Is your smoking behaviour getting in the way of life ?
Most of us understand that smoking is unhealthy and the effects of smoking on our well-being are far-reaching in terms of chronic disease and overall functioning. It is an expensive habit that many would like to stop, one day, and determining when that day is can be a difficult decision. There are many reasons to abstain from smoking and also many barriers to doing so. Readiness to stop is a key indicator for success in your attempts to overcome nicotine addiction. Moving to a state of readiness can be encouraged by a health professional through education and counseling and subsequent attempts at changing this behavior and overcoming nicotine addiction can be supported through the same avenues. I say subsequent attempts because permanent abstinence following the first attempt at quitting is infrequent however rates of success increase with each attempt. Relapses are common and the process is a continuum not a success/fail model.
Nicotine is an addictive drug and withdrawal from it can be extremely difficult. Symptoms (such as headache, insomnia, fatigue, increased appetite and anxiety) are manageable if prepared for and may end after 3 days however can last longer.
There are different approaches to changing smoking behavior and managing nicotine addiction and symptoms of withdrawal. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as well as Pharmaceutical approaches are recommended, both alone and in combination.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) in the form of patches, lozenges or gum can be very effective and these are mostly available over the counter. Patches can be used prior to quit day to provide a steady background nicotine level to alleviate symptoms and the others can be used to help keep cravings at bay during the quit cycle. This type of approach can also be useful for individuals who are unsure or unable to commit to stopping smoking completely and prefer to reduce their intake of cigarettes using NRT as a backup.
Counselling and Hypnosis offer support for those wanting to change their behavior and can also be useful for alleviating challenging symptoms of withdrawal and avoiding trigger situations.
Hypnotherapy can be used to weaken the desire to smoke, or strengthen the will to stop. Using visualization to strengthen resolve and believe in yourself as a non-smoker can be especially beneficial. Changing your lifestyle along with your smoking behavior will also increase success and exercise has benefits beyond the obvious as it can actually help with the symptoms associated with withdrawal and cravings. A health professional or psychologist can assist with finding alternative healthier behaviours to deal with trigger situations and emotions.
Choosing to stop or reduce smoking is a great decision and should not be avoided for fear of failure. Rather, make the decision and accept that this first attempt may begin a series of attempts. Each attempt has a valuable role to play in the final outcome and success is ultimately defined by the individual’s goal. Stopping altogether may be your goal or reducing your intake may appeal more. Given that readiness to change is crucial for success this must be the first step. Once that decision is made or indeed if you need help to understand or make that decision, talk to a health professional and set yourself up for success. Be realistic and understand the process and discuss the way you feel most comfortable approaching the change. With support and motivation you can make changes and reap the benefits.