Nicotine triggers and cravings
Understanding nicotine triggers
People, places and things that make you want to smoke are called ‘triggers’. Different things can trigger different people, like being in a stressful situation, drinking coffee, going to a party, or smelling cigarette smoke.
Most triggers can be put into one of these four groups:
Knowing your triggers and understanding the best way to deal with them is your first line of defence.
A lot of people smoke when they are experiencing a strong emotion. An emotional trigger reminds you of how you felt when you smoked to make yourself feel even better or to get away from a bad mood, such as when you were:
- Or even just bored
When dealing with triggers such as these, you can start by figuring out how to deal with your feelings without smoking. Try these ways to deal with things that may set you off:
- Take a few deep, slow breaths. Deep breathing will slow down your body and calm your mind. Also, this is a great way to deal with stress and worry.
- Listen to relaxing music. Music can help you feel calm by slowing down your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, and reducing the stress hormones in your body.
- Exercise. Getting moving is a great way to deal with your feelings. When you work out, your brain lets out chemicals called endorphins. These are chemicals in your brain that make you feel good.
A pattern trigger is something you do repeatedly that makes you want to smoke. Some examples of these kinds of things are:
- Drinking alcohol
- Going for a drive
- Finishing dinner
- Having your morning coffee
- Going outside on your break
One way to get rid of pattern triggers is to break the link between the trigger and the feeling and move it to something else.
- Find something else to keep your mouth busy. Chew gum. Eat a lolly (sugar-free of course). Use a straw to drink a big glass of water.
- Try things that you can do with your hands. Squeeze a stress ball. Write a journal. Take up a hobby that uses your hands a lot.
- Get moving. Take a walk. Go swimming. Use the stairs.
- Change your routine. Try drinking coffee indoors and at a different time of day, or brush your teeth right after meals.
Social triggers are events where you would normally feel the urge to smoke. Here are some examples:
- Going to an outdoor social event
- Having a beer at the pub
- Or even just seeing someone else smoking
Once you’ve decided to stop smoking, it’s crucial to stay away from places where people smoke and ask your friends not to smoke around you. Over time, it will get easier. Tell your family and friends that you are stopping, and ask them to back you up.
If you’ve been smoking for a while, your body is used to getting nicotine on a regular basis. When you stop smoking, withdrawal symptoms will make you want to smoke again. Some things that cause withdrawal may include:
- Smelling cigarette smoke
- Being somewhere you can’t smoke, like on a plane
- Having cigarettes, lighters, and matches on you
- Having trouble sleeping
When dealing with things that make it hard to quit, start by getting your mind off of it.
Check out nicotine vaping products (NVPs) and nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) to see if they can help you. These help to ease the symptoms of withdrawal by providing your body with nicotine.
Dealing with cravings
Now that you know more about triggers, figure out which ones you want to control and make a plan for dealing with your cravings.
Not all of your triggers will be possible to avoid, and it takes practise to learn how to deal with triggers. Therefore, it’s crucial to have a strategy in place to resist the urge to smoke whenever a craving arises.
Although unpleasant, cravings don’t last forever. A list of tactics can aid you through it, so try a few of these.
Consider your motivations for quitting
- Remember why you wanted to stop in the first place. Consistently reminding yourself of these will help you stay smokefree for a long time.
- Figure out your savings. Cigarettes are expensive, especially in Australia. Determine what you’ll do with the money you’ll save by adding it all up. This is a fantastic way to remain motivated and pass the time as you wait for a craving to pass.
Keep yourself busy
- Keep your mouth distracted. Instead of lighting up a cigarette, chew some gum. Carry sugar-free lollies with you. Up your water intake.
- Switch things up. Stop what you’re doing as soon as a craving strikes and do something else instead. You might be able to overcome a craving by simply changing your routine.
- Take a stroll or a run. Alternately, take the stairs a few times. Even brief bouts of exercise can help you feel more energised and suppress cravings.
- Take deep, slow breaths. Use your nose to slowly breathe in, and your mouth to let it out. Do this 10 times or until you start to feel more at ease.
Visit a smokefree area
- Go to a public location. The majority of public spaces forbid smoking. Visit a shopping mall, see a movie, or go to some other location where smoking is prohibited.
- Do what you already do in no-smoking situations. What have you previously done when you were in a smokefree place? Use the same strategy the next time you have a craving.
Try a fast-acting nicotine product
Cravings can pop up at any time. To quickly overcome these, consider using a fast-acting nicotine alternative such as a nicotine vaping product (NVP) or NRT, such as gum and lozenges.
Lend a hand
For a while, try diverting your attention by offering assistance to friends, family, and coworkers. This shifts your attention away from you and how you are feeling and enables you to focus on the other person. It can help you get through a craving until it goes away.
Additionally, doing good deeds can improve your health by lowering stress. An important aspect of giving up smoking is often managing stress.
Never give up
Make every effort to resist the urge to smoke. Continue experimenting until you discover what works for you, and keep at it.
Avoid smoking at all costs. Not a single puff!
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