Health

The holidays can bring stress—and that stress can cause ex-smokers to reach for a cigarette, one expert said.

But it’s possible to resist the urge.

“I tell smokers, ‘Every single morning you wake up you say out loud in the mirror, ‘I’m not smoking anymore,’ and then think about what you’re day is going to be,” said Dr. Donna Shelley, vice chair of research with the Department of Population Health at New York University’s School of Medicine.

Shelley said activities and moods affect a person’s desire to smoke. She said many people smoke while they drink coffee or after a meal. She also said stress, depression and anger are also triggers.

“Smokers often learn to smoke while they’re teenagers and it becomes their coping mechanism. While other adolescents are growing up and learning other coping mechanisms, smokers learn over time to depend on smoking as the thing they turn to,” she said.

Shelley said some people may need to consider counseling as an added measure to help them quit.

Attending support groups, visiting a counselor and telephone cessation services are effective options, said Shelley.

“There is evidence that the more times you receive counseling, the more likely you are to quit. But even one session can help increase people’s motivation and get them ready and set to go,” she said.

Here are other tips to stay smoke-free from NYU:

  • Remind yourself of the reasons you quit in the first place.
  • Make an action plan for how you are going to handle your holiday triggers.
  • Remember the 5Ds when you feel the urge to smoke: Delay. Drink water. Do something else. Deep breathe. Discuss feelings with a friend or family member.
  • Reward yourself for staying tobacco-free.
  • Take immediate steps to get help if you relapse.