Addressing Smoking Triggers During Isolation

Here we are now, adapting as best as we can, to our new lives during isolation. Naturally, this new way of living can have an impact on quitting smoking attempts (especially with triggers around the house).

We were beginning to see positive results to combat hard to kick habitual cigarettes. Maybe we recently joined the gym to improve our physical well-being and get those endorphins buzzing. But now we’re isolated and it can seem like all that hard work has gone out of the window. As a result, the old triggers to smoking are back with a bang!

In this blog, we’ll share with you 8 tips to help you tackle the smoking triggers in your home


1. Work out what your triggers are…

Simply put, triggers are the people, places, things & situations that set off the urge to smoke. Therefore, it is important to know what your triggers are firstly, and then zoom in on them.

These are different for different people, but according to smokefree.gov triggers fall into 4 categories:

  • emotional (angry, happy or frustrated),
  • habitual or routine (morning coffee, in the car on way to work),
  • social (get together with friends, tea-break at work)
  • withdrawal (nicotine or hand to mouth action).

See Kathy’s experience using Champix to help address withdrawals

2. Identify your triggers at home…

During isolation, we are at home for large parts of the day. Therefore, a strong start would be to identify things that are in your physical space that are an obvious distraction. Cigarettes packets, lighters, ashtray – and throw them out/wash and put them away.

This may seem overwhelming reading this, especially if there is an emotional attachment to these things. Our memories and even our identity intertwined with the act of smoking. But this can also be quite liberating, not to mention having fewer things around to trigger smoking again. Ultimately, we are creating a new personal reality (or personality), from one of a ‘smoker’ to a ‘non-smoker’. Of course, a non-smoker would not have these things in a kitchen drawer!

3. Keep yourself busy…

Start that book you’ve been meaning to read. Listen to that new podcast. Try that challenging crossword.
Open the puzzle box the kids have been pushing for or watch that documentary.

Keeping stimulated and mentally engaged has taken on more importance during isolation. Moreover, the reduction of our social contract means it is a great way to keep off the cravings when boredom kicks in. Taking a look at times when we have been fully immersed in a task, whether at work or play – there is a feeling of being in the zone, being at one with the task or game or book. Point being, the mind is stimulated not bored and restless – a prime trigger.

Take the time to investigate how and where you can use your ‘boredom’ energy for something fun or creative or educational or relaxing. Channel that restlessness into something!

See our top 10 tips for staying motivated during isolation

4. Embrace your emotions…

Years of smoking will most likely have conditioned us in responding to any of our emotions with a cigarette. Examples of these emotions could be:

  • Happy and celebrating a cigarette accompanies
  • Frustrated and annoyed a cigarette provides short-term relief
  • Sad and blue – a cigarette is comforting

The list can go on tailored to the emotions you experience most. Investigating our emotions when triggered to smoke can help combat them and stop reaching for a cigarette.

Next time there is an urge to smoke use the H.A.L.T (Hungry | Angry | Lonely | Tired) checklist (research suggests that 9 out 10 cravings can be traced to these sources)


While you’re here, check out a video from Alison Griffiths. Someone who used our specialist phone service to help her quit smoking!


5. Keep in Touch…

Keeping in touch with friends and family can really motivate you to staying on track. This could be over the phone, on social media or post!

Talk through what you are going through with a friendly face (or voice) in a safe space. This can help re-establish the reasons why you started in the first place and an opportunity to detach from some of the thoughts you may be having about smoking.

Connecting with a specialist stop smoking advisor who you can chat with on your schedule can help when cravings arise. Usually, a talk with someone who can relate is a great medicine.

Using a specialist service means you’re 3 times as likely to quit. They can be there to talk to. To support you through this.

6. The first cigarette in the morning…

You are certainly not alone if this is one of your main triggers.

The nicotine fast overnight can have us primed for the morning hit. The rich aroma, warmth, caffeine and even the process of preparing the perfect brew all trigger feelings and sensations that suggest something is missing. The association between cigarette and first coffee has been reinforced over such a long time that they go hand in hand.

But there was a time when that association did not exist…and so we can work to disassociate the two and the time of day that is most known. For example, try having the first cup of coffee later or in a different room in the house. A subtle change of time and scenery can help break the loop. To begin with, you could even try a different drink in place of that first coffee – a green tea still has a caffeine boost and a grapefruit juice can provide an energising boost of vitamin C. Although, neither have quite the same ring to them as the coffee!

Try 10 minutes of stretching or deep breathing exercises to start your day with a natural release of dopamine. It will make the decision to light up straight after a hard one!

7. Post meal-time…

Another common one, and with the extended periods inside, it can seem like discipline is needed when it comes to opening the fridge every 5 minutes!

If smoking after a meal is a trigger for you, have a think about those immediate moments after the meal. When is the time when we would usually reach for a cigarette?

Instead of reaching for a cigarette you could:

  • reach for a piece of gum or brush your teeth
  • go for a brisk walk
  • wash the dishes
  • peppermint tea is a known digestive and great for after meal-times.

8. Withdrawals…

If you have tried to quit before, you would have experienced cravings for cigarettes. This is because the body and the brain become accustomed, and reliant on, regular doses of nicotine.

Naturally, we have come to enjoy (or feel like we do) the taste & smell of cigarettes. Having something in our hands to play with, the need to have a hand to mouth action. In this instance, perhaps a pen or a carrot stick just won’t cut the mustard! Perhaps NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) is for you.

We offer a range of products which can help with these withdrawals and support your journey to becoming a quitter, especially whilst at home, when a lot of the triggers can become magnified…


How can One You Surrey Help?

We’ll be with you every step of the way. Using tried and tested, scientifically & psychologically proven methods to help you quit. We’re confident we can help you, that’s why we’re the experts after all.

Good news is our service is free to use. All you need to do is sign up (take 45 seconds to fill in our form) and we’ll be in touch.

If you would like more information about the service, click here

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