If you smoke you may have looked at the title of this article with a sense of dread and assumed it’s just another self-help piece telling you that smoking is bad for you, and antisocial, and you’re a terrible weak willed person who should be ostracised and oppressed for the heinous crime you commit every day.
Well don’t worry, we’re all grownups, we’re not going to criticise you for smoking, or tell you things about your health you already know, or try to shock you with graphic images. There’s no point – the government’s telling you that already, and in doing so (in our opinion) spending vast sums of money to little more than cause you stress and make you feel like an outcast which isn’t a bad way to make you reach for the fags!
So we won’t do that; this article is simply intended to give you information, and if you want to stop smoking it will hopefully help with that.
But first a little story about me – I’m a registered paramedic and paradoxically I used to smoke…no, no, no – not paradoxically, that’s the mindset we need to escape. Let’s start again. I’m a registered paramedic and I used to smoke. Not because I particularly enjoyed it, there were three reasons I smoked that are the same for everyone – I smoked because it was a chemical addiction, and because it was a habit,
and because I thought it would relieve stress. I can’t recount the times friends and family said ‘you should know better’ – better than who, the sixty million people in this country who already know (after 30 years of heavy anti-smoking publicity) that smoking causes lung and heart problems and sometimes cancer? I was a bit younger and I always believed it was me that wanted me to stop smoking but in hindsight I know it wasn’t – for the reasons previously mentioned I subconsciously wanted to carry on (or at least my body and mind wanted me to);
I was just listening everyone from the government, to my employer, to my family constantly frowning upon my habit and making me feel I was doing something wrong – it was an amazing driver in terms of stress to help me continue.
So here is my advice, don’t listen to anybody but yourself – if stopping smoking is something you really want to do then I have three strategies:
Know it’s a chemical addition – your body has become accustomed to a regular input of nicotine and other chemicals; there will
be an unpleasant feeling of nervousness and agitation that will reach its peak after about a week and then slowly reduce to almost nothing after another three. This feeling is caused by your body becoming used to not undertaking the constant battle against the nasty stuff you have been feeding it for all these years. You’re going to have to deal with this feeling but it will pass; good advice is to try to keep busy and take your mind off it.
Know it’s a habit – like any habit it can be broken, you’re the one in control besides which it only takes about five minutes to smoke a cigarette; if it’s that you want a break from what you were doing you’ll be back to whatever it was after five minutes anyway. If it’s that you miss the habit of the ‘hand to mouth’ motion then use a straw for five minutes. If it’s that you want a change of scene then go for a walk for five minutes
Know that it doesn’t relieve stress – the perception that smoking relieves stress is a purely psychological motive that will make you reach for the fags. In actual fact each cigarette will increase your heart rate and blood pressure in much the same way as caffeine. It won’t relax you which is why graphic images on packs, ostracising people who smoke, or telling them they will die is such a bad idea and is totally counterproductive. It’s like telling somebody not to do something in a way that will encourage them to it. It doesn’t matter though because you now know smoking doesn’t relieve stress in anyway.
I must confess even after writing this that I still quite like the smell of cigarettes, and even semi-deliberately walk through the haze of smoke where others are smoking. However, after I’ve thought hmmm, that smells nice I have forgotten about it because I’m in control now. The important thing to remember you are in control – not others and certainly not the cigarettes – you are in control; you always have been.