 minutes.
    5. Then have your smoke.
    6. The next time you are upset about something, wait 15 minutes before you light up.

    Try this with all of your triggers.

    Put a little time between your trigger and a cigarette.

    Keep adding more time.

    Before you know it, you’ve separated your triggers from your cigarettes.


    You can do it.

    The idea is to separate your triggers before you stop smoking. That way when you do quit, it’ll be easier to handle your triggers.

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