Get help to quit smoking

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Smoking is one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK contributing to 78,000 deaths and causing 70% of lung cancers. Despite the frightening ways that smoking impacts on health, it can be difficult to break a long-term habit, especially if it has become a coping mechanism or provides comfort.

But quitting smoking is the single most important way to improve your health and wellbeing, as well as saves you a huge amount of money (on average £2,200 per year).

Smoking is bad for your health, but exactly how can you stay motivated to quit? Read our 10 self-help tips:

Think positive - You might have tried to quit smoking before and not managed it, but don't let that put you off. Look back at the things your experience has taught you and think about how you're really going to do it this time.
Make a plan to quit smoking - Make a promise, set a date and stick to it. Sticking to the "not a drag" rule can really help. Write it down and stick it on your work desk if you have to! Think ahead to times where it might be difficult (a busy shift, for instance), and plan your actions and escape routes in advance.
Consider your diet - Is your after-lunch cigarette your favourite? A US study revealed that some foods, including meat, make cigarettes more satisfying. You may also want to change your routine at or after mealtimes. Getting up and going to speak to a colleague after lunch or settling down in a room where you don't smoke may help. Read our advice on healthy eating
Change your drink - Fizzy drinks, alcohol, cola, tea and coffee all make cigarettes taste better. So when you're at work or out, drink more water and juice. Some people find simply changing their drink (for example, switching from wine to a vodka and tomato juice) affects their need to reach for a cigarette.
Identify when you crave cigarettes - A craving can last 5 minutes. Before you give up, make a list of 5-minute strategies. For example, instead of going to the smokers area at work, instead visit a colleague in another department, or go to the kitchen and grab a glass of water.
Get stop smoking support - If friends or family members want to give up, too, suggest to them that you give up together. There's also support available from your local stop smoking service.
Get moving - A review of scientific studies has proved exercise, even a 5-minute walk or stretch, cuts cravings and may help your brain produce anti-craving chemicals. Visit our nutrition and physical health self-help category for more ideas!
Make non-smoking friends - When you're at work, stick with the non-smokers. "When you look at the smokers, don't envy them," says Louise, 52, an ex-smoker.
Keep your hands and mouth busy - Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can double your chances of success. As well as patches, there are tablets, lozenges, gum and a nasal spray. And if you like holding a cigarette, there are handheld products like the inhalator or e-cigarettes. When you're out, try putting your drink in the hand that usually holds a cigarette, or drink from a straw to keep your mouth busy.
Make a list of reasons to quit - Keep reminding yourself why you made the decision to give up. Make a list of the reasons and read it when you need support. Ex-smoker Chris, 28, says: "I used to take a picture of my baby daughter with me when I went out. If I was tempted, I'd look at that."

Did you know that you're up to four times more likely to quit successfully with expert help and advice?

The Keeping Well Team is here to support you. Our Drug and Alcohol Practitioner can offer you support and advice and help with any questions or queries you may have. You can also call the NHS Smokefree helpline on 0300 123 1044, open Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm and Saturday to Sunday, 11am to 4pm.

So you have decided you want to stop smoking, now what?!
First of all, congratulations! Whether this is your first, or fiftieth time – you have taken the first step to becoming smoke free! You will begin to notice an improvement in your quality of life, mood, stress levels and physical health. However, change can be difficult, and a big decision like this is bound to have some impact on your life. Let us look at these in a bit more detail:

What will happen when I stop smoking?
The instant you stop smoking, your body will start to recover. You may experience some nicotine withdrawal and recovery symptoms in the first few weeks. You may still have the urge to smoke or feel a bit restless, irritable, frustrated or tired. Some people find it difficult to sleep or concentrate. Remember the symptoms will pass and there are lots of things you can do to manage them in the meantime.

Helping your body and brain learn how to quit nicotine is challenging. Withdrawal from nicotine is a short phase overall, but it can be intense. Deal with nicotine withdrawal with mental strategies you can use as you go through the early days of smoking cessation. Empowering yourself with knowledge about what to expect can make this process more manageable.

We can support you at this stage of your smoke-free journey, simply self-refer using our online referral form, the live chat or give us a call.

Will I gain weight?
After you quit smoking, your body burns calories more slowly. Even if you eat no more than when you smoked, you may put on some weight.
But being more active can help. Regular exercise may prevent about half the weight gain expected after a year of quitting smoking. It burns off calories and reduces cravings for cigarettes.

