What happens when you pull a trigger? Usually it results in something going ‘BANG!’
A trigger is an event that causes a reaction, and in the case of smoking, it’s an event that makes you want to smoke.
Smoking triggers are a quitter’s worst enemy, they cause an ex-smoker to start thinking about cigarettes or smoking, which can lead to picking up a pack of cigarettes, and before you know it, you’re smoking again!
Being aware of the trigger’s you will face in daily life can help a quitter prepare a way of tackling them, or avoiding the trigger altogether, improving the chance of a successful quit attempt - ‘fail to prepare, and prepare to fail’ as the saying goes.
WHAT ARE COMMON SMOKING TRIGGERS?
Common smoking triggers can be categorised into four types: withdrawal triggers, emotional triggers, social triggers and pattern triggers. The event itself is what changes, but the result is the same in each case - they make you want a cigarette.
HOW DO YOU RECOGNIZE YOUR TRIGGERS?
Recognising smoking triggers is fairly easy - try writing on a scrap piece of paper all the times during the day you would typically go for a cigarette, and what happened before it. This could start as a cigarette with the morning coffee, to smoking in work breaks, after lunch, etc.
Add to that list any time you recently recall deciding to have a cigarette after a stressful phone call, a stressful day, a falling out with friends or family.
Now add to that list times you like to have a cigarette - this might be down the pub, on the phone to a friend, with a cup of tea - and now the list covers most of the external triggers that a quitter is likely to run into on any given day.
What this doesn’t cover is the emotional and withdrawal triggers, that are a little harder to pin down. These are down to emotional states and chemical imbalances, and so can be expected but not necessarily anticipated.
Social triggers are the situations where being around people smoking is likely to cause nicotine cravings. If you have friends that smoke but aren’t trying to quit, being around them can be tough; just smelling cigarette smoke is enough of a trigger to make a quitter want a cigarette.
Even those who are happy popping down the pub on their own may find the pub to be a social trigger simply due to the sight of people smoking outside the door.
Pattern triggers are the normal activities that a smoker associates with smoking - if you used to have a cigarette while driving, then driving is a pattern trigger. If you always have a cigarette after a meal, then the meal is a pattern trigger. If you always have a cigarette in your break at work, then your break is a pattern trigger.
These are the events when you naturally reach for a cigarette before, after or during, and this is a habit that has formed over your entire time smoking - so these are likely to be the hardest triggers to deal with.
Find a replacement ‘cigarette’ for these times - a stick of carrot, a breadstick, anything that you can twiddle in your fingers and hold in your mouth like a cigarette. SMOKO E-cigarette users are covered for this one!
It is well established that there is a link between mental health issues and smoking, though it isn’t known if the association is causal. This link tells us that people with mental health issues are more likely to be smokers, and the temporary mood lifting effect of nicotine is why.
Emotional triggers are any emotional state that a smoker wants to enhance or escape. Extreme happiness can be augmented with a cigarette, and feelings of stress, anxiety and depression can all be reduced while nicotine is at work in the brain.
Withdrawal triggers are essentially the withdrawal symptoms from smoking. Suffering withdrawal symptoms can take its toll, and all the while, the smoker knows that smoking a cigarette will make these symptoms go away - which is what makes these triggers so dangerous.
Typical symptoms of withdrawal include cravings, feelings of restlessness, having a hard time concentrating, bad sleep and feeling irritated or grouchy. These are also your withdrawal triggers.
OVERCOMING SMOKING TRIGGERS
We need to recognise that some of the smoking triggers you will encounter in daily life are avoidable, where some are not. We need to avoid triggers that we can, and prepare as best we can for those triggers that are unavoidable.
Knowing your trigger source
The first step to overcoming smoking triggers is to identify your triggers - the list we made earlier should cover most of these.
Many triggers are shared between smokers, but some may be unique to the individual, so make sure you have wracked your brain for any triggers you can think of that haven’t already made it onto the list.
Our list of triggers now complete, try sorting them into their categories - social, pattern, emotional, and withdrawal triggers.
