8 Steps to Stop Smoking
The first step is to set a quit date and write it on your calendar in ink. Even if you're psyched to start today, it's best to choose a day between two weeks and one month from now. Then follow this series' essential preparations.
- Make a list of your five biggest reasons for quitting, and read it often.
- For five days, keep a log of every cigarette you smoke, along with the time of day, the intensity of your craving, what else you were doing, and how you felt. Look at your list to see your most common smoking triggers.
- In the days before you quit, try to separate smoking from those triggers. For instance, if you have a strong urge for a cigarette whenever you drink coffee, wait until you've finished your cup before lighting up.
- Think about what you'll do instead of smoking. You could treat yourself to a long shower when your baby naps, or take the kids for a walk after dinner. Stock up on sugarless gum, mints, and raw veggies to keep your mouth and hands busy, and buy a water bottle you like. Although quitters tend to gain 10 pounds on average, it's not inevitable.
- Strategize about stress. When your house is a mess or things heat up at work, you can take deep breaths rather than a smoking break. If you get bored, plan to call a friend or start a craft project with the kids. Frustrated? Vent by writing in a journal.
- Research smoking-cessation aids. You'll need to start certain medications a week or two before your quit date. If the one you choose requires a prescription, you can ask your regular doctor -- or even your child's. A growing number of pediatricians are now trained to help parents quit, says Jonathan Klein, MD, director of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Julius B. Richmond Center of Excellence, which focuses on protecting children from secondhand smoke.
- Call 800-QUIT-NOW to get one-on-one counseling (your call will be routed to your state's quitline), and also ask your spouse and friends to encourage you. You might think it's better to quit secretly -- after all, if you fall off the wagon, who'll know? But recent research has found that people who have social support are actually 50 percent more likely to succeed. "Tap into as many outlets as you can, as long as they all guide you in a positive direction," says Dawn E. Wiatrek, PhD, director of the American Cancer Society Quitline, which oversees several state quitlines.
- As your quit day approaches, throw out everything related to smoking in your home and car. Air out your clothes, and whiten your teeth so you'll want to keep them looking good.
Going through this process will make quitting easier, but you should still expect the first weeks to be tough. "You've developed many nicotine receptors in your brain, and when they're deprived of nicotine, they'll rebel by causing physical symptoms such as irritability, insomnia, or trouble concentrating," says Dr. Hurt. Increasing your daily exercise by taking brisk walks or bike rides is one of the best strategies for several reasons. It will help you sleep better, boost your mood, focus your thinking, burn calories, and remind you of what you're moving toward: a healthier future.