Special to Iredell Free News

Many of us have set a resolution to become the best version of ourselves — whether that’s starting a new, healthy habit or breaking an old, undesirable one. Year after year, one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to quit smoking.

Ashi Chabeda, F-NP

“The first step in quitting smoking is being willing to quit and recognizing that it is a habit that takes more out of your life than it gives in return,” said Ashi Chabeda, a family nurse practitioner at Iredell Occupational Medicine.

So, if you’re among the many who chose to quit smoking as your 2023 resolution, then congratulations! You’re already past the first step. And, if you are a smoker and have not yet resolved to quit, there’s no time like the present, right?

Almost every part of your body can be negatively affected by smoking. Smoking can cause blood clots, stroke, coronary artery disease, vision loss, premature aging, hearing loss, mouth sores, emphysema, heart attack, clogged arteries, infertility, weakened immune system, cancer — the list goes on.

However, the good news is that your health starts improving as soon as you quit smoking.

Choosing to quit smoking can be a challenge, but the life-prolonging benefits are worth it. But, if you have tried to quit before, you know that it can be difficult.

“Smoking cessation is difficult because nicotine is highly addictive. It interacts with the brain, triggering a feel-good chemical that the body begins to crave. A smoker not only contends with the relationship between nicotine and the brain’s response to it, but the habit formed around smoking provides an ‘intrinsic comfort’ for the smoker that is difficult to break,” said Chabeda.

Withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, stress, cravings, difficulty concentrating, and anxiety have also been reported by those struggling with tobacco addiction.

Your smoking cessation journey may not be easy. To help you along the way, Chabeda offers a few tips:

No. 1: Start exercising

Regular exercise can help reduce cigarette withdrawal symptoms and keep you strong and motivated throughout your journey.

“Exercise relaxes smooth muscles and increases blood circulation. It increases feel-good chemicals while decreasing anxiety and depression. Exercising also promotes the elimination of waste products from the body and helps with weight management,” said Chabeda.

When quitting smoking, many are worried they will gain weight, so regular exercise will help combat this.

You can also use exercise as a way to distract yourself when you feel a cigarette craving.

No. 2: Surround yourself with support

“Having strong support from a trustworthy, nonjudgmental accountability mentor, friend, or family member can ease the discomfort through your smoking cessation process,” said Chabeda.

Support groups, telephone hotlines, and support from healthcare providers can be helpful during your journey.

No. 3: Avoid temptations

For the next few weeks, try to stay away from things that you associate with smoking.

“Avoiding temptation is by far the most reliable way to remain on track with your goals. If you remove yourself from triggers, then the chance of succumbing to smoking will be eliminated,” said Chabeda.

Try to spend free time in places where smoking is not allowed, like malls, libraries, museums, theaters, and department stores. If you do have to go somewhere where you’ll be tempted to smoke, like a party, ask the people you are with to support you by not smoking around you or not offering you a cigarette.

To avoid temptation, you can also try to change up your routine. Instead of smoking after meals, get up from the table and brush your teeth or go for a walk. If you used to smoke while driving, try listening to a new radio station or podcast, driving a different route, or calling a friend.

No. 4: Try quit-smoking medications

“Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is available to people who want to slowly decrease, or taper, the amount of nicotine in their body during their smoking cessation journey. It allows the body to adjust slowly to the withdrawal of nicotine, decreasing the overall discomfort after quitting,” said Chabeda.

Most NRT is available over the counter without a prescription and comes in a variety of forms, such as patches, gum, or lozenges.

There are also medications that do not contain nicotine that your healthcare provider can prescribe.

“As is common with all medications, efficacy is based on a patient’s response and the degree of side effects,” said Chabeda.

No. 5: Don’t give up

Quitting smoking may take more than one attempt, so if you have a relapse, don’t give up. Think about why you slipped up, and make a plan for handling the situation differently next time.

“Although it is difficult to quit any addictive substance, especially nicotine abuse, it is not impossible. There are available resources and support to help those who are ready to quit. The key is to be persistent and refuse to give up until you achieve your goal. Use imagery to create the worse scenario if you continue to smoke and imagine the impact of smoking on finances and health. Then, decide if the cost is worth it,” said Chabeda.

About Iredell Health System

Iredell Health System includes Iredell Memorial Hospital; Iredell Mooresville; Iredell Home Health; Iredell Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center; Community and Corporate Wellness; Occupational Medicine; the Iredell Physician Network and more. Iredell Memorial Hospital is the largest and only nonprofit hospital in Iredell County. The comprehensive healthcare facility has 247 beds; more than 1,800 employees; and has 260 physicians representing various specialties. Centers of excellence include Women’s and Children’s; Cardiovascular; Cancer; Surgical Services and Wellness & Prevention. The Health System’s newest campus, Iredell Mooresville, is home to the area’s only 24-hour urgent care facility, as well as an ambulatory surgery center, imaging center, rehabilitation services, and physician practices. The mission of Iredell Health System is to inspire wellbeing. For a comprehensive list of services and programs, visit www.iredellhealth.org.

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