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Managing slip-ups when you quit smoking

Sometimes people trying to quit have a 'slip-up' and smoke.

Having a slip-up can feel disappointing. But there's almost always something you can learn from them to prevent it happening again.

When are slip-ups likely to happen?

Slip-ups can happen when:

  • You experience sudden and strong emotions (sadness, stress or happiness)
  • You find yourself with other smokers who you used to smoke with
  • You find yourself in a situation you used to smoke in (such as after a meal, when drinking alcohol, taking a break at work)
  • You get a strong craving for no obvious reason

Managing emotions if you have a slip-up

If a slip-up happens, the trick is to not beat yourself up about it and not to abandon your goals to quit smoking. A slip up does not undo all your efforts.

Try to avoid 'all or nothing' thinking where you see things in black and white. Don't use words such as 'always', or 'never' eg: "I've had a smoke, so I'll never succeed at reaching my goal".

Try to look at slip-ups in a more balanced way by saying something to yourself like:

  • "Even though I smoked at Suzie's, tomorrow is a new day and I can try to be smoke free from tomorrow onwards."
  • "Even though I smoked when I got home from a stressful day at work on Friday, I now know that stress is a big trigger for my smoking. I'll plan other ways to manage it better for next time."

It's important not to feel like you have fallen off the wagon completely. Don't say: "I've ruined all my hard work, I feel guilty, I've let myself down".

Try to remind yourself that you've had a small diversion, and you can get back on track to stopping smoking.

Moving forward after a slip-up

Learning from the experience is one of the most helpful things you can do after you've had a slip up. Think about:

  • What can you learn from it
  • How you can respond to it

It can be helpful to come up with a plan to deal with a similar situation. That way, if or when it arises again, this will help you stay on track.

One such plan is the 'If-Then' plan. They are a good way of making new habits stick. For example:

  • If a colleague asks me to join them on a smoking break... Then I will tell them that I've quit smoking. I'll add I find being around other people who are smoking makes it hard to stay quit

Find out how to make your own 'If Then' plans, which can help prepare you for difficult situations 

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