Just like everyone differs in how they started smoking and what triggers them to light up, the effectiveness of quitting strategies differs from person to person, too.
If one quitting technique doesn’t work for you, don’t think you’re destined to smoke forever. You just might respond better to a different method.
One Drop coach, Matthew Vazquez, joined us to discuss how to quit smoking for good. Vazquez holds a masters degree in both exercise science and public health, and he dished on everything from how to select a quit date to how to get back on track after a failed attempt.
“This might sound silly, but scheduling a dental cleaning to have your teeth cleaned and remove nicotine stains could be something to do right before your quit date,” he said. “It might be motivation to not smoke because you just got a fresh start on your teeth.”
Host: This is Life Without Limits, the One Drop Podcast that gives you the tools, inspiration and support to challenge your limits. We talk with experts across all areas of health to open up more possibilities for you. Lean on us, as you step outside your comfort zone, to work your way toward better overall health and a Life Without Limits.
Kim Constantinesco: Welcome back to Life Without Limits, the One Drop Podcast that explores health and habits straight from the lens of experts. I’m your host Kim Constantinesco and we’re super fortunate to have One Drop coach Matthew Vazquez on the show today. He has a master’s degree in exercise science, a master’s degree in public health and a ton of experience helping people quit smoking. Matthew, thanks for joining us.
Matthew Vazquez: Thanks so much Kim for having me. I’m looking forward to it.
Kim Constantinesco: So can you start off by telling us a little about yourself and really why you became a health coach?
Matthew Vazquez: Yeah, so about myself, I actually recently just moved to Texas. Kind of a funky time to be doing that. But the way things are right now, I just got to do what’s best for me. Kind of more on a personal level, my brother’s a little bit closer (inaudible) on that now. So I’m fortunate from that perspective. I have two dogs, two corgis, Socks and Sandals. They’re amazing. They’re kind of the light of my day. I’m able to walk them every single day. They keep me company in this kind of solitary apartment.
But going to the health component, to begin (inaudible) a coach actually wasn’t really something that I knew much about until back in around 2015. And if you asked me before that, I probably would have said I didn’t want to be one because I was so – I was more focused on specifically just the fitness and exercise component. But as I continued to work in various health related roles, I learned that exercise was merely just one of those components of an individual. And I fell into health coaching back in early 2015, and honestly Kim, I’ve never looked back.
Since then, probably even prior to that, my purpose as a coach, as a human being I should say, it’s really simple. It’s to prevent as much premature death as possible, and my goal at the end of the day too is to empower individuals to live their lives to the fullest. So that’s why I’m a coach at the end of the day, and it’s something I practice too. So little concept that I have is, teach, preach, live where I don’t only try to empower individuals. It’s a lifestyle that I resonate with, and it’s something that I’m really passionate about. So in a sense this is honestly the best thing in my life at this point in time.
Kim Constantinesco: It really sounds like you’re fulfilling your purpose in life. Tell us about your experience specifically working with people as they learn to quit smoking.
Matthew Vazquez: Yeah, that’s a great question, and originally – it was actually really hard for me coming from a fitness background, focusing more on activity, exercise, eating habits, things of that nature. I really had no background of tobacco cessation experience. And basically I was just thrown into the mix. Thankfully though I did have coaching skills. I’ve used techniques that included cognitive behavior therapy, some motivational interviewing, understanding those stages of change and a few others to help meet individuals where they were and build that rapport early. And that was really huge.
So many of those I work with were incentivized to participate in health coaching, and they would get a monetary payment if they would complete the program. There really was no pressure to quit, and many were doing it for, let’s just say the third, fourth or fifth time, kind of (sounds like: explaining) that. So I worked for a company where there was an incentive tied to participating in a tobacco cessation program, and that incentive usually would be monetary. And these employees that I worked with didn’t necessarily have to quit or make any changes. They just had to complete a series of coaching calls. And usually they were pretty blunt, saying at first that they didn’t really care and just wanted that incentive.
