Coping Strategies: For Cutting Off Urges at the Knees

Urges and cravings don’t have to have legs to follow you around constantly. There are ways to cut them off at the knees so that you can live a more productive life without worrying about when the next urge will come barreling into your view. You don’t have to fear them because you can learn from them and calculate just how ready you really are for doing battle with Ole Demon Nic.

There are seven major coping skills to help you fight that urge to smoke. These tips are designed for you, the new nonsmoker, to help you practice developing the habit of not smoking.

1. Your Quitting reasons
Reading over your list of reasons for quitting will provide you with motivations for not bending when the urges are the strongest. When the cravings are being their most troublesome, break out this listing and look it over several times a day. Remember, these are the reasons you chose to become a non-smoker, so they are the best reasons to remain a non-smoker.

2. Knowing when you are rationalizing
A common occurrence if you’re not careful is to rationalize yourself back into smoking (see Junkie Thinking). Don’t talk yourself into smoking again. A new nonsmoker in a tense situation may think, “I’ll just have one cigarette. Got to calm me down.” If thoughts like this pop into your head, stop and think again! You’ve learned new ways, better ways of relaxing now. Take a walk, work in the garden, ride a bike, or at least do deep breathing exercises.
Most smokers who quit only realize a small weight gain, so don’t let worries about weight gain lead you down the garden path. Learn to counter thoughts such as, “I’d rather be thin, even if it means smoking.” Remember that a slight weight gain is not likely to endanger your health as much as smoking would. Cigarette smokers have about a 70-percent higher rate of premature death than nonsmokers. Review the list of healthy, low-calorie snacks that you used when quitting.

3. Triggers – Look for Them and Prepare to Avoid Them
Hopefully, you’ve realized which people, emotions, and situations would be most likely to tempt you to smoke again. Be prepared to meet these triggers head on and counter-act them. Here are some of the things you can do to minimize being trigger-happy:
Keep your hands busy by knitting, working on your computer, playing catch with your children, washing the dog, working a picture puzzle or learning a new exciting skill. Skydiving, anyone?

Avoid people who smoke; spend more time with your nonsmoking friends. They’ll love being around you even more now since you’ve stopped smoking.
Find activities that make smoking difficult (flying a kite, washing the car, taking a shower). Exercise to help knock out that urge; it will help you to feel and look good as well. 

Put something other than a cigarette in your mouth. Chew sugarless gum or nibble on a carrot or celery stick. Swizzle sticks are helpful to many for the hand to mouth movement. Sunflower seeds are excellent for keeping hands and mouth busy, too!
Avoid places where smoking is permitted. Sit in the nonsmoking section of restaurants, trains, and planes.

Eliminate or reduce your consumption of alcohol, which often stimulates the desire to smoke and relaxes your inhibitions. Try to have no more than one or two drinks at a party. Better yet, have a glass of juice, soda, or mineral water.

4. Reward yourself for not smoking
Congratulations are in order just for going through a day without lighting a cigarette. After a week of being a non-smoker, give yourself a pat on the back and a reward of some kind. It is important for you to acknowledge that you have accomplished something special and you need to be SURE to reward yourself. Buy a new CD or treat yourself to a movie or concert or some other reward you would enjoy.

5. Use positive thoughts
Self-defeating thoughts have a way of edging their way into your consciousness. Perhaps it’s Ole Demon Nic whispering in your ear. Shut him up by reminding yourself again that you are a nonsmoker, that you do not want to smoke, and that you have good reasons for it. Putting yourself down and trying to hold out using willpower alone are not effective coping techniques. Utilize the magic powers of positive thinking!

6. Use relaxation techniques
Deep breathing exercises help to reduce tension. Instead of having a cigarette, take a long deep breath, count to 10, and release it. Repeat this 5 times. See how much more relaxed you feel? Repeat as necessary.