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Proven Strategies to Quit Smoking

When You're Ready to Get Serious

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10 Ways to Reduce Stress While You Quit Smoking

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5. Do things you enjoy doing.

One of the simplest ways to ease stress is to distract yourself with activities that give you pleasure. Listen to a favorite recording. Watch a comedy movie. Take the dog out for a run. Play with your kids. Enjoy a warm shower. Luxuriate in the bathtub. Beyond helping you let off steam, life’s simple pleasures can remind you of why you want to quit in the first place, strengthening your resolve to stick with it.

6. Get moving.

Many studies show that physical activity can help ease stress and anxiety. Exercise even appears to boost brain chemicals associated with feelings of well-being. “Antidepressants help only about half of people with mild to moderate depression. Physical activity, on the other hand, eases depression in about 80% of people,” says Rabin. Almost any kind of activity helps. But doing something you really enjoy, such as swimming or walking in a beautiful area, may be especially helpful for easing stress.

7. Practice relaxation.

Stress reduction techniques also help many smokers quit. These include yoga, progressive relaxation, guided imagery, deep breathing exercises, and various forms of meditation. Mindfulness meditation, which encourages focusing on the here and now, has also been shown to help smokers kick the habit. No one technique works for everyone, so it’s worth trying out a few in advance. If possible, get comfortable with a few stress-reduction techniques before your quit date.

8. Put it in writing.

“Writing about something that’s bothering you -- whether it’s a long-time worry or something that happened yesterday -- can be a powerful way to ease stress,” says Rabin. His advice: Find a quiet place and spend 15 minutes writing about what’s nagging at you. Don’t reread or revise. Just write. Afterward, tear up what you’ve written and toss it away. “Just the act of writing can be enormously helpful in sorting out how you feel and putting stresses into perspective,” says Rabin.

9. Call on a friend.

Being with other people helps relieve stress. Before you quit, make a list of the people you can turn to for support and a friendly conversation. Turn to them when you’re beginning to feel stressed. “Social support turns out to be one of the most important determinants of success for smokers trying to quit,” says Scott McIntosh, PhD, associate professor of community and preventive medicine at the University of Rochester in New York and director of the Greater Rochester Area Tobacco Cessation Center.

10. Be patient.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed during the first few days of quitting. Almost all ex-smokers experience moments when they doubt their resolve. Remind yourself frequently: The effects of nicotine withdrawal get weaker every day that you don’t smoke. Every time you resist lighting up, you’re one step closer to a smoke-free life. Even when you’re over the hardest first few weeks, expect to hit some rough patches. “It takes about six months for remodeling in the brain to change behavior and make it second nature,” says Rabin. But once that occurs, you’ll be comfortable in your new life as a nonsmoker -- and happier and healthier for it.

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Reviewed on January 20, 2011
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