And I let them know, hey, I get it. If I was in your situation, shoot, I would do the same and take advantage. So if you don’t want to talk about smoking, quitting, reducing or anything of that nature, that’s honestly completely fine. At the end of the day, my goal is not to force you to do anything. Nor do I want you to feel obligated or pressured to quit. My goal, I want to help you accomplish something that really resonates with you in the now at this moment. And I basically tell them, if they ever want to explore that topic again, just to let me know. And it’s something we can always return to. Just they were probably in the pre-contemplative state when it comes to smoking. But maybe they were in the preparation state to work on something else. And then we can transfer that preparation towards action moving in that fashion.
But that’s usually how most of my conversations initially about tobacco cessation went. And honestly, I was okay with that. Knowing that the pressure was off, that they were in a judgment-free environment, that really helped me establish connection with them, build that trust and over time slowly peel that layer into smoking. Or chew, vape, whatever it was that these individuals were utilizing, again, when they were ready to make that decision. After that first goal they would accomplish, their self-confidence would increase. And this goal, it doesn’t have to be necessarily something specific. More of a generalization that resonates with them. Like I said, their self-confidence would increase, progressing towards the cascade of self-worth that will lead to bigger, more challenging goals. That for them, it was really fulfilling.
Sometimes that would involve maybe addressing smoking, and sometimes it would not. In the end it was always their decision. I feel that at the end of the day, coaching is going to be coaching and that the person should be the one with the goal they want to ultimately accomplish. I’m merely a person in their corner, their cheerleader. Basically their support system all combined into a health professional that wants to help them facilitate positive behavior and change. So as that progressed, I got more skilled in respect to how to address specific components when it comes to tobacco cessation.
But at the end of the day, like I said, coaching is coaching and if we can utilize those skills to work with an individual, regardless of what the goal is at the end of the day, that’s something that we can work towards.
Kim Constantinesco: And it sounds like you have some vast experience when it comes to coaching people, whether they’re intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated. Now I have a personal question for you. Have you ever been a smoker at any point in your life?
Matthew Vazquez: Yeah, that’s a good question, and when it comes – just to kind of talk about intrinsic, extrinsic, intrinsic is something internal. Something that really resonates with you, while something intrinsic, like I mentioned, that monetary perspective, at the end of the day you want to focus on something that really touches an individual’s heart. Something that really makes them tick, something that’s important to them. Something more, like I said, on that intrinsic side versus a monetary gain or trying to please someone more extrinsically motivated.
But I’ve never been an individual that has per se bought cigarettes or anything of that nature. But back in 2001 my mum did pass away, and I was in a pretty vulnerable state. I have two younger brothers. At that point in time they were camping. They both were in Boy Scouts, and they were with my dad. I couldn’t go. I had to prepare for this practice SAT test. I was staying at my grandma’s, and I heard the news. And long story short, I was just, for lack of a better term, lost for the longest time.
I wasn’t really one that really shared emotions or feelings or anything of that nature. So I kind of bottled everything up, and it got to the point where I wasn’t making the best decisions towards the latter part of my high school years. And I had some individuals that had some bad habits. I would smoke on occasion just because it was there. It was a way to kind of take the focus away if that makes sense.
I would say I wasn’t necessarily addicted because it wasn’t something that I personally wanted to do, but it was just there, convenient. It felt good in that situation just because, like I said, it would just kind of dull that thought process of my mum not being there. But I understand that it’s one of the most difficult things, especially with the individuals that I’ve worked with, to overcome. And I think I’m blessed that I didn’t have to experience those hurdles involved with quitting. But it’s been a while now, I’d say maybe half a lifetime ago where maybe for about two to three years I would smoke a few from time to time. But it wasn’t necessarily something that was consistent. More social situations with specific friends rather than something that was planned, something that was more routine and triggered based on life events. So short answer, yes, I’ve had some experience, but that was back in high school. So been about 14, 15 years since I’ve ever touched a cigarette. I really have no reason to go back to it.
Kim Constantinesco: And you spoke to the fact that nicotine is so highly addictive, and people know it has all kinds of health consequences, and there are numerous benefits that come with quitting. Can you talk about some of the benefits that maybe some people don’t know about?
