Nicotine cravings - how to cope with nicotine cravings after quitting smoking.

Even though you haven't actually stopped smoking yet, you still need to be aware before giving up, of your smoking habits, your emotional attachment to cigarettes and of situations in which you are most likely to be tempted to smoke.

If you are aware of the danger before it happens, you will be mentally better prepared to deal with it and will have already thought of coping strategies for when these tricky situations arise.

Your smoking habits are usually every day events in which you automatically grab a cigarette, without even realising it or even without really wanting to smoke.
Smoking after or during these events has become a routine and is carried out in an almost ritualistic fashion. Therefore, each time you finish a meal, chat on the phone to your friends, drive to work, go to the pub or read the paper, your brain is alerted that it is time for you to smoke.

The same is true of your emotional attachment to cigarettes. How many of you smoke when you are feeling bored, stressed or lonely, or even all three? Without realising it, you have formed an emotional bond to cigarettes, whereby they reassure you and comfort you during stressful moments.

Once you pinpoint where your emotional addiction lies, you can then prepare an alternative to smoking in order to cope with the difficult times.

The first step is to identify which situations trigger you to smoke. Make a list on a sheet of paper.

Your list might include some of the following:
  • Shortly after waking up
  • With my morning coffee
  • Whilst reading the paper
  • On the way to work
  • During a break from work
  • After a meal
  • Whilst watching television
  • When socialising with friends
  • At a party or in a club, bar
  • When I'm feeling stressed
  • When I'm feeling bored
  • When I drink alcohol
The second step is to work out what you are going to do when these situations occur and you have a craving to smoke.

It is probably best to substitute the cigarette that you would have smoked with a different action, whether it is drinking a glass of water or going for a run around the block, rather than not doing anything at all. You need to fill up the time that you would have spent smoking a cigarette with another action that will take your mind off the craving.

Cravings for nicotine only last for about three minutes, although when you are going through nicotine withdrawal, your sense of time is distorted and three minutes will seem like three hours.

Once the brain and subconscious mind realise that the body is not going to get any nicotine during these situations, the alternative will soon take the place of the cigarette and your cravings will gradually disappear.

The first few days will be the most difficult, yet giving up smoking is not an impossible task, although it may seem so at the time. Each time you do not give in to an urge to smoke, your confidence will build and the next time will be easier. Why not mark off each smoke-free day on your calendar to boost your confidence and keep you going?

As well as providing alternatives to smoking a cigarette, you might want to change your routine slightly to avoid some of the tricky situations.

Take a look at the list you have made of the triggers that set you off to smoke, and start to think about how you can either change your routine or find an alternative to smoking. Write these alternatives down as well.

For example, if you have a cigarette as soon as you wake up, why not jump out of bed and straight into the shower.
Stimulating drinks such as coffee, tea or alcohol should be avoided, so try drinking orange juice with your breakfast and immediately clean your teeth afterwards.

Keep sugar-free boiled sweets or chewing gum in the car for your journey to and from work and during break times, go for a walk, read a book, take a stroll around the shops or do a crossword puzzle, anything to keep you away from your previous smoking routine.

If you usually smoke whilst watching television or reading, pre-prepare some pieces of fruit or vegetable sticks with a dip to snack on instead and always try to keep a glass of water or fruit juice beside you to sip on if you get the urge to smoke.

If you tend to smoke when you are stressed, you might find that going for a walk, taking a few deep breaths, carrying out some energetic housework or relieving some of that tension in a nice warm bath, might be a pleasant and worthwhile alternative to smoking.

Finally, instead of going to the pub, why not try other activities that do not involve smoking such as going to the cinema or theatre, go bowling or go to the gym.

Below is a list of other alternatives to smoking, which should give you a few more ideas. Stick to things that you are interested in and that you would enjoy doing, so that you are actually doing something that you like instead of smoking, rather than something you would not like or that involves too much hassle.
To keep your motivation strong, you could also keep a money jar and fill it with the amount that you would normally spend on cigarettes a week. After a month or so, empty the jar and treat yourself to a new item of clothing, a weekend break or anything that takes your fancy.

It is extremely important to keep busy, positive and determined during the first few weeks after you have stopped smoking and if you have some kind of a goal to aim for, such as a special treat after a month, it will keep you going and make you even more determined not to light up.

If you feel the urge to smoke or if you need ideas for activities to keep you busy and your mind off of smoking, try some of the following:
  • Take up a new hobby, preferably one that will keep your hands busy
  • Join the gym or attend exercise or dance classes
  • Go for a walk around the block
  • Talk to a friend on the phone
  • Drink a glass of water or juice
  • Read your list of reasons for giving up
  • Chew chewing gum
  • Eat glucose tablets, which are said to be very effective against cravings
  • Clean your teeth and use a mouthwash after each meal
  • Have a relaxing bath
  • Write a letter or send an email
  • Do a crossword puzzle
  • Take a few deep breaths and think about what you are doing
Remember that the cravings do not last for long and they will appear less and less frequently as each day passes.

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