January might be the month of reinvention, but what about the rest of the year? Make packing up cigarettes a promise you can keep with our step-by-step guide to quitting. Helen Alexander explains why giving up shouldn't get you down.
When you consider tobacco kills more than 15,500 Australians a year, according to the Australian Council on Smoking and Health, your New Year's resolution to quit sounds like a no-brainer. The health benefits are significant.
Research carried out by the NSW Department of Health found circulation and lung function improves just two weeks after quitting. And then there's all those extra dollars in your bank account. But deciding to ditch the fags is just the first step on a challenging path towards a smoke-free life.
Set your quit date
Be realistic. According to the team at Quit Victoria, 40 percent of slip-ups occur in the first three days of giving up, so take time to prepare yourself and pick a date when you will not be under too much pressure.
Seek advice and support
Talk to friends and family an encouraging pep talk will keep you focused and sign up to QuitCoach, an interactive website that assesses your addiction and offers tailor-made advice. Considering prescription medication or nicotine replacement products? Speak to a doctor, pharmacist or health professional.
Find the right approach for you
A recent survey by the Cancer Institute NSW found cold turkey is the most popular method when it comes to stubbing out cigarette addiction. However, nicotine replacement products such as gum, patches and inhalers can help you through cravings, giving you a (reduced) nicotine fix without the cancer-causing nasties found in cigarettes. Talk to your doctor about prescription drugs, or you might want to consider alternative medicine, such as acupuncture, hypnotherapy or homeopathic preparations.
Learn to control your cravings
Beat your addiction by adjusting your behaviour and routine. "Changing your habits," Atkin says, "can prevent you being reminded of cigarettes. If you usually smoke with a coffee, switch to tea instead." Replace smoking with healthy snacking and use a stress-relief toy to keep your hands busy.
"Prepare yourself for situations in which you are likely to want a cigarette and come up with a get-out strategy," suggests QuitCoach founder Professor Ron Borland, "such as a two-drink limit at the bar or a place to take time out if you find yourself getting stressed at the office."
Be kind to yourself
"As your body goes through withdrawal," Cancer Council Australia CEO Professor Ian Olver warns, "you may feel unusually anxious, hungry or irritable." This is a tough time, but these feelings usually peak in the first 24 to 48 hours and most symptoms only last around two to three weeks. Be patient and don't get upset if you slip-up. Breaking your ban doesn't mean you've failed, use it as an opportunity to work out what went wrong so you can prevent it happening again.
For online support, visit Quit and QuitCoach, or call Quitline (137 848) for information and advice to help you keep your New Year's resolution.