Matthew Vazquez: Yeah, and that’s a good point because when you think of quitting smoking, quitting that nicotine addiction, cardiac health is usually one that comes to mind. But some of the other benefits that are a little bit less known are things like decreased likelihood of getting Alzheimer's disease. Potentially a greater immune response against autoimmune disease as well. Other things include for – this would be potentially more female based, a decrease in sudden infant death syndrome, which can be quite a devastating event.
A decreased risk of rheumatoid arthritis and then also a decrease in blindness. I’ve got an all inclusive list. But I did want to say that this decrease comes from what one would experience if they smoked, which unfortunately it’s going to increase those risks. So if you were to stop, it would decrease that. But initially not to the level of someone that has never smoked, if that makes sense, Kim.
Kim Constantinesco: It does make sense. And can you tell us how long does it take for these benefits to occur in the body?
Matthew Vazquez: Just imagine this. In the first 20 minutes, probably shorter than your typical sitcom, your body’s already starting to be see some of those improvements. Your pulse and blood pressure, they start to drop back to normal. Hands and feet start to warm up to their usual temperature, just because when you smoke, sometimes they might decrease. At about the eight hour mark, give or take, so let’s just say you’re ending a work day. Just imagine that timeframe. You have about half the amount of nicotine and carbon monoxide in your blood. Question, why does that matter? Carbon monoxide is a chemical in cigarettes, and it crowds out oxygen in your blood.
That causes problems from your muscles, to your brain because they’re not getting the oxygen that they need. And oxygen, it’s one of those factors, we all need it to survive. But as the chemical levels drop, your oxygen starts to get back to normal. One caveat though on the flip side, it’s likely that you might have already felt some early cravings and doubts. And that’s normal. But these cravings typically, they’re just going to last about five to ten minutes. To get through that specifically an individual might want to try to find ways to distract themselves until that feeling passes.
Something as easy as maybe making a craving play list. Maybe chewing some gum or sipping some water. Just to kind of overcome those five to ten minutes. And let’s look at 12 hours. So four more hours have passed. Halfway through that first day, carbon monoxide levels are basically back to normal. Heart’s really going to thank you for that. It doesn’t have to pump as hard to try to get enough oxygen to the body.
So now let’s look at 24 hours, so an entire day. In this hypothetical situation, let’s just say if you smoke a pack a day, you’re twice as likely to have a heart attack as a non-smoker. But go one full day without a cigarette and you’ve lowered your chances. That’s pretty huge I would say.
Now looking at 48 hours, so hey, you’re done with 2 days. Maybe you might want to treat yourself to something tasty just for that accomplishment, because like I mentioned earlier, the addiction to nicotine, just quitting smoking, it’s one of the toughest things that individuals have shared with me. But by this point your senses of taste, smell, they start to get sharper as the nerve endings throughout your body, they start to heal. And the other thing to consider is that this is over a time when you might experience some of those toughest withdrawal symptoms. You might have that feeling of anxiousness. You might feel a little bit dizzy, maybe hungry or tired. You might get some headaches or feel a little bit bored or depressed.
Again, just like with that other experience after those eight hours, it’s normal. But it also makes it a lot harder to keep from lighting up once you start overcoming these cravings. So let’s just say three days go by. By the end of that third day you’re starting to breathe a little bit easier. You’re not feeling as congested. You’re going to have more energy. You’re not going to feel as lethargic, and the lungs themselves are going to start to recover. And they’re going to keep getting better as time progresses.
Kim, now I want to jump more along the lines of, you know, I can go day by day, but it’s going to take quite a bit of time. So let’s look at a bigger picture. So now we’re in about between two weeks to three months. During this time you’re really going to make some of those really substantial strides. You can do more because your lungs are stronger. They’re clearer. Your blood flow has improved. You can exercise without getting as winded. That’s one of the common themes that I see with individuals that not only are trying to quit smoking, but they’re trying to be more active.
They just say, it’s such a limiting factor. So at this point in time you’re going to be experiencing those benefits from being quit for this duration.
Also your risk of heart attack, it’s going to go down even further. In this timeframe, you’ve actually made it through the hardest part of withdrawal. Even so, you might still get cravings. Everyone has different triggers for wanting to smoke at the end of the day. You can’t stop all of them.
