Set yourself up for success with a quit smoking plan.
An old adage drilled into all of us as we grow up is that preparation is one of the keys to success. The saying holds true when it comes to quitting smoking. Preparing for your quit by creating a quit smoking plan can set yourself up for an easier and smoother process that results in a smokefree life. A good plan is one that helps you identify and overcome the challenges you may face as well as keeps you focused and motivated post-quit.
Here are 10 steps to creating your own customized quit smoking plan!
- Choose Monday as your quit date.
Setting a quit date motivates you to prepare for your quit within a given timeframe. Quitting on a Monday can help even more. Make sure that the date you choose gives you enough time to think through your quit plan, but also isn’t so far away that you end up forgetting about it. Typically two weeks from now is a good time to quit, but it’s also important to not quit on a day or during a time period where you know you will be busier or more stressed than usual, which could make your quit harder.
- Commit to being a non-smoker.
When you quit smoking, you have to set your intentions to quit for life. No occasional cigarette here or there. You are a non-smoker and by identifying yourself as such will help you stick to your quit.
One way to help solidify your commitment is to make a list of the reasons why quitting is important to you and including it in your quit smoking plan. Whatever your reasons are – whether it’s to keep your family healthy, look and smell better, live longer, or save money – write them down and place the list in visible and accessible places (e.g. on your phone, on the fridge, next to your computer). Revisit this list every day and especially whenever your quit gets tough.
- Set your quit goals.
We’ve mentioned before about how setting goals allows you to clearly define what you want to achieve, gives you focus and motivation to stay on track, and raises your self-confidence every time you successfully reach a milestone. Make sure to set goals that are SMART (that is, they are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound).
- Track your current smoking habits and/or reflect on previous quit attempts.
Spend a few days to a week keeping track of your smoking habits – When/where/why did you smoke and how many cigarettes did you have? This information will be helpful as you determine your smoking triggers and ways to avoid them.
If you’ve quit before, think about what hindered your success. Were your cravings too strong or did you cave into peer pressure to smoke? Determine ways you can address these problems before and when they come up again to increase your resolve to quit. Also think about what was helpful in your past quits and incorporate those strategies into your quit smoking plan.
- Identify and remove/avoid triggers.
Make a list of your smoking triggers (the things, times, people, or activities that make you want to smoke). Before you quit, remove as many of these smoking reminders that you can, like your ashtrays and lighters. Get rid of ALL cigarettes, including the emergency ones. Clean your house and car to get rid of the lingering smoke smell (and thirdhand smoke!). Lastly, make a plan for how you’ll deal with other triggers. For example, if coffee makes you want to smoke and you need your caffeine intake, try taking a leisurely stroll with your coffee.
- Plan substitutions and distractions for cravings.
It’s inevitable that you’ll feel the urge to smoke at some point after you quit, but thankfully, cravings typically last no more than 10 minutes. That means you have to distract yourself or find something to replace that smoking habit for a short amount of time. Find different ways you can deal with cravings like chewing on carrots or gum, going on a quick run, or calling a friend to catch up.
- Deal with withdrawal.
When you first quit, your body goes through withdrawal, which can result in common symptoms such as irritability, sleeplessness, or trouble concentrating. Although the worst of symptoms typically last only a few days to a couple weeks, that short time can sometimes feel endless and unbearable. Fortunately, there are nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) like gum‚ patches‚ inhalers‚ sprays‚ and lozenges that wean off nicotine. There are also medications that can help you reduce your withdrawal symptoms and fight cigarette cravings. Talk to your healthcare provider about which options are right for you and your specific needs.
- Reduce stress.
Many smokers are driven to cigarettes because of stress. Find other ways of handling daily pressures than lighting up. There are lots of proven stress relievers, but you have to find what works for you. Maybe it’s deep breathing, meditation, flexing your creative muscle, humor, or listening to music. Physical activity in particular can significantly improve your mood. Whichever you choose, just make your stress relievers are positive for your health.
- Get support.
An important aspect of a quit smoking plan is identifying sources of support to help you to reduce stress, get encouragement and assistance, and avoid smoking triggers and cravings through distractions. With social support, you will feel more motivated through your quit and optimistic about reaching your goal of a smokefree life. So find friends, colleagues, or family members who are willing to listen to your challenges and successes. Find a quit buddy (someone who also wants to quit smoking and quits with you) so you can hold each other accountable and support each other along the way. Or chat with a trained counselor who can provide you with great advice by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
- Reflect and reward yourself.
Every Monday, reaffirm your decision to stop smoking and reflect on your quit and the progress you’ve made so far. What has/hasn’t helped you deal with withdrawal or cravings? What positive changes have you noticed since your quit?
As you reach your smokefree goals that you’ve set for yourself, make sure to reward yourself. Not only does it feel good to celebrate your achievements, no matter how long you’ve been smokefree, but rewards also help you stay quit by giving you some extra motivation along the way.
How has your quit smoking plan helped you quit? We want to hear on Facebook!