Saturday, 5 October 2013

Give it up for Stoptober!

Here we are again in Stoptober – an opportunity, if you need one, to give up smoking.  Also, sadly, an opportunity for others to nag or browbeat you into doing something you are not yet psychologically prepared to do. That’s the key to giving up smoking – you have to want to do it.  Really want to do it.  No hesitation, no second thoughts, no doubts about how you’ll cope.

If you expect giving up to be difficult, it will be.  If you fear that you are depriving yourself of a pleasure or necessity, you will be.  If you fear that you won’t make it; you’ll fall by the wayside; you’ll fail – you will do all those things.  Have a positive outlook on what you’re doing. You’re changing your life for the better.  You will be healthier and fitter.  You, your clothes and your home will no longer smell like an old kipper.  You will no longer be putting your own life at risk – or the lives of your loved ones whom you make into passive smokers.  You will have money in your pocket.

Cutting Down
Don’t do it.  Nearly everyone who wants to give up smoking tries at first by cutting down, and it just doesn’t work.  Cutting down keeps you in a state of addiction to nicotine but refusing to feed that addiction.  So you keep yourself in a permanent state of craving.  What torture!  You’re also planting a seed of doubt in your mind - you’ll never be able to stop smoking because just cutting down is so difficult.  Better to go into your positive mindset, go for broke and just give up.  

You know smoking is bad for you. It leads to cancer; heart disease; COPD; emphysema; stroke.  It damages your unborn child if you are an expectant mum and restricts the normal healthy development of your children if you make them your passive smokers.  Change your thinking!  Smoking is a psychological addiction as much as a physiological addiction to nicotine.  It doesn’t make you calmer; less irritable; more ‘in control’; creative; able to cope; confident or able to think more clearly.  There is no clinical trial which has proved these links.  You just believe that smoking does all these things for you. 

The ‘benefits’ of smoking are just an urban myth.  There is the paraphernalia (the packet of fags or papers & tobacco; the lighter or matches) – stuff to fiddle with & occupy your hands - we all like to do that, right?  There is an activity pattern; something else to do with your hands - flicking the ash from the end of the ciggie; cupping your hand around the smoking cigarette on a cold or rainy day; stubbing it out to emphasise a point. Then there’s the ‘film star’ act - screwing your eyes up in an inscrutable fashion behind a veil of blue smoke like Bogart or Bacall in some post-war film noir; inhaling deeply before you make your insightful pronouncement. Exhaling smokily and seductively.  What tosh!  Most people start smoking (as kids) because they think it makes them look cool.  They think it makes them look older (and, by association, wiser) than they are.  It makes them one of the gang – one of the rebels.  In reality it means they’ve caved in to peer pressure, so they’re not rebels at all, they’re sheep; followers; they do as they’re told.

It takes around 3 weeks to break the physical addition to nicotine, and around 4 weeks to break the psychological dependency.  A lot of the latter depends on your attitude.  If you expect giving up to be hard, it will be.  If you expect to become irritable, moody, angry – you will.  It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Get it into your head that you are doing something fantastic (you are!!!), and that it will be a breeze – you’ll sail through it.  Really push your confidence to succeed at this.  Picture yourself as a non-smoker, laughing; happy, healthy, fit and active.  Make that image big and bright and layer on the detail.  You smell fantastic, your breath is minty-fresh and your teeth sparkle with cleanliness.  You are slim and trim because you have more energy (and breath) to keep active.  Your skin glows with health. Your clothes, hairstyle and scent are fantastic because you have the money to invest in them, now that you are a non-smoker.  People want to know you; people want to be like you.  You’re such a winner.  Giving up smoking is so easy for you. 

Build on that picture in your mind’s eye and see yourself stepping into it, so that the real you becomes the bright & healthy picture. Imagine this as often as you can, so that you train yourself to be able to call it to mind in full detail whenever you need to – whenever you feel your will is weakening.  Enjoy this image of the new you – revel in it, and enjoy the process you are engaging in - all of it:  the visualisation of the real, non-smoking you, and the process of giving up smoking.   You are worth the attention and worth the effort.  What you are doing is necessary, brave and the right thing to do right now!