But you can stick to that plan, whatever that is that you decided to do, and if you need it, you can ask for help. Other ways, think about the money that you’re saving or some deep breathing techniques. So take ten deep breaths, nice and slow. Inhale for maybe four seconds, exhale for four seconds. Try that ten times, reassess the situation. Just kind of go from there.
So now let’s look at from three to nine months. At this point you can take deeper, clearer breaths, which is fantastic. Instead of hacking, you cough in a helpful way that actually starts clearings things out, that phlegm, mucus. And then at the same time you’re going to have lower susceptibility to getting colds or any other illness. And the biggest factor here, you’re just going to be that much more energetic moving forward.
So now let’s look at years. So I’m going to talk a little bit about one year, five year, ten year, fifteen year, just because these are longer periods of time. But they’re still so significant as you can see to make progress being smoke free.
So at the end of year one, again, as a coach, I do like using – treating yourself as a motivation. Again, that’s going to be different for everyone. You reached an amazing milestone at one year, and your risk of heart disease is now half of what it was a year ago. That’s pretty phenomenal I would think.
So now let’s jump to five years. Your chances of a stroke and cervical cancer are now the same as a non-smoker. And compared to when you first quit, you’re half as likely to get cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus or the bladder. That’s awesome.
Now ten years, compared to someone who still smokes, you’re now half as likely to die from lung cancer. And the chances you’ll get cancer of the larynx, larynx being the voice box and pancreas, they both drop as well.
Now hitting that 15 year mark of not smoking, the chances that you’ll get heart disease are in a sense the same as if you’ve never smoked. Your body has done a ton of recovery and healing. When you start out it really seems like a really long road. I mean, 15 years, that’s almost half of my life.
But at 15 years, the headaches, those discomforts that you first had during those few first weeks, they’re really a hazy memory now. It’s not something you really think about. They can seem unbearable at the time, but hey, taking those small steps, you can get through it. The rewards are very real and clear.
So looking at it from the first 20 minutes all the way up to 15 years, you can see how much progress and recovery and improvement in one that used to smoke would experience as they make these small strides to becoming smoke free.
Kim Constantinesco: Exactly. You’ve just described some incredible benefits over the course of a life span really to quitting. And I know changing health habits in itself is incredibly hard, whether you’re talking about increasing your physical activity or working on your weight. But you factor in a substance that’s physiologically so addictive and it ups the difficulty of quitting. So my next question for you is, how do you know if you are ready to try quitting?
Matthew Vazquez: Yeah, and that’s a great question, and there isn’t necessarily an exhaustive list to really know when you’re ready to quit smoking. But I do want to share a few that may resonate with individuals that are maybe ambivalent. So they’re kind of looking at the pros and cons. They’re kind of on the fence. But the first thing is, you have at least three good reasons to quit. Let’s just say you’re this person, you want to ask yourself basically the why. Why do I want to quit? And in all honesty, there’s really so many valid answers.
And individual might say, hey, I want better health. Maybe I want to live longer. Concerning welfare of those that are around you. Saving money. Everything down to – this is more for males, erectile dysfunction, that might be a good reason. And as I mentioned, the list really goes on. And acknowledging these high stakes, that’s going to be a motivator. So that’s one aspect.
Another, you believe quitting is going to be more beneficial than smoking. So you won’t be able to kick the habit until you acknowledge how much better life will be without cigarettes. So kind of imagining yourself – how much better is my situation going to be in the future if I don’t have cigarettes compared to how it is right now? Because cigarettes, they have a place for a lot of individuals, especially that I’ve worked with, where it’s been their best friend. They’ve always been there for them. So it might be difficult to overcome that hurdle.
But if you can look at the big picture and the future and you can establish a better relationship without cigarettes and we see that benefit, that’s fantastic. So what I would say as a recommendation for that, just kind of write down the pros and cons of smoking. And if those cons outweigh the pros, hey, you’re pretty much good to go. That would be another way to know if you’re ready.
And then another thing is just, you’ve come to terms with the risks. It can be hard to take health risks seriously if you’re not feeling adverse effects. So in fact your health and physical performance are almost certainly suffering.
