We’ve written before about the reasons to quit smoking. Risk of heart problems, cancer and dental disease surges when you smoke, but we know quitting is easier said than done. Habits are hard to break, but you aren’t alone and help is available. Wherever you are in life and whenever you began smoking, you can stop. Your provider can offer counsel and resources, but here are a few strategies to keep in mind if you’ve resolved to quit.

1. List the benefits

It might sound cheesy, but when the craving hits, you forget about the benefits—the real, tangible reasons for ‘kicking the habit.’ Write down on notecards why you decided to quit, and be specific. If you smoke a pack a day, write “I’m saving $160/month.” Think about the future, too. “I want to be there for my grandkids” and “I want to hike in Forest Park without getting winded” can be powerful motivators. Put these reminders around your home and car, where you stored your lighter or spare packs. Seeing these will keep you mindful of why you gave up cigarettes when all you want to do is light one.

2. Keep a craving journal

Most experts recommend setting a quit date to prepare yourself in advance. A smart preparation tactic is to write in a craving journal every night in the weeks leading up to your quit date. Note the times when you especially wanted a cigarette. Who were you with? How were you feeling? What was your level of craving? Understanding the factors that drive you toward smoking will prepare you to face them without a cigarette. If stress, boredom or simple routine spark your most intense cravings, choose some alternative coping mechanisms before your quit date. Cravings tend to be most intense the first week but may arise for months. As difficult as cravings are, be encouraged that they won’t be so intense forever!

3. Assemble support

Quitting anything becomes more manageable with accountability. Any 12-step program will attest to this. If you’ve decided to quit, tell your friends and family in advance, and ask for their support. Your loved ones care about your health as much as you do, and they’ll be there to encourage you, or at least tolerate any irritability you may feel in the first weeks without smoking. Having people on your side can remind you that you’re not alone in this effort.

4. Avoid temptation

On the flip side, in the first weeks without cigarettes, you should avoid situations and that will tempt you to smoke. Many experts recommend washing all of your clothes and buying air fresheners to purge the smell of smoke from your home and car. You should also avoid alcohol in the beginning, and any patio or stoop where you used to smoke regularly. Don’t cut ties with friends who still smoke, but if you joined a coworker for a cigarette every other hour, ask her to have lunch with you instead.

5. Explore your resources

Because smoking is so dangerous and has been linked to so many health problems, insurance companies will help you quit. Private health insurance plans in Oregon must cover at least $500 worth in basic FDA-approved smoking cessation treatments, programs and services. These resources can provide practical skills and techniques to help you kick the habit without relapse. Free resources exist, too. The Oregon Tobacco Quit Line offers a toll-free number (1-800-QUIT-NOW) you can call to get started.

6. Reward yourself

The initial withdrawal symptoms of smoking can be especially unpleasant. If you suffer headaches, fatigue or anxiety, the long-term benefits of quitting smoking may seem far off. A strong heart and healthy lungs are definitely worth it, so give yourself rewards to persevere through the short-term pain. Buy a pastry or keep an ice cream sandwich on hand for days when the craving is especially bad. You might also want to set aside the money you would’ve spent on cigarettes and use it to buy new jeans you’ve wanted—or a day at the spa. These treats can bolster your spirits and invigorate you to stay committed to quitting.

Women’s Healthcare Associates is committed to your health, and quitting smoking is a huge part of healthy living. For more advice and strategies from a Portland-area physician, midwife or nurse practitioner, contact one of our offices!