The social and pattern triggers can be addressed or avoided, depending on the trigger. So - go through these two categories and write how you plan to tackle each one.
Pattern triggers may require adjusting your routine, or the food and drink you consume - this can feel like an unnecessary hurdle, but the aim here is to disrupt your normal pattern - so expect a little disruption to your normal routine! Try brushing your teeth after meals or drinks to discourage yourself from smoking at these times.
Social triggers may be a bit tougher to address effectively, without feeling like you’re missing out. You could avoid places where people smoke, like not going to the pub, or anywhere you might run into a smoker friend. It isn’t the best solution, and can add to stress, so finding an alternative might be the best course of action.
Using nicotine replacement therapy NRT could be the answer to being around smokers and not smoking. Nicotine replacement therapy are products like nicotine patches or nicotine gum that can be used to manage cravings. Using NRT or even an electronic cigarette when you are in these environments should satisfy the urges to smoke without lighting up a cigarette!
Withdrawal triggers are another trigger best handled with an electronic cigarette or nicotine replacement therapy. These are down to the effect of nicotine on our brain chemistry, and so there is no real option other than quitting cold turkey and waiting for the imbalances to normalise, or keep delivering nicotine into the system with a view to reduce the nicotine consumption over time.
By using an electronic cigarette or NRT, you can still reduce the harm to yourself and anyone around you that would normally be exposed to your second hand smoke. These nicotine replacement tools can also help deal with the other forms of smoking triggers, too.
Reaching out to family and friends
Talking things through can seem like a waste of time, or you might think ‘how is talking about things going to help me deal with triggers?’ It’s a fair question, but sometimes saying things out loud can really help.
Speaking with friends and family when you’re feeling stressed about quitting can go a long way. Unless you are trying a tandem quit attempt with a partner, family member or friend, you might feel like you are alone in your struggle. If you live with a smoker, asking them to be mindful of your quit attempt may reap positive results.
In particular, it may be beneficial to speak to ex-smokers as they understand what you’re going through. Whoever you speak to, just know that it is worth doing so - you may find some of that stress balled-up inside disappears when you’ve voiced your concerns aloud.
Involving yourself with new hobbies
Keeping yourself busy is probably the most common piece of advice for smoking cessation. If you follow that idea inventively, then you could potentially keep yourself well distracted throughout your quit attempt.
When planning activities to keep yourself preoccupied, make sure to avoid triggers. Picking up a new (or old!) hobby is one way to keep your hands busy and your mind occupied, so give it a go!
Choosing to engage in physical activity, like sport or a workout, can reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, and at the same time give you a sense of achievement and progress, which is great for your mental health!
Exercise will help you sleep better at night, too, a gift that can’t be overlooked when you stop smoking!
Maintaining a positive mindset
Quitting smoking is not easy for most smokers, and it can be easy to punish yourself when you fail. Expecting a little failure in your quit attempt is probably the best way to look at it - a relapse doesn’t have to mean the end of your quit attempt, just a hurdle that must be overcome.
Tricks like this help us to maintain a positive mindset, but don’t stop there! Meditation techniques can help you deal with sudden cravings and keep you in a positive frame of mind.
Breathing exercises that go further than just ‘slow deep breaths’ are another option - for anyone willing, try the Wim Hof method. You will be amazed at the resulting feeling and state of mind when this is done correctly - this is my personal favourite!
COMMON SMOKING TRIGGERS AND HOW TO OVERCOME THEM: CONCLUSION
Many smokers decide to quit, but if all the smokers that decided to quit did, in fact, quit, then the number of smokers in the world would be negligible. Why do so many smokers that decide to quit fail? They came up against a trigger and caved in to the desire to smoke, and then stopped trying to quit!
Using an e-cigarette could be the answer to most of the trials you face while quitting: e-cigarettes eliminate 95% of the harm from tobacco smoke, they deliver nicotine which prevents withdrawal symptoms, and they can be used when a smoking trigger hits you like a brick!
Put yourself in the best position to quit today with one of SMOKO’s e-cigarette starter kits, from a cigalike option to a convenient POD system - all easy to use with pre-filled cartridges, you won’t regret it!