That’s why cigarette packs are covered with these grotesque images of blackened teeth, cancerous lungs, other pictures of the like. And you may not have cancer or lung disease at this moment. But the chances of being afflicted in the future, they’re unfortunately going to skyrocket if you smoke.
Another way to face reality is to sit through first person video accounts of the physical devastation caused by smoking or to engage with friends or family members who are battling a tobacco related affliction. And this kind of hits home too.
My dad’s dad, my grandpa, he passed away from smoking. He was addicted to the point where I don’t even know how many cardiac episodes he had. But every time he woke up from these situations, the first thing he would say, I’m going to say it in Spanish and then in English. (Spanish) Which is basically saying, “Hey, where the heck’s my pipe?”
So imagine how much of a strain that addiction had to him where he’s facing these catastrophic health effects, but the addiction is just that strong where regardless of the situation, it’s still overpowering him. So I have other family members that still smoke. And it’s one of those unfortunate situations.
But at the end of the day, it really has to resonate for you if you’re ready to make that decision.
Another thing is, maybe you’re an experienced quitter. Very few smokers kick the habit on their first try. Those aborted attempts shouldn’t be seen as failures. You’ve already had a taste of the cigarette cravings you must overcome. As we all know, a little experience, it does go a long way. So you’ve tried things. They didn’t work. Reflect on what aspects about it weren’t so successful. But what are some things you can take away that you can utilize on this next quit attempt that you’re ready to make?
And then one of the final things, and I feel like this is really crucial, is you already have a support system. So family, loved ones, community, a support group, they probably want you to quit. Not to say that you want to quit for them.
At the end of the day you want to quit for yourself. But you want to let them know how serious you are. There’s a good chance they’re willing to do whatever it takes to help you get there. Maybe one of those situations might be, hey, if I ever have a cigarette in my mouth, take it away. Throw it out (inaudible) back in the trash. Absolutely want to offer some distractions when those cravings kick in. Just things that can replace those specific moments where you are smoking and allowing them to really step in. It’s going to take some of that burden off your shoulders and deliver the most important message there is. You’re not alone. You’ve got that support. You have those individuals there. They love you. They care for you. They want you to be successful.
Another thing too as a coach, I always let my users know that I’m here for you too at the end of the day. Like I mentioned at the beginning, I am a health coach. I’m your cheerleader. I’m at your corner. I’m here to support you. I’m not here to pressure you to do what you don’t want to do. I want to understand you. And at the end of the day, I feel like that goes a long way. If they just know that someone’s there in their corner with this really, really monumental, difficult task at hand.
Kim Constantinesco: I feel like what you just described, it tells me that quitting something like smoking, it involves navigating a lot of feelings. And having people who love you around you, having your community or even a work colleague who can kind of step in and shoulder some of that burden as you’re trying to quit is incredibly helpful.
And so many people talk about big emotions, like stress, anger, grief, joy, happiness, being a trigger for wanting to smoke. And you brought that up earlier when you told me about your personal experience with smoking and how it helped you escape and kind of deal with a really difficult situation in your life. So what strategies would you offer to people in the area of handling their emotions around tobacco?
Matthew Vazquez: Yeah, and you make some good points. Specific life events are tough, and they can lead to various levels of emotions as you just described. So it’s not uncommon if someone has you smoking as a means to cope with those such emotions, like you mentioned, stress, anger, joy. Because let’s face it, smoking for a lot of individuals I’ve worked with, it was the joy of their day. They had a stressful day or depending on the role, maybe they got into an argument with a spouse or something happened. And it just kind of gave them that relief of, that de-stress moment. That oh gosh, cigarettes are here for me.
So you’re absolutely correct. So like I said, if something happens at work or if there’s a family situation, maybe you get cut off in traffic, it can lead to some various frustrations that may be a trigger for that cigarette. In these circumstances it’s really best to understand what the underlying cause is and what really led to wanting that cigarette and finding coping strategies to best prepare for those situations of stronger emotions.
There really isn’t one approach that would work for everyone. But some successful means may include – one thing I like to utilize is pattern disruption, basically to de-condition a given behavior. Because let’s just say X occurs and you always have Y behavior. So you condition yourself to responding a certain way when that situation is occurring. If you can somehow disrupt that pattern specifically, it doesn’t really matter how, you’ll start de-conditioning that specific behavior moving forward.
