If you follow our blog, you know that every chronic disease has three risk factors in common: eating an unhealthy diet, leading an inactive lifestyle, and smoking. We’ve talked before about diet and exercise. In this post, we share tips to quit smoking and explain how Medicare can help.
Start with a Plan
Often, people quit smoking on an impulse, throwing away their cigarettes only to be smoking again within a few days (or even a few hours). Of course, it’s possible to turn an impulse into a successful stop-smoking attempt, but it isn’t likely and it’s much more difficult.
Kicking an addiction is already one of the most difficult things you’ll do, so why handicap yourself from the beginning? You increase your odds of success when you develop a plan. What will you do when cravings hit? Is there a substitute activity you can engage in when the urge to smoke strikes? Do you know your smoking triggers and how to avoid them?
Keep reading for ideas to include in your non-smoking plan.
Talk to Your Doctor
A good first step is talking to your doctor about quitting. He or she can help you develop a plan and provide valuable advice. And, Medicare Part B covers counseling to help you stop smoking, up to eight visits over a 12-month period. Your cost is zero, as long as your provider accepts assignment.
Clear Your World of Smoking Triggers
Go through your home, car, and workplace, removing items related to smoking. This includes cigarettes, ashtrays, and lighters, but may also require cleaning or airing out a space to get rid of the smell of smoke.
Other smokers may also be triggers. If you regularly take smoke breaks at work, or live with a smoker, ask them to not smoke around you, at least in the beginning. You may also need to come up with an alternate break plan for working hours.
What Can You Do that Isn’t Smoking?
Human beings are creatures of habit. And, as anyone who has tried before can attest to, ending a habit is extremely difficult. This is especially true when the habit involves an addictive substance, because now you’re dealing with both the psychological aspect – it’s 9:30, time for my cigarette break – and physical cravings for the substance.
The key to breaking a bad habit isn’t will power; it’s substituting a new, healthier habit. One of the best options is exercise.
Most cravings last only a few minutes. When it’s time for your usual break or you crave a cigarette, get moving. Take a walk. Climb up and down stairs. Turn on your favorite song and start dancing. Grab a set of dumbbells and do some bicep curls.
Even a few minutes of exercise releases endorphins (your brain’s happy hormone), helping improve your mood. By the time you finish your walk or exercise, the craving should be gone. And, you’ll have increased your physical activity, something most of us need to do.
Take Care of Yourself
Although many cigarettes are lit purely out of habit, smoking is also a response to stress. Quitting may cause you to experience a variety of emotions you weren’t expecting.
There are numerous ways to reduce stress, including:
- Deep breathing exercises (these also help with cravings)
- A relaxing, warm bath
One of the most effective ways to address emotional issues is through journaling. Write about what you’re feeling, why you choose to be smoke-free, or anything else that comes to mind. You can write in your journal while the tub fills for your relaxing bath, before bed, or whenever the mood strikes.
Stock the Fridge with Healthy Foods
People often hesitate to quit because they’re afraid of weight gain. And, since smoking is such a hand-to-mouth habit, it isn’t surprising that people often gain weight after quitting. Avoid this by stocking your refrigerator with healthy snacks. Store them in pre-portioned baggies or storage containers for quick, easy access. Options include:
- Celery and carrot sticks
- Grapes (try frozen grapes for a delicious, healthy cold treat)
- Berries and seasonal fruits
Many people also report successfully resisting cravings by eating foods with a strong flavor, such as dill pickles or hot peppers. Brushing your teeth and chewing gum are also popular options.
Scare Yourself Straight
The idea that smoking is bad for your health is nothing new; doctors and scientists have spent decades educating Americans on the dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke.
What you may not know is that smoking is a leading risk factor for a variety of diseases. In addition to lung cancer, conditions include cardiovascular disease, stroke, colorectal cancer, and vascular disease. The Medicare Solutions Blog includes posts on a variety of chronic illnesses for which smoking raises your risk. When the urge to smoke becomes overpowering, it may help to remind yourself of all the ways smoking endangers your health.
Practical Tips to Get You Through Those Early Days
When you quit smoking, the first two weeks are the most challenging. Use the following tips to see you through:
- Keep your hands busy: Take up a hobby. Knitting and crochet are extremely effective, as are painting, woodwork, completing a puzzle, and anything involving your hands.
- Work your way through your to-do list: Clean and organize one room a day, wash and wax the car, weed the garden, clean out the garage, whatever keeps you busy.
- Reward yourself: Deposit the cash you would have spent on cigarettes into a Reward Kitty. Give yourself a small reward every time you resist a craving. Or, plan a trip and fund it with your savings.
- Ask a friend for help: Many of us don’t like to do it, but there’s nothing wrong with admitting we need help. If you need a buddy to keep you on the non-smoking path, ask.
It may be difficult, but millions of people have quit smoking. You can, too. If you fall off the wagon, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back in the game.
If you have questions about your Medicare coverage, call us toll-free at 855-350-8101 to speak to a licensed agent.