In these stressful, uncertain times, it’s tempting to combat anxiety with bad habits. However, this forced reset actually provides us with the perfect opportunity to make some healthy changes: find a new exercise program, spend time in the kitchen experimenting with healthy recipes—or maybe really commit to quit smoking.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 480,000 people die each year in the United States due to cigarette smoking. And for every person who dies, another 30 are living with a serious disease. To make matters worse, every day approximately 2,000 people aged 18 or younger try cigarettes for the first time.
With those statistics in mind, quitting seems like a no brainer. But remember, smoking is an addiction, a chronic, biological illness with a stigma that might discourage people from asking for help. It’s important to be kind to the person in your life trying to quit—and that includes being kind to yourself, if that person is you.
The Mayo Clinic recommends making a plan to get on track and quit for good. The act of writing down your goals, and assigning due dates to those goals, increases your odds of following through. Here are some additional things the Mayo Clinic suggests including in your plan:
- List your reasons for quitting. Do you find it more difficult to breathe on your daily runs? Are you about to become a grandparent for the first time? Have you noticed your cigarette habit making a huge dent in your bank account? These are just a few of the many different reasons someone might want to quit smoking, and writing them down provides an extra means of accountability.
And despite all the unknowns surrounding COVID-19, one thing the World Health Organization does know is that people with reduced lung capacity suffer more severe consequences if they contract the virus—and smokers definitely fall into that category.
There’s a great reason to quit, if ever there was one.
- Identify your triggers. If you start your morning with a cup of coffee and a cigarette, consider switching to caffeinated tea to break that habit. Do you smoke on your breaks? Maybe download a pedometer app and commit to reaching a daily step goal, and walk during your breaks, instead. Taking a hard look at when you smoke, and how you’re feeling when you do it, will help you identify what changes you could make to help you reach your goals.
- Pick a date to quit. Choose a date without any sort of stressful association, and mark it on your calendar. Give yourself enough time to prepare, but not too much time to talk yourself out of it. Confide in a trusted friend or family member, if you think it’ll make the process easier.
- Prepare for your quit date. Like any big undertaking in life, preparation is key. As your quit date approaches, make an appointment with your primary care provider to talk about medications that might squash cravings. Look into technological tools that might help, like apps and virtual support groups. Throw away your lighters and ash trays, and wash your clothes. Consider getting your teeth cleaned—a bright smile without nicotine stains may provide an added motivation each time you look in the mirror.
If you’re supporting someone on their journey, make sure to let them lead, and remember there are tons of resources out there to help. The New York State Quitline provides free, confidential assistance to anyone who wants to quit smoking.
Additionally, Cathy Vosburgh, RN, Nurse Navigator in the Lung Screening Program, offers support and advice to patients working to quit smoking. If you’re a patient with Saratoga Hospital Medical Group and are interested in quitting, please contact Cathy at 518-580-2299.
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