So in a sense if you can substitute a negative response for something positive, example, instead of going for let’s just say a cigarette when you have a bad encounter with customer service, maybe practice a breathing exercise. Go for a walk. Actually exercise is really, really beneficial and it doesn’t have to be anything major. It’s just something that even a short bout of a few minutes of activity could curb some of those cravings, and especially if you have a trigger, for up to about 60 minutes.
So as I was talking about earlier with some of the benefits you start to experience, I think it was around day two, you have those cravings that are tough. But after about five to ten minutes they overcome. So if you can do a walk or do some guided meditation, something of that nature, hey, that’s up to 60 minutes. So you’ve already gone through that. Another thing is just telling yourself stop.
Acknowledging that something’s going on and you’re mindful of that situation and just getting into the habit of understanding those specific triggers and emotions. And if you can tell yourself stop in that moment and just breathe, take a moment to gather your thoughts, those might be some viable options as kind of a first step.
And just like with anything, it’s going to take practice to implement a new behavior. So as time progresses, again, it’s going to look different for everyone. But I think as a starting point that’s a good place to begin.
Kim Constantinesco: Well, let’s dive deep and talk about some strategies for actually quitting. Give us some guidance into building a quit strategy.
Matthew Vazquez: Yeah, I’d love to. So like you mentioned, let’s focus on someone that really – their end goal is, hey, you know what, I want to quit smoking. It’s not something I want to do anymore. I want to do it for X reasons. So first off, they’re going to be the ones that make that conscious choice. It has to really resonate with them, and there has to be a reason behind it. Me as a coach, we want to meet the person where they are. We never want to make them feel pressured or obligated to do something they’re really not ready to do.
So a few things that this individual can do. First is listing their reasons for quitting. As I said, only they can decide when they’re ready to quit smoking. Therefore, they need to be clear on that “why,” why they are making that decision and what’s going to motivate them to quit.
Making a list of the reasons for quitting is going to be that foundation to support their quit smoking plan. Some reasons, they might include – some of the typical things I hear at least is, I want to improve my health. I want to lower my risk for disease in the future. I don’t want to expose family or friends to second-hand smoke. I want to save money. Or I just don’t want to do it anymore. It could be as simple as that. So just kind of a starting point, making that list.
Next, picking a quit date. Pick a specific day within the next month to quit smoking or further, whatever really resonates with the individual. If their quit date as I mentioned is too far in the future, it might be a little bit harder to follow through. But at the same time, they need to give themselves that time to prepare for that. Especially if it’s something that they’re barely starting to explore. They might pick a random day, a day that would likely be less stressful or a day that hold special meaning for them. Such as a birthday or a holiday. And they might want to mark this date on their calendar.
So what I usually do in the situation where, let’s just say a user is telling me, hey, what date would you recommend? After building rapport, getting an understanding of what their lifestyle is like, what their work schedule is like, if I know that they have something stressful coming up in the next few weeks, then hey, maybe during the week might not be the best situation for that. Just because if you’re going to make this quit date effective, you want to have the least amount of stressors. You basically want to be in control of the day.
So typically weekends usually work for someone that, you know, I’m just going to use a hypothetical, 9:00 to 5:00 worker, even though nowadays with the way things are going on, schedules have been really varied. So it’s really understanding what’s going to work best for that individual.
Next you want to prepare for that quit date that they’re establishing. With lots of research, it’s actually shown that a combination as well with medical treatments and behavior counseling, does improve the likelihood of successfully quitting. With these interventions it’s going to take time and planning.
They also need time to consider and prepare other support tools and strategies. So some of those preparations, they might include letting their family members, friends know, coworkers, those that really resonate with them. If they are using medical treatments, having that conversation with their physician. Whether it’s something like a Wellbutrin or a Chantix or if they’re using nicotine replacement therapy.
Just understanding if a combination is going to work better. So combination basically meaning they’re going to use the patch with a lozenge or a patch with the gum or some sort of combination. And then like I mentioned with the behavior counseling, if they’re speaking to a coach, it’s going to help solidify that as they move forward.