When you give up you will probably feel cravings for a cigarette.  Some of this is your body calling out for a fix of nicotine.  Although it's not a pleasant feeling, it's a good thing: you are expelling the poison from your body and you aren’t replacing it.  You are beating this dependency. 

You have a psychological dependency too, remember, and it's this which creates the urge to smoke, following trigger patterns: the first cigarette of the day with the first coffee of the day; the cigarette after a meal; the one with a drink or the one which we reach for when we feel stressed or in need of a break.  This is the habit of smoking, and this is what we need to re-programme.

How do we break our programming?
Don’t respond to the urge to smoke.  Don’t think of this as denial - you are just putting off, for the moment, the decision to light up.  Remember that you are a non-smoker now.  Instead of giving attention to the craving, go and do something else – have a glass of water or orange juice; wipe down the surfaces in the kitchen or polish the sideboard.  Give your loved one a kiss and a cuddle.  Concentrate fully on what you are engaged in.  The craving will pass.  When it returns – just push it away again. Postpone making that decision to light up a cigarette.  You are not denying yourself a cigarette, you are just postponing, until a later time, making the decision to smoke.  When that time arrives, postpone the decision to light up again, until later.  And so on and so on.

Yeah – it’s a distraction technique, but it works.  You are not denying yourself the opportunity to smoke, you’re just delaying it.  The craving will pass – like a wave rising ten feet high out in the ocean and then crashing down to the height of a centimetre on the shore.  It will pass and the next wave will be smaller and weaker.  The wave after that will be weaker still.

What happens if you fall off the wagon?
So you fall off.  Big deal.  Don’t beat yourself up, you haven’t failed.  Yet.  Climb back on the wagon and carry on the journey.  Keep on keeping on.

Good luck, and good health to you!!

If you would like to follow a definite support plan and learn some relaxation techniques to help you quit smoking, please give me a call or send me an email.

Your future is waiting for you.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Exercise to feel good

If you had to choose only one action to tackle stress, what would it be?

Perhaps the best all-round solution would be to engage in some form of exercise – for the following reasons:

1. It doesn’t have to cost anything – you can go for a walk in the park for free.

2. It doesn’t necessarily require specialist training or clothing (see above).

3. It can, and should, become a focus for your attention whilst you are engaged in your chosen activity. This takes your mind off whatever is causing you stress – at least in the short term - putting a little distance between you and your stressor. A kind of ‘meditation in motion’.

4. Exercise can help to release physical tension from the body, encouraging relaxation and promoting restful sleep.

5. It increases levels of dopamine and seratonin, lifting your mood.

6. If your activity is a team sport like netball or football, or a group activity like yoga or Tai Chi, you will engage and interact with other people, which might:

     a. create distance from your stressor by giving you
     something else to talk about and focus on (when not
     focused on your activity).

     b. Enable you to talk about what’s stressing you – sharing
     the burden.

     c. Help you to feel supported by a network of friends.

     d. Prevent you from sinking deeper into anxiety or depression
     through isolation.

7. It gives you the opportunity (depending on your activity) to get out into the fresh air, amongst trees and plants, under a blue sky and a bright sun (if we’re lucky with the weather) – this, along with the exercise itself, increases levels of endorphins in the brain and helps us to relax and sleep more deeply at the end of the day.

8. If your activity is something like gardening, you have the added bonus of visible proof of your labour – a tidy lawn; weed-free border; dead-headed rose bushes ….

And the best way to succeed with any exercise activity? Do something you enjoy – either something you already know, or a sport or activity you’ve been meaning to get involved in.

Don’t do something just for the sake of it: there’s no point in going jogging if you hate it –you’ll soon lose motivation.

If you’re starting any form of exercise after a long lay-off, take it slow and steady and build up to it gradually – maybe twenty to thirty minutes at first. If you start with an aim of 30 minutes’ activity every day, you might break that down into three x 10-minute sessions per day, then two x 15-minute sessions, 1 x 30 minute session, then grow to 1 x 45 minute session and so on, but at your own pace.

Don’t set yourself up to fail – give yourself every opportunity to succeed!!