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Preventing a Relapse

By Staff | June 8, 2021 | Mayo Clinic Health Information Library

Cravings are part of the process of quitting smoking. Most people experience them in some form or another with varying frequency and intensity. Sometimes these cravings result in slips, where you have one or two cigarettes. A slip becomes a relapse if you give up and return to your old lifestyle of smoking.

As you go through the quit process, watch out for the four main triggers that can lead to a relapse:

  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired

So, when cravings pop up, remember to HALT. Stop for a moment and check in on how you're feeling. Pay attention to what you need.

Remember the 4 Ds

Be ready to deal with cravings when they strike. Have a strategy ready to weather urges without falling back into tobacco use.

Use one or more of the 4 D's to help you through cravings:

  • Delay. Don't respond to your cravings — wait 10 minutes and see if the craving passes.
  • Deep breathe. Taking slow, deep breaths helps calm you. As you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, visualize your lungs filling with fresh air.
  • Drink water. Drinking water gives you something to hold in your hands and put in your mouth.
  • Distract. To help cravings pass more quickly, focus your mind on something else.

For holidays and special occasions when you might be in high-risk situations, plan ahead. Have substitutes handy. Limit alcohol use or avoid it altogether. At gatherings, try to stay with the nonsmokers. Remove yourself from tempting situations.

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