Avoiding The Temptation To Smoke
Avoiding The Temptation To Smoke
Linda Hyder Ferry (Associate Professor, Preventive Medicine and Family Medicine, Loma Linda University School of Medicine) gives expert video advice on: How can I avoid the temptation to smoke?; What can I do with my hands instead of smoking?; How can I relax without cigarettes? and more...
What can I do with my hands instead of smoking?
There are some people who recognize when they quit smoking, they don't know what to do with their hands. Now that's not every smoker. But if you're one of those people who say, "My hands don't know what to do. What can I do?" Give them something to do. Don't try to just hold them in your lap because they'll feel very fidgety. You might be one of those people called "handlers". So get a colored pencil, get a pen that clicks, give your thumb something to do. Get low-calorie snacks that you can have around in a baggie that you can grab and chew on those so that your mouth and your fingers have something to do. A cinnamon stick gives a lot of sensation that's kind of pleasant in the mouth ... just the rolled-up little cinnamon bark you can hold it in your hand. You can chew on sugarless gum. Someone actually, this year, told me about a bark from a tree that tastes like licorice. Little twigs. Someone came to my class chewing on this twig, and I said, "What are you doing?" Well, they were obviously a handler who needed something in their mouth and it actually, he says, decreases cavities. They've been using it from their home country. So look for something like straws filled with honey, anything, even an ice-cold bottle of water with a straw gives your mouth and your hands something to do, and the straw is nearly the size and the shape of a cigarette, and cold water in the mouth really helps to diminish the craving. So think of something your mouth likes, something that your hands like, give your hands something to do if you're one of those fidgety, handler people who really need something. Squeeze balls. Give your hands something to do, something to play with, something to click, and then they won't mind. Once you train them to do that, they won't mind so much not having a cigarette in them.
How does deep breathing help me avoid smoking?
The process of taking slow, deep breaths in and out is one of the "Six Ds" that we recommend people do when they have a craving. Drink water, distract yourself, do something else, discuss it with a friend, and do deep breathing. In deep breathing, the pattern of deep breathing stimulates changes in your brain chemistry, which you might think, "Oh, I guess they do deep breathing with yoga, and with meditation". There are lots of techniques that help people relax by doing this deep breathing accompanying behavior. That's because it actually slows down the brainwaves, makes you less excited, increases more oxygen into the system, and creates a sense of well-being. When you combine that with closing your eyes and imagining yourself in a very nice place where you like to vacation, the combination of visual imagery and relaxation through deep breathing can really limit stress levels, especially when used with other good psychological treatments for stress management and relaxation. I would encourage you to explore several of those. Have a couple of slow deep breaths and close your eyes, and try and forget the situation that's setting you off. It will really put you a long way toward not needing to have that cigarette.
I feel like I'm constantly craving a smoke, will these cravings ever end?
The real nicotine cravings that go on in your brain cyclically, maybe every 20 minutes, every 60 minutes, that just make your stomach queasy and make your throat dry, wanting a cigarette, are temporary and limited. It will go on, after you quit smoking, for 2 to 6 weeks and then it gets better. In fact, for some people, at day 5 to day 7 they start noticing the cravings diminish. But if withdrawal symptoms and craving, craving being one of the nicotine withdrawal symptoms, if that's really what's gotten you trapped, you really need to talk to someone about some medications that control craving. Because nicotine replacement, bupropion and verinicline medications can really stabilize your need to have nicotine to create that sensation that's being set off by craving. Remember that it's not just the chemistry in your brain that makes you have a craving to smoke. So look for other triggers. Figure out, "What am I doing when I have this overwhelming need to smoke" and try and change the environment, what you're doing or what you're thinking. The other thing is, next time you have one of those cravings, force yourself not to smoke and look into your watch for 2-5 minutes. Do something else. Distract yourself. At the end of five minutes, is the craving still there, strong as it was before? I bet it's not.
Why do I feel sick once I've stopped smoking?
I've had some unusual complaints by patients who say "Oh, when I quit smoking suddenly I got emphysema, when I quit smoking I had this horrible cough, when I quit smoking I had a terrible sore throat, I had to go back to smoking Dr. Ferry". The reality is that cigarette smoking does have a wide range of affects. Some people who smoke menthol, for example, and quit smoking menthol, which anesthetizes the airways, are finally having their nerve endings come back to life and not be anesthetized, and so they feel a raw sore throat. Some people who are coughing when they quit smoking, thinking they are getting sick, are actually getting well. A cough is a good thing. It means that you are finally bringing up mucous and debris from your lungs. It is like spring-cleaning. Your lungs want to get well, and they haven't been able to get well before. The little lining hairs of the bronchial and large bronchus are now like elevators getting that stuff out of your lungs. They were paralyzed before when they were exposed to cigarettes and toxins. Not everything that changes when you quit smoking means that you are sick. It means that your body is adjusting to the changes of not being affected by cigarettes.
Can withdrawal symptoms make me feel sick?
Some people think withdrawal symptoms actually are sickness. Withdrawal symptoms really should not be looked at so negatively; it's your body re-adjusting, and your brain chemistry becoming normal again.