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Get your mind off tobacco one craving at a time

Quitting can be hard. Once quit, most tobacco users face urges, sometimes strong urges, to return to the habit. Sometimes this is due to a physical craving for nicotine. Sometimes it’s triggered by certain times of the day, or by activities formerly associated with tobacco (such as driving, finishing a meal or taking a break from work). And sometimes it’s simply caused by a desire to relax or manage stress.

But there are solutions – ways to help urges pass without giving in, or just gritting your teeth until they pass. They’re called substitutes and distractions.

What’s a substitute?

Substitutes are just what they sound like. Anything that can be used to keep your mouth and hands busy when you get the urge to smoke. Substitutes can include things like toothpicks, short straws, cinnamon sticks, gum and hard candies for your mouth. For your hands you can try pencils, paperclips, stress balls, worry stones or worry beads.

What’s a distraction?

Distractions can include things or activities that take your mind off tobacco when the craving hits. Try taking a walk or getting some exercise, doing a puzzle of some kind, doodling, starting a new hobby – anything to get your mind off of tobacco for five minutes. By then, the urge has usually weakened or passed.

How do I know which tool works best for me?

Everyone’s different. Try putting together a list of different ideas for substitutes and distractions. Then test them out BEFORE you actually quit. This will help you see what works and what doesn’t.

You can also set up a “mini-quit” to practice your substitutes and distractions. A mini-quit is an easy, risk-free way to learn how to manage urges before you quit. By practicing mini-quits you can learn the methods that will help you quit for good. To read more about mini-quits, take a look at the article How to Do a Mini-Quit.

If you’re currently in the middle of your quit attempt, try adding a few substitutes or distractions to your routine. You’ve done a lot of the work already, and they may be just the thing you need to help you stay quit!

Finding ways to cope with urges is an important step in increasing your chances of quitting. So see what works for you! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.