After Quit Day
Have a strict ‘no puff’ policy
Commit to not having even a single puff after you have quit. Having ‘just one cigarette’ almost always leads to a full relapse and you will need to start all over again. Don’t think ‘just one won’t hurt’. It will!
One day at a time
Concentrate on just getting through to the end of the day. The first week or two are the hardest, so take one day at a time. This advice may sound like just another cliché, but many smokers have found it makes a big difference between quitting successfully or not.
It is important to plan ahead, but don’t worry about how you will cope at the office Christmas party at the end of the year.
Cravings and withdrawal symptoms
If you are taking stop-smoking medication, the cravings and withdrawal symptoms should be manageable. If they are troublesome, your medication may need to be adjusted.
Cravings only last 2-3 minutes, although that may feel like forever! Distract yourself by thinking or doing something else and they will pass. Cravings get weaker and less frequent over time but can last for many years.
Nicotine withdrawal symptoms are temporary and mostly settle within a couple of weeks as your body adjusts. It is helpful to see these as recovery symptoms, a sign of the body healing itself.
Common withdrawal symptoms are
- Irritability, frustration, aggression
- Increased appetite and weight gain (tends to be long lasting)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Depressed mood
- Disturbed sleep
Other effects of quitting
- Cough or sore throat in the first weeks after quitting
- Mouth ulcers
Keep busy and active
You will have more time on your hands when you quit and keeping busy will help distract you from thinking about cigarettes. It may help to make a list of activities you could do when you are feeling bored. Download this list of 185 fun and enjoyable activities to help fill the hole which is often left after quitting.
Don’t forget to exercise regularly. Even a short 10-minute walk reduces cravings, withdrawal symptoms, relieves stress and helps prevent weight gain. Try to exercise on most days.
When a craving strikes, it is easy to forget why you are putting yourself through this discomfort! It can help to make a list of why you want to quit on a small card and carry this around with you. Pull out the card when necessary to remind yourself why quitting is so important.
Learn to say no
Seeing others smoke or being offered a cigarette is a common cause of going back to smoking. Therefore, it is helpful to plan how to say no when it happens as it will happen sooner or later
Examples of how to refuse a cigarette are:
- ‘No thanks Bob, I don’t smoke anymore.’
- ‘Thanks for offering Kate, but I quit smoking and don’t want to smoke ever again.’
- ‘No thank you Pete, I’m a non-smoker now.’
What if you slip?
Slips in the first week or two are usually due to nicotine withdrawal and may be a sign that you need more medication.
If you have a slip, don’t beat yourself up! It happens. The important thing is to get back on track as soon as possible to avoid slipping into a full relapse.
A slip is a valuable learning experience. Why did it occur? How can you deal with that situation if it arises again?
If you are on stop-smoking medication, it is important to continue taking it after a slip. Keep your nicotine patch on and continue to take your tablets or other treatment. Your medication will help you get back in control again.
Caffeine and alcohol
Remember to reduce your caffeine, usually by about a half. Cut back on your drinking also makes quitting easier.
Beware of overconfidence
After a few weeks, you are doing well and feeling confident. That’s great, but don’t get overconfident! Most people still relapse even at this stage.
It’s normal to continue to get cravings in situations in which you used to smoke. Having ‘just one cigarette’ could mean starting all over again. Stay vigilant and aware of the risk.
Keep quick-acting NRT handy
Carry a quick-acting form of nicotine (mouth spray, lozenge, gum, inhalator) with you at all times. If you are struck with an unexpected urge to smoke, a dose of quick acting nicotine can give relief. The mouth spray is the fastest acting product and starts to relieve cravings after 60 seconds. If possible, anticipate cravings and have a dose of nicotine 15-20 minutes beforehand.
Keep taking your medication
It is tempting to stop your medication when things are going well. Maybe you don’t need it any more. However, the medication is one of the reasons you are doing well and stopping it prematurely will reduce your chance of success. It will also give you protection against sudden and unexpected urges. Make sure you continue your medication for a full course, at least 8-12 weeks.
Beware of temptations
The common causes of relapse after the first few weeks are:
- Stress or emotional upset
- Being around other smokers
It is vital to be aware of these triggers, to plan strategies to deal with them, or even to avoid them if necessary until you feel a little stronger. The main thing is to get back on track a soon as possible. Think of how far you have come. It would be such a shame to have to go through the whole quitting process again.
Don’t forget to keep yourself occupied and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Are you exercising more as planned? Exercising after you quit has been shown to reduce the risk of relapse. It also helps to reduce stress and control weight gain. Are you practising your stress-reduction strategies? Are you enjoying new smoke-free activities and interests which keep you occupied and stop you thinking about cigarettes?
Follow up visits for support
Research shows that smokers who continue to have regular visits to a smoking professional after quitting are far more likely to quit. Regular visits help build motivation, reinforce the benefits of quitting, and include medication checks and review of ongoing strategies.