Preparing to Quit Smoking

There is no one magic bullet to help you stop smoking. In fact, research has proved that you’re more likely to succeed if you combine several strategies. No matter which ones you choose, talk to your loved ones, friends, and co-workers before you start. Tell them you’d like to count on their help. Ask people not to smoke when you’re around. If you can, find someone to quit with.

As you start to think about quitting, visualize yourself as healthier, more attractive, sexier. Picture yourself in control of your smoking, and hold on to the image. When you’re ready to get serious, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Discuss nicotine and non-nicotine aids, as well as other strategies you’re considering. If you haven’t had a physical recently, now is the time to have one. It will give you a “before” picture to compare with your new non-smoking self.

If you’ve tried to quit before, review any successes you’ve had. What worked, even if only for a short time? Consider meeting with a counselor; he or she can help you deal with your feelings and fears more openly and learn the coping skills you’ll need to become a successful quitter.

Finally, many insurance plans support a variety of smoking cessation efforts. Check your plan’s coverage. Your benefits administrator can help.

Set a Date
Pick your quit date. Tell your friends, family, and co-workers. Make the date close enough to take seriously, yet far enough away to allow preparation time. Some people choose a vacation day, when they’re away from usual routines. Others prefer the structure of their regular schedule. Don’t pick a day when you anticipate being under stress.

Before the date arrives, try to picture the problems you might encounter and think of solutions ahead of time. Also, find ways to remove temptation from your path.

  • Plan activities that make you feel good, healthy, and energetic during your first few weeks of quitting. They can both distract and reward you. Take your grandkids to the zoo. Treat yourself to a half day at a spa; it’s a much better use of the money you’ve been spending on cigarettes online.
  • Start an exercise program. More people succeed in quitting if they exercise. Exercise increases your energy and also boosts your metabolism, helping you avoid weight gain, which can easily throw a wrench into your resolve. It may also take the edge off withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, headaches, and lethargy.
  • Improve your diet. Besides curtailing weight gain, eating right will help you replenish antioxidant vitamins and minerals and boost your protection against free radicals created by tobacco smoke. Drink at least eight glasses of water a day to help flush toxins from your system and thin sinus and lung congestion. And store a stash of raw vegetables in the refrigerator for those oral cravings you’re bound to have.
  • Pick a readily accessible buddy who’s willing to be available whenever you need to talk.
  • List your reasons for quitting. Post the list where you’ll see it often and read it at least once a day.

Take the Easier Way
Experts know you’re more likely to go back to smoking within three months if you haven’t changed your routines and behaviors. Nicotine- replacement products can buy you time to make those changes. They also boost your overall chances of success. By sending a controlled amount of nicotine to your brain via your bloodstream, they satisfy your body’s craving without the drawbacks of tobacco.

Should you worry about becoming addicted to the nicotine replacement itself, here are the facts:

  • Most people gradually reduce their use of nicotine-replacement products until they’ve completely stopped.
  • Few people use them for longer than the recommended three to six months.
  • Replacement nicotine won’t damage your lungs, and it’s not known to cause cancer by itself.
  • Since it’s considerably less harmful to get nicotine through a gum, patch, or a nasal spray than through tobacco, some doctors permit long-term use of these products.

Don’t Go It Alone
Research shows that the most successful approach to quitting is using nicotine-replacement products and seeking some kind of support in order to change your behavior. Check your local telephone book for low-cost stop-smoking programs offered by the American Cancer Society (800-ACS-2345), the American Lung Association (800-LUNG-USA), local hospitals, public health departments, colleges, and some businesses. Look for a group with a trained leader that meets in regular sessions (20 to 60 minutes long) over at least a two-week period. If joining a group isn’t your style, listening to audiotapes may help you over the rough spots.

Talk to your doctor about quitting. Besides prescribing nicotine-replacement products, she can help you tailor a stop-smoking program to fit your needs.

If You Stumble Along the Way
Be prepared for possible relapses before you quit for good. Relapse usually occurs the first week after you quit, when withdrawal symptoms are at their peak. If it happens:

  • Stop what you’re doing. Throw out the tobacco product.
  • Take a break. Go for a walk or do something to boost your spirits fast, such as buying yourself some flowers.
  • You can stop — you’ve proved it. Consider the tar and nicotine you spared your body and the expense you spared your wallet while you stopped.
  • Review your reasons for quitting. Talk over your setback with a friend or professional. Devise a new strategy for coping with whatever was behind your setback.
  • Decide to return to your program. Remember, the only way to fail is to stop trying.
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