How to quit smoking and stay calm in the process

Last reviewed on 5 October 2020

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed the way that we all live our lives. A new world of social distancing and self-isolation practices to slow the spread of the virus will likely remain in place for some time.

This might leave you feeling more stressed, worried and anxious, as you miss the face-to-face social contact that helps you to feel connected and positive.

Additional concerns about your health, your family's health and your job can leave you feeling overwhelmed. These emotions can affect everyone and be difficult to deal with and can make quitting smoking at this time especially hard.

With this in mind, Stop Smoking London and Good Thinking have teamed up to give smokers some key tips on how to quit – and how to stay calm in the process.

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1. Understand the role anxiety plays in smoking

We know that stopping smoking can be hard, and it may feel especially difficult at this time. Some of you might turn to cigarettes in the belief that smoking helps to relieve anxiety and stress - but it doesn't! Smoking relieves nicotine withdrawal symptoms like irritability and low mood - tricking you into believing it helps with stress.

It is proven that people who stop smoking have less anxiety, depression, and stress, plus improved mood than those who continue to smoke.

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2. Use meditation and deep breathing to help reduce anxiety and stress

A great way to feel calmer as you stop smoking is to use established guided meditation and visualisation techniques. This can not only make you feel relaxed but may help you to make other healthy lifestyle choices. Try out this free guided meditation from Good Thinking.

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3. Make a quit plan

By giving yourself time to prepare, you can move forward with your stop smoking journey with confidence. Get support and use a stop smoking medication, like a patch and another nicotine product, or some medications available on prescription, to greatly increase your chances of successfully stopping for good

If you’d like help to create a free, personalised quit plan, including getting the latest advice on the best tools and resources for you, or to find information on your local stop smoking service, call the Stop Smoking London helpline on 0300 123 1044.

It also helps to be prepared for those situations and feelings that may make you want to smoke. Read Stop Smoking London’s tips on understanding your smoking triggers.

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4. Get plenty of sleep

Sleep disturbances are a common side effect of nicotine withdrawal. Lack of sleep can make everything, including quitting smoking, feel so much harder. So, it’s particularly important to get on top of any sleep problems you may encounter quickly.

For advice on how to get a good night’s sleep as you quit smoking, see Good Thinking’s comprehensive set of downloadable factsheets about sleep.

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5. Take regular exercise

Scheduling exercise outdoors as often as you wish is recommended and is good for you - as long as you follow social distancing guidelines.

Exercising for 30 minutes a day is a great self-care practice to get your endorphins flowing and to boost your energy. As you quit smoking, you may notice that as your lungs heal you have less coughing and shortness of breath, making it easier to exercise. Being more active will also boost your mood, reduce stress and help you sleep better.

Do you know all the benefits of stopping smoking? Take Stop Smoking London’s online quiz.

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6. Don’t do it alone, ask for help

The final tip is to pay attention to how you feel and be compassionate with these feelings. It may help you to speak about these with your family and friends using phone or video calls. There are also online communities to help you quit smoking.

If you would like help at any stage of your stop smoking journey, visit the Stop Smoking London website to find your local stop smoking service.

If you're concerned about your own or someone else’s mental health, a good place to start is to contact your GP. You can also get expert advice from a number of specialist helplines.

Useful websites

Stop Smoking London (0300 123 1044)

Good Thinking’s COVID-19 advice about sleep, stress, boredom, uncertainty and trauma

NHS (stopping smoking for your mental health)

NHS (coronavirus guidance)

UK Government (coronavirus guidance)