Build up to at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as fast walking, swimming or cycling, every week.
Moderate-intensity activity means working hard enough to make you breathe more heavily than normal and feel slightly warmer than usual.
The more exercise you do, the more calories you'll burn.

The important thing about stopping smoking is that you see it through. If you're concerned about weight gain but think stopping smoking and dieting at the same time will be too much, stop smoking first and deal with any weight gain afterwards.

Smoking helps me relax and de-stress, how is stopping going to impact my mental health?
We all know that quitting smoking improves physical health. But it's also proven to boost your mental health and wellbeing: it can improve mood and help relieve stress, anxiety and depression.

Smoking, anxiety and mood
Most smokers say they want to stop, but some continue because smoking seems to relieve stress and anxiety. It's a common belief that smoking helps you relax. But smoking actually increases anxiety and tension. Smokers are also more likely than non-smokers to develop depression over time.

Why it feels like smoking helps us relax
Smoking cigarettes interferes with certain chemicals in the brain. When smokers haven't had a cigarette for a while, the craving for another one makes them feel irritable and anxious. These feelings can be temporarily relieved when they light up a cigarette. So smokers associate the improved mood with smoking. In fact, it's the effects of smoking itself that's likely to have caused the anxiety in the first place.

Cutting out smoking does improve mood and reduces anxiety.

The mental health benefits of quitting smoking
When people stop smoking, studies show:
anxiety, depression and stress levels are lower
quality of life and positive mood improve
the dosage of some medicines used to treat mental health problems can be reduced
stopping smoking can be as effective as antidepressants.

How do I cope with cravings?
If you can control your cravings for a cigarette, you'll significantly boost your chances of quitting. The most effective way to tackle cravings is a combination of stop smoking medicines and behavioural changes.

Going cold turkey may be appealing and works for some, but research suggests that willpower alone isn't the best method to stop smoking. In fact, only 3 in every 100 smokers manage to stop permanently this way.

There are three tried and tested ways to tame cravings:
nicotine replacement therapy
prescription stop smoking medicines
behaviour changes

Nicotine replacement therapy
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) gives your body the nicotine it craves without the toxic chemicals that you get in cigarettes, so it doesn't cause cancer. It helps you stop smoking without having unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. NRT won't give you the same "hit" or pleasure you would expect from a cigarette, but it does help reduce cravings. NRT is available as gum, patches, lozenges, microtabs, inhalator, nasal spray, mouth spray and oral strips.

Stop smoking medicines
Prescription tablets are an alternative to NRT in helping you stop smoking. They don't contain nicotine, but work on your brain to dampen cravings. As they take a few days to work fully, you need to start these medicines for a week or two before you stop smoking.

Change your behaviour
NRT and stop smoking medicines can help curb cravings, but they can't completely eradicate them. There are some additional things that can help:
avoid triggers
stay strong
be prepared

I have relapsed! What do I do now?
Many people who quit smoking relapse at some point. Don't be put off trying again. The key is to learn from what went wrong so you're more likely to succeed next time.

If you do relapse, don't worry. It can take a few tries to quit smoking for good. It can be helpful to commit yourself to the "not a single drag" rule. Promise to yourself and others that you'll not even have a single drag on a cigarette, by sticking to this simple rule you can guarantee that you won't start smoking again.

If you have had a cigarette or two:
Don't give up – you can still avoid a full relapse. Commit to the "not a single drag" rule and get back on with it.
Remind yourself why you want to quit. Then take control again.
Get support – call the free NHS Smokefree helpline on 0300 123 1014 to speak to a trained adviser. Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm and Saturday and Sunday, 11am to 5pm.
Make it hard to smoke – avoid places where you can easily ask someone for a cigarette. And don't buy a packet.
Stay strong – if you're tempted to smoke again, force yourself to wait 2 hours. Then decide if you really need the cigarette.
Keep taking any prescribed stop smoking medicine or using nicotine replacement therapy, unless you go back to regular smoking. It can help you get back on track.

If you have relapsed and are back to regular smoking:
Don't become despondent – set a new quit date, maybe in a week or so.
Learn from your mistakes – what caused you to slip up? Think of ways you could have avoided smoking. Work on your coping skills so you're prepared next time you're in the same situation.
Talk to your GP or a friend - if you need more help to cope with cravings in your next quit attempt.
Stay positive – making mistakes or slipping up can be a useful experience if you're prepared to learn from it. Remember, you'll be stronger next time because you'll know what to look out for.

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