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Distract Yourself

Distracting yourself can be a way to get through a craving for tobacco. If you try to think about the fact that a craving lasts generally between 30 seconds to two minutes, and you can distract yourself for that long, you’ve successfully remained strong in your fight to quit smoking. Here are a few other things to keep in mind:

What to do ... When the craving comes

  • Do not start feeling sorry for yourself. It's the people who are still smoking who should be pitied. You were smart enough to follow a program and stop smoking. You’ve been through rough times in your life before. This too shall pass.
  • Immediately turn your attention to something else. Remember that the most intense craving lasts only a few minutes. You might have to be creative and step out of your comfort zone so you can try something new and distract yourself for a while. Doing something new will not only help you stay smoke-free but you might find a new hobby in the process!
  • Doing something with your hands can be very helpful when quitting smoking since smoking cigarettes is something that kept your hands very busy. In our list of distracters, you will find a variety of things that might not be the most entertaining (ex: typing equations on a calculator), but it might be exactly what you need to get you through that intense moment that your hands think they need to be busy.
  • Be good to yourself in every possible way. Even indulge yourself a little. Enjoy a special treat on weekends (a good meal, a show, etc.) with the money you've saved. With the prices of tobacco getting higher and higher (which is a good thing!), the amount of money you spent on them is probably going to allow you to do things you’ve never had the money to do before.
  • Visit places where you don't typically smoke rather than places where you do. Smoking in movie theaters hasn’t been allowed in years. That’s probably not a place you typically associate with smoking. Create your list of places like this and check them off, one by one, after you go. Make it more of a bucket list if you want. Do things you’ve never done in your town or city. Whatever you do, just make sure to avoid the triggers – or things that make you want to smoke. You need to give yourself all the support you can.
  • Stop using alcohol or caffeine. These substances have a strong link to nicotine and go hand-in-hand when it comes to cravings. Instead of the iced tea or chocolate (which is loaded with caffeine), try something like water with cucumber slices or sugar-free lemonade. It’s going to help you in the long run.
  • Seek the company of nonsmokers. Nonsmokers are likely to be supportive of your desire to remain smoke-free. Surrounding yourself with nonsmokers will help increase your chance to not give in to temptation and will also offer a support system for you during your time of need. And when you don’t have any nonsmoking buddies, feel free to call the Illinois Tobacco Quitline. We can be your buddy.
  • Try to live life one day at a time. Quitting tobacco use will be much easier this way. We live in a society where we are constantly looking toward the future and with quitting smoking, that theory just doesn’t cut it. Getting through one day of being smoke-free is a huge accomplishment. If you can change the way that you think about it, it will be much easier to cope.

THE 4 D’s can lessen discomfort associated with the physical urge to smoke

  1. Breathe DEEPLY – Deep breathing (whether sitting, standing or lying down) is an effective way of dealing with tension from cigarette cravings.
    1. With your mouth closed and your shoulders relaxed, inhale as slowly and as deeply as you can while silently counting to eight. As you do that, push your stomach out.
    2. Hold your breath while counting silently to eight.
    3. Exhale slowly, while counting silently to eight.
    4. Do this slow, deep breathing cycle of exercises five times.
  2. DRINK WATER – Drink lots of liquids, especially water and fruit juice. Many ex-smokers report that this helps to alleviate the physical urge to smoke.
  3. DELAY – When your craving is a mild one, it is possible to wait it out. After a few moments, you will find that the urge fades and then disappears.
  4. DO SOMETHING ELSE – Here is a list of activities that you can do when the urge to smoke strikes:
    1. ✔ Talk yourself out of it
    2. ✔ Take a short walk
    3. ✔ Change activities
    4. ✔ Stand up and stretch
    5. ✔ Alter your routine
    6. ✔ Doodle

Be Prepared for Relapse or Difficult Situations

Most relapses occur within the first three months after quitting. Don't be discouraged if you start smoking again. Remember, most people try several times before they finally quit. Here are some difficult situations to avoid:

  • Alcohol. Avoid drinking alcohol. Drinking lowers your chances of success.
  • Other smokers. Being around smoking can make you want to smoke.
  • Weight gain. Many smokers will gain weight when they quit, usually less than 10 pounds. Eat a healthy diet and stay active. Don't let weight gain distract you from your main goal — quitting smoking.
  • Bad mood or depression. There are a lot of ways to improve your mood other than smoking.

If you are having problems with any of these situations, talk to your doctor or other health care provider.

Other Ways to Distract Yourself:

  • Chew a piece of sugar-free gum
  • Suck on a piece of hard candy
  • Take a walk around your neighborhood
  • Snack on sunflower seeds
  • Take a warm bath
  • Play a board game with a friend or family member
  • Cut up fruits & veggies (carrots, celery, strawberries, apples, etc.) to eat as snacks
  • Cut a straw in half and chew on it when you feel a craving coming on
  • Designate a “safe” room in your house where smoking is not allowed
  • Do a jigsaw or crossword puzzle
  • Listen to music
  • Read a book or magazine
  • Call a friend
  • Drink a non-caffeinated drink such as water, herbal tea, or 100% fruit juice
  • Cook a new dish
  • Do the laundry: the repetitive motion will help distract you
  • Do the dishes
  • Try deep breathing: this can help focus your mind to help you stay smoke-free
  • Watch a new show/channel on TV
  • Try a new hobby such as knitting
  • Keep a few lollipops on hand to suck on when you feel a craving
  • Do sit-ups, push-ups, leg lifts, or jumping jacks first thing in the morning instead of having a cigarette
  • Sit in a different spot in your house for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Keep a stress ball on hand and squeeze when you feel a craving coming on
  • Meditate: sit in a peaceful spot and just be
  • Sit outside and draw
  • Bake cookies for a neighbor
  • Type equations on a calculator
  • Scrub the inside of your refrigerator
  • Plant a flower or garden
  • Do something nice for someone
  • Send a greeting card
  • Make a friendship bracelet
  • Plan out your ideal vacation
  • Soak your feet in a tub
  • Take a camera around to make a diary of your day
  • Make up a dance to your favorite song
  • Go for a swim 
  • Call the Illinois Tobacco Quitline at 1-866-QUIT-YES
  • Take a nap
  • Brush your teeth
  • Send an email to someone you haven’t talked to in a while
  • Clean the bathroom
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Our hours of operation are Monday - Friday, 7 a.m. - 9 p.m. CST, Saturday & Sun, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Call us before or after work, during your lunch break or when your cravings are the strongest. We’ll have a counselor waiting to answer your call and you can call as many times as you like.