Healthy living

Staying stopped – how to cope with difficult times without smoking

For many recent quitters, certain times or situations are more likely to trigger an urge to smoke. If you can anticipate when these may occur, and plan ahead how you will cope, then you are more likely to resist temptations.

Think and stay positive

Just as your body is adjusting physically to life without cigarettes, you also need to adjust mentally to thinking of yourself as a non-smoker. Keep reminding yourself why you have quit.

Focus on the benefits of being a non-smoker. Remind yourself that any withdrawal symptoms or cravings will pass, and that they are a good sign that your body is recovering. Repeat to yourself with determination: ‘I can do it’.

Challenge negative thoughts

It’s important not to let negative thoughts destroy your determination to remain a non-smoker. Below are some common negative thoughts with suggestions for confronting them.

Just one cigarette won’t hurt

‘Just one’ is how most people go back to smoking. It is all too easy to smoke a few at first and soon slip back to being a regular smoker. Don’t let all your efforts go up in smoke.

Be positive, say to yourself ‘It’s just an urge, I can let it pass.’ Most cravings last for only a few minutes. Remember the 4Ds.

I’d enjoy this so much more with a smoke

Don’t think of going without a cigarette as a punishment.

Be positive and enjoy what you are doing – ‘I am enjoying myself, I don’t need a cigarette.’

I need a smoke to help me cope

Remind yourself: ‘Whatever I’m feeling right now, it’s not worth going back to smoking – I can learn to deal with it in some other way.’

If you are feeling stressed, think of how you could reduce the cause of the pressure rather than resorting to a cigarette. It’s the ‘time-out’ from a problem that helps you cope – not the cigarette.

You don’t need to smoke to relax. Cigarettes actually make your body work harder by increasing your heart rate and raising your blood pressure.

Try other means of relaxing, for example, deep breathing, exercising, thinking about something else or doing something you enjoy.

I need a smoke to help me concentrate

Try to find what it was about smoking that helped you to concentrate. Perhaps you have been in the habit of lighting up before starting a new task?

If so, you need to find new ways of getting yourself going. For example, jot down everything that you need to do, put the things you’ll need within easy reach, substitute the cigarette with a drink of water or a healthy snack.

Reward yourself

Giving up smoking is a major achievement, and you deserve to reward and pamper yourself.

Feel proud that you are now a non-smoker. Treat yourself to something you’ve always wanted to do or to have.


  • giving yourself a mental pat on the back every time you overcome an urge to smoke
  • working out how much money you’ve saved so far by not smoking and use it to buy yourself something special
  • keeping busy doing the things you really enjoy
  • taking up a new hobby or sport
  • reading a book or planning your next holiday.

Where to get help


Quitline is a confidential telephone support service staffed by professional advisors who are trained to provide encouragement and support to help you quit.

Phone: 13 7848 (13 QUIT) (local call rates from land line only). Advisors are available from:
  • Monday to Friday 6am – 7pm
  • Saturday 11.30pm – 2.30pm
  • Sunday closed.

Chronic Disease Prevention Directorate

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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