Call it what you like; a circuit breaker, lockdown, or a tiered approach, but what is certain is that we’re all going to be spending a significant amount of time at home in the coming months. Exacerbated by the stress of this topsy turvy time and the onset of the colder, darker seasons, the temptation is strong to return to old crutches and vices to help tackle the turbulence that lies ahead.

Given the likely higher COVID-19 risks for smokers, in particular, now more than ever before, it’s important to quit or remain smoke free for the months and hopefully years ahead. With this in mind, here are 5 tips for staying smoke free during lockdown. 

KEEP BUSY

The devil makes work for idle fore and middle fingers, and with many of us having more time on our hands than usual, the urge to chain smoke when boredom strikes has been well documented. When you feel the urge building or you’re aware that a trigger lurks just around the corner (say, the clock striking 5pm on a Friday or a particularly stressful Zoom meeting finishing), it’s vital that you keep yourself busy to counteract the urge to light up.

You could take yourself for a walk or jog, watch an episode of your favourite program, do some baking or phone a friend…it’s not the activity which matters, but rather, the keeping busy doing something fresh and wholesome.

TRY ALTERNATIVES 

Trying to stay ‘smober’ – defined by Urban Dictionary as “the act of being nicotine free and no longer smoking; like sober for an alcoholic, smober defines you as being a recovering nicotine addict’’ – totally cold turkey can be tough.

Interestingly, researchers from the university of East Anglia suggest vaping to stay smoke free under lockdown. Dr Notley, who leads the Addiction Research Group at UEA’s Norwich Medical School and researches tobacco smoking cessation and electronic cigarette use (vaping), says “Since completely switching from smoking to vaping improves cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, smokers who switch to vaping might be expected to have a better prognosis if infected by COVID-19”. 

She also notes that it is “concerning that vape shops have closed during the current societal lockdown situation. People who have stopped smoking and switched to vaping can still access the stop smoking service for support, and can still purchase e liquid and vaping consumables online” Indeed, you can buy vape liquid in the UK and further afield over the internet at competitive prices.

However, you should be aware that vaping is not entirely risk-free, and the fluids still contain harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke, although at lower levels. Other nicotine replacements are effective, and more medically approved too. These include gum, nasal spray, lozenges or an inhaler.

SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP

Aside from those alternatives we mentioned, professional help is also available, either for free or at a low cost. The NHS offers a whole range of dedicated services designed to help you stop smoking which you should check out, including one-to-one and group ‘stop smoking’ sessions, which involve discussion and education about the tools available to you to quit. 

You can also contact the free Smokefree National Helpline on 0300 123 1044 in England (0800 84 84 84 for Scotland and 0800 085 2219 for Wales) for a chat and advice on quitting and remaining smoke free.

USE NATURAL STRESS RELIEF TECHNIQUES 

Many people labour under the misapprehension that smoking acts as a long term stress reliever, but this simply isn’t the case. In fact, in many instances, it can increase instances of stress.

Should you turn to cigarettes when you need to keep stress under control, rest assured that there are more wholesome ways to keep calm:

  • Breathing exercises: A simple but highly effective tool for reducing stress and anxiety is our breath. Conscious breathing can be hugely effective in helping you to keep calm in a crisis. Or even, simply, in a moment of unattributable stress.
  • Regular exercise: Helps to improve your mood, reduce stress, boost energy, and improve self-esteem. Physical activity is absolutely critical to emotional wellbeing. In fact, exercise may even be more effective in treating mental issues than medication, according to recent research.  
  • Sleep more: When we suffer from stress and anxiety, our sleep can often suffer, as we lay awake tossing and turning, or light up another cigarette out of the window. Sleep can actually be a powerful antidote to stress and, in turn, your smoking habit.  

Check out our tips on 5 free stress relief strategies for Winter 2020 for more.

CHERISH PROGRESS & POSITIVE CHANGE

Say it out loud so you know how it feels…’I don’t smoke’. Sounds kinda nice, doesn’t it? Embracing and cherishing a little positivity around quitting can be the push you need to keep it going. So, notice the physical changes; a better complexion, brighter teeth, breathing lighter and exercising easier…the list goes on. Go further and acknowledge the money saved; conservative estimates put the cost at £250 each month, or £3000 a year. That’s money you could divert to more wholesome, happy pursuits like a holiday (or two, or three). Result!