|Taking the first steps towards smoking cessation|
In order to begin the steps required to tackle an addiction, the individual has usually reached a stage of readiness or motivation to actively engage in the change process.
Managing addiction of any sort is a difficult process and it can be common for there to be occasional lapses whilst in any of the stages of change.
However, a lapse or temporary slip-up is not the same as relapsing (going back to smoking) as long as the individual decides they are ready to re-enter the change process at the relevant stage for them. Those who relapse may also re-enter the contemplation stage etc again at a later time.
Just because someone starts smoking again does not mean there is no hope of change at a later point in time.
The physiological challenges of giving up smoking are well known such as the withdrawal symptoms that may be experienced via the process of reducing a substance your body has become used to receiving. Prescribed nicotine reduction aids such as patches may help manage this initial withdrawal phase.
However there are also psychological components to be aware of too during these stages of change. The following are just three pointers that may help during this time:
a) Conditioning factors - there may be certain times of the day, locations, activities or individuals that over the years you associate with smoking.
b) Problem thinking – how we interpret lapses may define whether it becomes a full relapse or whether we continue with the change process. Because of the strong link between thinking and mood, it follows that if we excessively criticise ourselves when we slip up “Its me, I’m weak” then we will generate excessive negative emotion. This in turn increases the risk of falling back on default coping strategies such as smoking.
Instead practice adopting a more compassionate approach to yourself. For instance, what kind words would you offer a friend in this situation and take this on board yourself.
c) Stress prevention – take a step-back and review what demands and potential stressors you have on your plate and consider what you can do to reduce these.
There is no doubt that giving up smoking is a challenge, however, there are services out there to assist. Even if you are at the contemplation stage, contact your local smoking cessation service to find out more about how they can help you.
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