Did you know that there are six stages of quitting smoking?
Here’s what they typically look like:
- Pre-Contemplation: People in this stage don’t really have any plans to quit smoking, perhaps discouraged from previous attempts or a belief that they’ll never be able to, even if they try. They’ll likely defend their smoking behaviour and be unreceptive to anyone or anything telling them to quit. But eventually, the vast majority of ‘pre-contemplators’ will think about quitting.
- Contemplation: In this stage, people are starting to consider quitting in the near future. They’re more aware of the consequences and are starting to see smoking as a real problem. They’re also more receptive to quitting advice and concerns from their loved ones.
- Preparation: They’re now actively seeking help and intend to start on their stages or timeline to quit smoking. At this point, they see that the issues of smoking in their lives outweigh the perceived benefits, and may even be taking small steps towards quitting, like trying to smoke less.
- Action: They’ve now taken serious steps towards quitting. They’ve thrown out the ciggies and perhaps have consulted with a GP, purchased quitting tools (like nicotine replacement therapy or nicotine vaping products), and have brought in their loved ones as a support group. Generally lasting up to six months, this stage is by far the hardest.
- Maintenance: The smoker has remained cigarette-free for some time now. Habitual and social situations (like drinks with friends) have become more manageable, and they’re far better at refusing a cigarette, or even really ‘feeling’ like one.
While some people at this stage still slip up and light a cigarette, they make a great effort to learn from these incidents to avoid them again in the future, rather than completely relapsing.
- Termination: They’re now a certified ex-smoker. However, even if finally away from cigarettes, there’s always the risk of relapsing, and that’s okay. Slip-ups can happen to anyone, and it’s important to learn from them to easily identify triggers to avoid in the future.
For most smokers, step four is the most difficult. Throwing out the pack of ciggies and going 24 hours without smoking can be exciting and highly motivating, but pushing through the extreme withdrawal symptoms and cravings to come will demand lots of willpower and self-control.
In this article, we will take a look at the hardest stage of quitting smoking, and how those strongly motivated on their quit journey can cope with it.
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Action: The Hardest Stage of Quitting Nicotine
The fourth stage among the other stages of change after quitting smoking is where smokers must resist the strong desire to light a cigarette. If you were climbing a mountain, this is the rockiest stretch between the middle and the peak – it would be easy to slip and fall.
Withdrawal symptoms and cravings during your quit journey can cause even the most motivated quitter to light a cigarette. It causes many people who are on stage four to relapse. The absence of nicotine can cause people to become irritable, distressed, and greatly anxious. Some even feel sick and nauseous after quitting.
Aside from withdrawal symptoms, those who regularly consume alcohol and socialise are at an even higher risk of relapsing.
Stage four is hard because you’ll have to stop some deeply ingrained habits and activities to avoid triggers that make you relapse. However, remember that this is only temporary – you can enjoy new things after learning and coping with withdrawals and cravings properly.
Coping With the Toughest Stage of Your Quit Journey
There are many ways for people on their quit journey to cope with the hardest stage of quitting smoking. You can use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), nicotine vaping products (NVPs), build a quit plan with a GP, keep a journal, practice mindfulness, and work with a support community.
Learn more about each of them below.
Use NRT Tools for Coping
An ex-smoker among your peers may have mentioned how instrumental NRT or nicotine replacement therapy products were for their quit journey. These are things like nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, and inhalers sold in pharmacies and supermarkets.
NRT products work by providing small nicotine doses to satiate your body and calm your cravings and withdrawals. GPs often use them as tools to help people get through the worst of their symptoms and are most effective if used within a tailored programme.
These products have helped many ex-smokers succeed in quitting, but they don’t always work for everyone. If they’re not doing the trick, your GP may now prescribe medical nicotine vaping products (NVPs) as a second-line option to help you quit.
Consider Nicotine Vaping Products
The latest Cochrane Review has found high-certainty evidence that nicotine e-cigarettes are more effective than NRT in helping people quit smoking.
It’s important to note that NVPs are only available under prescription and should only be accessed at your local pharmacy. Pharmacy NVPs are tested for inhalation safety and are locally insured like other medicines, unlike the many illicit products being sold illegally in convenience stores and tobacconists, which may contain dangerous chemicals that can be very hazardous to your health.
Work With a Counsellor
A journey is always much better and faster with a map, and your GP knows the best path towards successfully quitting smoking.
Your GP will work with you towards a tailor-made programme designed with you in mind. Most people who have worked with a professional have seen great success in kicking the habit.
So, don’t hesitate – book a bulk-billed telehealth consultation with a TGA-authorised doctor to help you today.
Keep a Journal
When your withdrawals worsen, writing about what you feel can lessen its impact. Journaling helps you identify triggers, emotions, and situations that make your withdrawals and cravings stronger.
Writing in a journal also lets you converse with yourself and give you the motivation to overcome the challenges with your full concentration. Most smokers who have written in a journal often find relief and solace during the most trying periods of quitting.
Mindfulness helps you keep your actions in check. In a way, calling out what you’re doing and recognising the action helps you keep tabs on your goals.
It works well with journaling – writing makes you recall what you did during the day, while mindfulness reinforces or dissuades yourself from those actions.
When you practise mindfulness, you start recognising feelings that urge you to light a cigarette. You will also recognise gestures, moments, and situations that motivate you to smoke. Once you’re mindful of these triggers, you can gain the motivation to avoid them entirely.
Mindfulness, writing, and keeping yourself busy with a new hobby are just some of the best ways to cope effectively with your withdrawals and cravings.
Create a Support Group
Socialising makes the fourth stage of quitting smoking very difficult, but it doesn’t mean you have to hide at home to make it easier. A person on their quit journey always needs friends and family who respect their decision and make adjustments to help them stop.
You can also join a community dedicated to quitting. These groups and organisations share their experiences and greatly empathise with you regardless of which stages of quitting smoking you’re currently at.
Quitting smoking doesn’t mean ending your social life – it just means finding the right people to help you succeed.
Get Help From Professional Counsellors Today
Dealing with the various stages of quitting smoking can be challenging, especially if you have to deal with withdrawals and cravings. However, with a GP’s ongoing support, the right tools, and a helpful support system, you can be free from smoking for good.
Now, we know you’re reading this because you’re having trouble dealing with withdrawals and cravings that always happen during the fourth stage of quitting smoking. We can help.
Smokefree Clinic gives you access to many medically reviewed and trustworthy resources that can inform and aid you in your path to wellness, so have a look around!
If you’re ready to get started, Smokefree can connect you to bulk-billing Australian healthcare professionals who excel in helping patients quit smoking for good, including using responsible vaping products where appropriate.
Click here to book your bulk-billed telehealth consultation with an Australian healthcare professional and quit smoking today.