Congratulations! You've decided to quit smoking. But how? The answer depends on why you smoke.
"Men smoke more for the effect of the nicotine. Women smoke more to regulate mood and stress," says Kelly P. Cosgrove, PhD. She's an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine.
So, a good quitting strategy for women includes more than nicotine replacement. That's because the female brain responds to nicotine differently than the male brain. Nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) -- patches, gum, nasal sprays, and inhalers -- helps more men than women quit long-term. In the first 6 months of quitting, NRT often helps women, but they usually need further aids to kick the habit for good.
Other medications, such as antidepressants, may help. Bupropion helps some people quit whether or not they're depressed. When you start taking it a week or two before your last cigarette, the mood-stabilizing effects can make quitting easier.
Chantix, a nicotine-free medication that helps curb nicotine cravings, also works as well for women as for men.
Tell everyone you know that you're quitting. "It helps to have someone you can talk to about it every day," Cosgrove says. This could be a friend or a counselor.
Quitline coaches in your state can help you make a quit-smoking plan, keep you on track, and point you toward counseling and other resources. Online communities offer great support, too.
If you've decided to quit on Monday, spend the weekend cleaning. Shampoo carpets, upholstery, and drapes. Clean your car's interior. Dry-clean your winter coat. Then resolve to never let smoke in these places again. Get rid of every ashtray, lighter, and cigarette.
New routines also help. Studies show that triggers -- such as having coffee or finishing a meal -- are especially tempting for women. So enjoy your morning coffee in a café or at the office, where you can't smoke. Finish a meal with gum or a sugar-free candy.
You'll still have cravings, but they last only a couple of minutes. Be prepared. Keep your purse stocked with sugar-free gum, a bottle of water, and something to keep your hands busy, like knitting or a deck of cards.
1. Set a quit-smoking date with your doctor. You can make a new start at the beginning of the week. How about on a Monday?
2. Do you have a stressful event coming up? A class reunion? A family wedding? You might want to quit after that's over.
3. Women who stop smoking during the first 14 days of their menstrual cycle may have less intense cravings and irritability linked with quitting. Day one is the first day of your period.
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