How To Address Stop Smoking Triggers At Home

By Arjun Kumar, Quit Coach

Here we are now, adapting as best as we can, to our new lives in this present moment, and in the midst of this present situation. Naturally, this new way of living can have an impact on quitting smoking attempts – more time at home without our usual schedules; perhaps we’re beginning to see positive results from a change in our daily routine to combat hard to kick habitual cigarettes, or recently joined the gym to improve our physical well-being and get those endorphins buzzing. But now we’re restricted (with good reason) to our homes, it can seem like all that hard work has gone out of the window and the old triggers to smoking are back with a bang!

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Work out what your triggers are…

Simply put, triggers are the people, places, things & situations that set off the urge to smoke, and so it is important to know what your triggers are firstly, and then zoom in on those that are present whilst at home. These are different for different people, but according to smokefree.gov triggers fall into 4 categories: emotional (angry, happy or frustrated), habitual or routine (morning coffee, in the car on way to work), social (get together with friends, tea-break at work) & withdrawal (nicotine or hand to mouth action).

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And your triggers at home…

We are at home for large parts of the day – a strong start would be to identify all the things that are in your physical space that are an obvious distraction – cigarettes packets, lighters, ashtray – and throw them out. This may seem overwhelming reading this, especially if there is an emotional attachment to these things, memories and even our identity intertwined with the act of smoking. But this can also be quite liberating, not to mention having less things around to trigger smoking again. Ultimately, we are creating a new personal reality (or personality), from one of a ‘smoker’ to a ‘non-smoker’ and of course, a non-smoker would not have these things in a kitchen drawer! If there is a felt sense that the mere presence of ashtrays, lighters and half packs of cigarettes lying around can be a trigger to smoke, a sure-fire way to avoid it, is to dispose of them.

Start that book you’ve been meaning to read, listen to that new podcast, try that challenging crossword, open the puzzle box the kids have been pushing for or watch that documentary. 

Keeping stimulated and mentally engaged has taken on more importance with the added time at home and the reduction of our usual means of entertainment, and is a great way to keep off the cravings that arise when boredom kicks in. Taking a look at times when we have been fully immersed in a task, whether at work or play – there is a feeling of being in the zone, being at one with the task or game or book. Point being, the mind is stimulated not bored and restless – a prime trigger. Take the time to investigate how and where you can use your ‘boredom’ energy for something fun or creative or educational or relaxing – channel that restlessness into something!

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Being with your emotions…

Years of smoking will most likely have conditioned us in responding to any of our emotions with a cigarette – whether happy and celebrating a cigarette accompanies; frustrated and annoyed a cigarette provides short-term relief; sad and blue – a cigarette is comforting and the list can go on tailored to the emotions you experience most. Investigating our emotions when triggered to smoke can help combat them and stop reaching for a cigarette. Next time there is an urge to smoke use the H.A.L.T (Hungry | Angry | Lonely | Tired) checklist to explore what else could be going on (research suggests that 9 out 10 cravings can be traced to these sources – (verywellmind.com/four-steps-that-defeat-the-urge-to-smoke)

Keep in Touch… 

Keeping in touch with friends and family via phone, social media or email – the people that are aware (or perhaps not) of the efforts you are making to quit smoking – can really motivate you to staying on track. To talk through what you are going through with a friendly face (or voice) in a safe space can help re-establish the reasons why you started in the first place and an opportunity to detach from some of the thoughts you may be having about smoking. Connecting with a ‘quit coach’ who you can chat with on your schedule can help when cravings arise, usually a talk with someone who can relate is a great medicine.

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The first one of the morning 

You are certainly not alone if this is one of your main triggers. The nicotine fast overnight can have us primed for the morning hit, perhaps you’ve worked on altering your routine to ensure that there is now more time space between waking and coming downstairs to reach for the kettle to make the first coffee of the day. The rich aroma, warmth, caffeine and even the process of preparing the perfect brew all trigger feelings and sensations that suggest something is missing. The association between cigarette and first coffee has been reinforced over such a long time that they go hand in hand, complimentary almost. But there was a time when that association did not exist…and so we can work to disassociate the two and the time of day that are most known. For example, try having the first cup of coffee later or in a different room in the house – a subtle change of time and scenery can help break the loop. To begin with, you could even try a different drink in place of that first coffee – a green tea still has a caffeine boost and a grapefruit juice can provide an energising boost of vitamin C – neither have quite the same ring to them as the coffee! If you’re a morning person, even more so if you’re not, try a 10 minute stretch or some deep breathing exercises to re-connect yourself to your body and start your day with a natural release of dopamine – it will make the decision to light up straight after a hard one!

Post mealtime blues…

Another common one, and with the extended periods inside, it can seem like discipline is needed when it comes to opening the fridge every 5 minutes! If smoking after a meal is a trigger for you, have a think about those immediate moments after the meal – the time when we would usually reach for cigarette. In this time for example, you could reach for a piece of gum or brush your teeth, go for a brisk walk or wash the dishes – a peppermint tea is a known digestive and great for after meal-times.

Withdrawal

If you have been a long-time smoker, the body and the brain become accustomed, and reliant on, regular doses of nicotine. Naturally, we have come to enjoy (or feel like we do) the taste & smell of cigarettes, the having something in our hands to play with, the need to have hand to mouth action – in this instance, perhaps a pen or a carrot stick just won’t cut the mustard! Perhaps NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) is for you. There is a range of products which can help with these withdrawals and support your journey to become smoke free, especially whilst at home, when a lot of the triggers can become magnified…

The Kick It Team will be with you every step of the way.  Specialist advisers support you with weekly appointments worked around your schedule, who can help with behaviour change, advise on NRT and other pharmacological support where appropriate. 

Get in touch here: Quit Now

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