After a big meal. When you're stressed out. During a break in the day. Driving. Walking. Watching a baseball game. Smoking is more than an addiction.

For smokers, the act becomes part of daily activities. They add extra time to their morning routine for a cigarette break. Driving home from work, they light one up to help decompress.

Separating smoking from everyday life is challenging. But you can do it. Set yourself up for success, and have a plan.

Being prepared for the challenges plays a huge part in quitting smoking. Here are three ways to help break the habit.

  1.  Use the power of social connection to quit

    If you're a smoker, smoking could be a social norm for you. So, start thinking about using your social connections to help you quit.

    Support from others is key to successfully quitting smoking, according to the National Cancer Institute. Tell your family and friends that you plan on quitting, and specify how they can help you. People who care for you will stand by your choice to be healthier.

    National Cancer Institute

  2.  Address the oral fixation

    If you stop smoking and feel a void because your mouth is used to oral stimulation, make sure you have plan B ready.

    Keep mints, hard candy, gum, sunflower seeds, a toothpick, or water on hand. These items can keep your hands and mouth occupied when you stop smoking.

    Be creative with solutions, and don't be afraid to try several different things until you find one that works.

    The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlighted one former smoker who used a straw to replace smoking in the car. That, along with support of people around her, helped her kick the habit.

    Just be conscientious not to replace smoking with other unhealthy habits, like binging on unhealthy foods, sugary drinks, or snacks.

  3.  Keep your mind and body occupied

    Certain situations, people, and places will undoubtedly trigger your craving for a cigarette. Avoid them as much as possible, at least initially. Over time, when not smoking feels more normal to you than smoking, triggers won't be triggers anymore.

    Until then, get a pen and paper. Write down all your triggers. Identify if the trigger is avoidable. If not, have a plan in place to describe what you'll do instead of lighting up.

    Source: National Cancer Institute

The process won't be easy, but you can do it. Remember to face your challenges and enjoy your successes one day at a time. Each new sunrise marks another smoke-free day in your tally.

Stay positive. Kicking any habit is challenging. But it can be done if you want it bad enough and you allow others to help. Don't be discouraged if you're struggling through the process. Ask for help.

Some great free resources can be found from the CDC, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Cancer Society. You can also talk to one of our EIRMC physicians for advice about how to quit for good.