Another thing that in this kind of realm is, you’re going to want to ask your doctor about medications. You might want to find a support program. Support programs have been really beneficial as well. Like I said, you want to tell people.
Maybe you want to clean your environment. Maybe there’s ashtrays or specific routines throughout your household that you’ve established. And those routines might elicit a trigger. So if you can clean your environment, there’s less susceptibility to smoke. Kind of that mindset, out of sight, out of mind.
So if you have that household that can allow that, that’s going to be a lot more effective. And then also stocking up on substitutes. So having some items on hand where you can substitute for that cigarette that you’re used to having in your mouth. So maybe a sugarless gum, hard candy, straws, cinnamon sticks, carrot sticks, whatever it may be, you can utilize these things. And then also there’s a lot of that hand fixation, that oral – I should say hand to mouth.
So maybe having a squeeze ball. Having something that you can hold that might mimic that feeling would be beneficial.
Another thing, this might sound silly, but scheduling a dental cleaning. So have your teeth cleaned to remove any of those nicotine stains. A fresh start on your teeth, it might be a motivation to not smoke. Like hey, I just got these cleaned. So I don’t want to smoke. It’s going to be a motivator.
And then last, just reflect. So if an individual has tried to quit smoking before but took it up again, you really want to think about those challenges, those hurdles, those kind of hiccups that they might have faced, and why did they start it again? What worked? What didn’t? Think about ways that they can definitely handle it this time.
But another thing I did want to talk about is just handling a quit day and then just staying quit. So getting through their quit day, we talked about emotions. And yeah, that quit date can be really emotional and physically challenging, especially as strong tobacco cravings, they strike. They might be present.
So some of the tips to get through it may include things, just being mindful of, hey, I’m not going to smoke, not even just once. Those cravings are going to go through. So utilizing different things to overcome those cravings. I talked about medication. If that’s one thing that they want to utilize, hey, using a nicotine replacement therapy would be beneficial. If there are moments that maybe they have those strong cravings and withdrawals despite medication, they might want to speak to their doctor just to adjust potentially that medication to better control those specific symptoms.
A lot of reminders, so that going back to the why at the end of the day they wanted to stop smoking. Staying hydrated. So making sure that you’re drinking plenty of water. I talked about the importance of physical activity. So if you’re keeping yourself physically active. Avoiding situations and people that trigger the urge to smoke. This is one of the things that I struggled with when I was younger. I was in those situations where smoking was just there, and those were the times where it was tough for me, just because it filled that void. It was something that I enjoyed. But when I wasn’t there, I didn’t have the urge.
So if that’s something that an individual might struggle with, hey, let’s find ways where you won’t be in those situations. I mentioned already attending a support group, counseling session or a stop smoking class. Another thing that I think is really important is to practice stress management and relaxation techniques. So things like a guided imagery, a progressive muscle relaxation, square breathing. There’s so many different ones.
Let’s just say a user has some questions about that, doing some research or speaking to a professional that might be able to guide them through some of those exercises themselves. Talked about keeping your hands busy with cigarettes substitutes for an activity. So maybe writing or knitting might be up your alley. Another thing is just kind of keeping the mind distracted when necessary. So with a book or crossword puzzle. Like I mentioned that patterned interruption, that thing is going to be huge for them.
And then when it comes to staying quit, with a quit smoking plan to guide them, they’re going to have the resources they can lean on when they quit smoking. The more resources that they have in place, so we mentioned a lot, the support groups, nicotine replacement or medications that they use, coaching, doctor’s advice, the reflection, the more likely they’re going to be able to quit that smoking habit for good long-term.
So in a sense just kind of summarizing, the more that they have in place, the more preparation that one does, it’s really going to be key to being smoke free for the remainder of their lives.
Kim Constantinesco: You’ve given some great tips here, and I know you and I have talked about even more specific strategies around things like identifying triggers and beating your triggers. And so I will drop your outline in the notes section of the show. But I want to talk about, let’s say you’ve quit. You’ve got a great streak going of not smoking for let’s say 25 days. But then one thing leads to another and you’re back using tobacco. Talk about recovering from a miss and getting back on track.
