Quitting smoking may be the most difficult resolution you’ve ever made. If you have had your own share of relapse before, you probably know of the hurdles ahead. Nevertheless, difficult does not mean that it is impossible. Even if you failed before, just believe that the more you try, the higher the chance of success. In fact, many have embarked on the same path before you and have succeeded to quit. Be optimistic that with enough effort and support, you will be able to do the same.
In preparing yourself to the challenges that await, learn about some of the common obstacles that may hinder you from quitting and how to overcome them.
Loss of means to cope with stress
In a study published in Oxford Journals, the most quoted barrier to quitting smoking is the loss of means to handle stress. Many people smoke to manage their stress, emotions and mood. Although many believe that it helps them to relax, cigarette smoke is actually a stimulant that can increase blood pressure and heart rate, consequently increasing stress to the body. As much comfort as a cigarette provides, there are many better ways to cope with stress and emotional turmoil.
Learn how to manage your stress without resolving to smoke. Try a relaxation technique such as deep breathing or learn to express your feelings to a family member, trusted friend, or healthcare professional. When you are upset, step out for some fresh air. A walk might help subside your emotions. Some people may even feel increased sadness after they quit smoking. If you have ever had depression, be more attentive to your feelings and seek medical support when needed.
Cravings or withdrawal
Smoking cessation may cause some withdrawal symptoms such as urges to smoke or cravings, restlessness, sleeping difficulties and irritability. Cravings for cigarette smoke can be set off by triggers such as people, places, and things that remind you of smoking. As most cravings last for only 15-20 minutes, find ways to distract and keep yourself busy in that short period of time.
If you are struggling with withdrawal symptoms, keep in mind that there is no health danger imposed by it and that even extreme withdrawal symptoms will fade over time. Most smokers also find nicotine replacement therapy helpful for getting through withdrawal and managing cravings.
Breaking your social norm
When you quit smoking, it may be hard to give up your social circle that is built around the habit. Plus, in a social setting where smoking is considered to be highly acceptable and normalised behaviour, it can be difficult to resist the temptation to smoke. So prepare yourself by developing a plan to help avoid such a circle.
Tell the world that you‘re trying to quit and plan alternate activities to do instead of taking a smoking break. Smoking bans in food premises imposed by the Health Ministry in Malaysia can actually lift the social obstacle to quit smoking. Now you have a reason to hang out with your friends without worrying about the temptation to smoke. Having a non-smoking partner and not being exposed to smokers in the household and social environment can help smokers quit more easily. That’s why study shown that individuals who are married tend to have higher quit rates than people who have never married, divorced or been widowed.
Fear of weight gain
After quitting smoking, ex-smokers typically gain some weight. Nicotine in cigarettes is believed to be an appetite suppressor which explain why smokers are skinnier. But even if you do gain weight, it is usually less than 10 pounds. Besides, the health benefits of quitting smoking surpass possible weight gain.
Work with your healthcare provider to develop an exercise routine and healthy eating plan to prevent weight gain. Utilise your former smoking breaks to walk around the block, which can also act as a great stress reliever. Preparing your own foods will help you make a healthier diet choice and keep your hands distracted.
Lack of support and resources
Resolving to quit on your own can be difficult. Based on research, only 5% or less of self-quitters manage to cease smoking within 6-12 months of the attempt. Hence, having a strong support system is more likely to help you on your journey.
In some studies, participants who engaged a buddy were three times more likely to successfully quit. Cessation programs can help you by providing professional guidelines and resources such as nicotine replacement treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider about your options. You can also check with your health insurance if you are covered for quit smoking treatment such as medication and counselling. Many of the provided cessation programs in Malaysia are under utilised by the public. In Selangor, for example, only 3.8% of the targeted population that is screening under The KOSPEN program attend the quit smoking clinic.
The mQuit services, inaugurated in 2015, has made the cessation program more accessible in Malaysia. The services were equipped with a quitline counselling system and a website to promote and facilitate registration of smokers to cessation program in the public and private sector through http://jomquit.moh.gov.my/. To date, 160 private healthcare providers and 764 government health clinics and hospitals have become mQuit providers.
No matter how tired you may have felt in your effort to quit smoking, be steadfast and do not let your doubts put you down. Most importantly, believe in yourself, you have nothing to lose by quitting smoking!
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.