HARARE - For most tobacco users, tobacco cravings or urges to smoke can be powerful. But you're not at the mercy of these cravings.
When an urge to use tobacco strikes, remember that although it may be intense, it will probably pass within five to 10 minutes whether or not you smoke a cigarette or take a dip of chewing tobacco. Each time you resist a tobacco craving, you're one step closer to stopping tobacco use for good.
Most smokers today know that smoking is bad for their health and harmful to people around them. They know they should quit but they also know it's going to be hard. Fortunately, there's lots of help available.
Smoking tobacco is both a physical addiction and a psychological habit. The nicotine from cigarettes provides a temporary—and addictive—high. Eliminating that regular fix of nicotine will cause your body to experience physical withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Because of nicotine’s “feel good” effect on the brain, you may also have become accustomed to smoking as a way of coping with stress, depression, anxiety, or even boredom.
At the same time, the act of smoking is ingrained as a daily ritual. It may be an automatic response for you to smoke a cigarette with your morning coffee, while taking a break from work or school, or during your commute home at the end of a long day.
Perhaps friends, family members, and colleagues smoke, and it has become part of the way you relate with them.
To successfully quit smoking, you’ll need to address both the addiction and the habits and routines that go along with it. But it can be done.
With the right support and combination of strategies, any smoker can quit—even if you've tried and failed multiple times before.
We all know the health risks of smoking, but that doesn’t make it any easier to kick the habit. Whether you’re a teen smoker or a lifetime pack-a-day smoker, quitting can be really tough.
Your body will continue to withdraw from nicotine for a few days but that doesn’t mean you have to be miserable. The physical withdrawal is very slight – there is no pain – and it passes quickly.
What’s more, it’s what smokers suffer all their smoking lives. Non-smokers do not suffer it. You are a non-smoker and so you’ll soon be free of it forever.
Avoiding smoking triggers will help reduce the urge to smoke, but you can't avoid cravings entirely.
But cigarette cravings don't last long, so if you're tempted to light up, remember that the craving will pass and try to wait it out. It also helps to be prepared in advance. Having a plan to cope with cravings will help keep you from giving in.
Distract yourself. Do the dishes, turn on the TV, take a shower, or call a friend. The activity doesn't matter as long as it gets your mind off of smoking.
Remind yourself why you quit. Focus on your reasons for quitting, including the health benefits, improved appearance, money you're saving, and enhanced self-esteem.
Get out of a tempting situation. Where you are or what you're doing may be triggering the craving. If so, a change of scenery can make all the difference.
Reward yourself. Reinforce your victories. Whenever you triumph over a craving, give yourself a reward to keep yourself motivated.
Do not keep cigarettes on you or anywhere else in case of an emergency. If you do, it means you’re doubting your decision.
Non-smokers do not need cigarettes. You are already a non-smoker the moment you put out your final cigarette. In fact one of the many joys of being free is not having to worry about having cigarettes and a light on you, of ending that slavery.
Do not use any substitutes. They all make it more difficult to stop because they perpetuate the illusion that you’re making a sacrifice. Substitutes that contain nicotine, i.e. so-called Nicotine Replacement Therapy – patches, gums, nasal sprays and inhalators – are particularly unhelpful as they simply keep the addiction to nicotine alive. It’s like advising a heroin addict who’s smoking the drug off foil, to start injecting it instead.
If you feel like you're going to give in to your tobacco craving, tell yourself that you must first wait 10 more minutes — and then do something to distract yourself for that period of time. Try going to a public, smoke-free zone. These simple tricks may be enough to derail your tobacco craving.
Chew on it
Give your mouth something to do to fight a tobacco craving. Chew on sugarless gum or hard candy, or munch on raw carrots, celery, nuts or sunflower seeds.
So you're ready to kick the habit. That's great! Making that commitment is half the battle. It’s not going to be easy. But choosing the best way to quit is a good first step to ensure you stick with it.
(Dr Farzana Naeem is a clinical psychologist based at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals. She is contactable on firstname.lastname@example.org, Contact number 0772397362).