Matthew Vazquez: Yeah, and slip aren’t too uncommon. But I think what I would want to focus on first off is acknowledging how awesome it is that they’ve made it that far in their journey of being smoke free. I personally would want to ask them what has been helping them stay successful for that time period. So let’s just say a user quit for 25 days. What their experience has been like up to that point. I kind of – I like looking at a slip as just someone that, let’s just say they’ve been eating well for 25 days, assuming that they’re making some eating habit modifications.
But maybe they go eating at a fast food restaurant and they completely go off the wall with just one meal. Because of that, just because they experienced it, it doesn’t mean that that meal is ruining their diet and it’s now over. Because you can overcome. It’s like okay, I made this decision. It wasn’t the best. But hey, I’ve still had this streak of 25 days. I can chalk this up as a hiccup, reflect, and it could be applied with the slip as well.
So the key really is to understand what happened during, let’s just say day 26 and how to address those specific circumstances to better prepare for those future scenarios. That may be difficult, and that’s one of the things that sometimes a lot of users miss that are trying to quit, where they have the mindset of, okay, I want to quit. I’m going to do this, this and this. And then quit day comes and they’re successful for a few days. But what’s the long-term strategy? What am I going to do if X happens? What if Y occurs? How am I going to handle this situation?
So it’s not to say that you want those situations to occur. But if you have more tools in your toolbox to address these situations, the better prepared you’re going to be for those unknown challenges. The more likely you’re going to be able to succeed at the end of the day. So it’s just being mindful that what’s happened? And it’s how you react to that specific slip. Not saying that you’ve gone off the rail because you had that one little slip. It’s just kind of taking a few steps back as I mentioned already, addressing the situation, reflecting on it. And then just moving forward from it.
It’s like, hey, it happened. It’s okay. I had this streak. You know what, let’s continue on. Let’s hit another streak, and let’s just keep looking forward. Let’s not look back a negative, but rather as a learning opportunity to continue to make progress moving forward. And if slips happen in the future, again, it’s just being mindful that it’s not uncommon. It’s something that you don’t need to beat yourself up. It’s more just acknowledging that hey, they might happen. What can I do to better prepare myself next time? And just moving along in that direction.
Kim Constantinesco: Totally. I mean, we’re humans, right, we’re not robots. We are going to slip up. There’s never a bad time to start again. And I think people can take solace in that. So we are just about out of time Matthew. But before ending the show, I just want to find out, is there anything else that you would like to add?
Matthew Vazquez: Yeah, just when it comes to smoking, specifically nicotine, like I mentioned, it’s just one of the hardest addictions to beat. And it’s something that working with a lot of tobacco users, a lot of smokers, it really resonates. And if it was something that was that easy, we might not even be having this conversation.
At the end of the day for most, it’s really going to be tough. It’s going to be uncomfortable. And it may be one of the hardest things you might strive to accomplish.
But at the end, that’s okay. As I mentioned, if it was easy, you wouldn’t have advocates like myself here wanting to find the best way to support those in their time of need and with what they are ready to do. As a coach that works with all types of individuals Kim, I basically want them to know that I’m in their corner. I will do the best to guide and support them on their journey.
My goal is to utilize every single resource. Not just at my disposal, but at their disposal and know that the journey itself, it’s not going to be a linear. There – it’s going to be – just imagine a roller coaster. There’s going to be bumps along the road, and those are just little hiccups, that it’s something that we can overcome, conquer together towards that long-term goal of being smoke free.
Kim Constantinesco: Excellent. Well Matthew, thanks so much for coming on the show. It’s been a pleasure. It’s been super fun to have you on, and you’ve delivered such great information related to smoking.
Matthew Vazquez: Yeah, thanks Kim. I appreciate the opportunity to just kind of share my experiences, my insights. Things from a personal perspective, because being a health coach, I’m not a perfect individual. I don’t think I’ll ever be. But just know that I continue to strive to do the best to serve the individuals I work with. And that’s something that One Drop really resonates with. So thank you so much.
Kim Constantinesco: Keep it here for more episodes and more health experts ready and willing to share their top tips to help you live the life you want to live. We’re in this together.
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