Want to finally quit smoking? Get some helpful tips from the experts…

Laura Dowling

Laura, Supervising Pharmacist Manager, Stillorgan

Deciding to quit smoking is the single best thing that you can do for your health. Congratulations! You are on the road to a healthier, happier you. Like any bad habit quitting smoking is not easy. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug and your brain and body crave it. You also associate smoking with daily rituals known as trigger factors, which is why it can be so hard to break the cycle of smoking. The good news is that there are many products, both over the counter (OTC) and on prescription available in your pharmacy that can help you on the road to a smoke free life. Your Pharmacist or Doctor can help to advise you on what products are best suited to you, depending on how you smoke and how many cigarettes that you smoke.  They can also provide you with general advice on how to keep that willpower going!

smoking 2

Deciding to quit is the first step below are a few helpful hints and tips on how to keep going:

  1. List your trigger factors and try to avoid or change those situations for at least the first month of quitting. This will increase your chances of success.

Common trigger factors would be:

  • First thing in the morning
  • With tea/coffee
  • In the car
  • Breaks at work
  • With a social drink
  • After a meal
  1. Be kind to yourself
  • Accept that it is extremely hard to quit and take each day at a time. I often tell my patients to not tell themselves that they will never smoke again but rather to tell themselves that they will not smoke today. This will help you not to panic at the thought of never having another cigarette. It is after all a habit that you enjoy, so the thought of never smoking again can be enough to make you fall off the wagon!
  • Reward yourself when you take a positive step forward, such as being cigarette free for a day, a week, two weeks. But do not punish yourself for slipping up. Just get back on the wagon.
  1. Declare your intentions to family and friends so that they can help to support you. Also clearing ashtrays from your home, washing clothes that smell of cigarettes and cleaning the car can help to remove reminders of smoking from your immediate environment.
  2. Prepare healthy snacks. Oranges are particularly good in this instance as peeling them keeps your hands busy and the strong flavour will help to distract from the cravings.
  3. Distract yourself when you are overcome with a craving by fully immersing yourself in an activity. Even brushing your teeth can be a distraction and leaves your mouth feeling fresh and not smoky!                        smoking 3It can also be helpful to remember that the health benefits to quitting smoking are immediate. They are a reminder to you about how far you have come.Health benefits timeline:

    After 20 mins: Your heart rate returns to normal.

    After 8 hours: Oxygen levels return to normal.

    After 48 hours: Your body is cleared of carbon monoxide. Lungs begin to rid themselves of mucus and other debris. Smell and taste improves.

    2-12 weeks: Circulation and breathing improves. Walking is easier and skin is more radiant.

    >12 weeks: Lung function increases by up to 10%. Coughs, wheezing and breathing problems reduce.

    After 1 year: Risk of heart disease is halved compared to someone who is still smoking.

    After 10 years: Your chance of getting lung cancer is half of that of a current smoker.

    After 15 years: Your risk of a heart attack or stroke is the same as that of someone who has never smoked.

     

    Good luck and remember that your Pharmacist is always here to help in any way that they can!

 

Mindfulness and how it works in the modern world

maria

Maria,
Clinical Governance Pharmacist at LloydsPharmacy

The world we live in is a fast paced world. Our brains and bodies are becoming wired to be always thinking ahead. With this comes an increase level of stress and anxiety in our lives. A consistent and prolonged state of anxiety can lead to a weakened immune system, depression, high blood pressure, and gastric problems. It is essential that we learn to ‘self- check’ and monitor our levels of anxiety. A certain level of anxiety is normal in our lives. It is our natural ‘fight or flight’ and ensures we accomplish what needs doing. However when these levels go out of synch then we see it impacting our health. Therefore the act of mindfulness is a series of simple techniques and approaches to help us to focus on the present. From this we learn to reduce our levels of stress and overwhelming anticipation. With the launch of our CYHD programme in our 93 stores, we in LloydsPharmacy are very focused on boosting wellbeing and attaining a better lifestyle.

 

How can you practice Mindfulness on a daily basis?

  • Meditation: A very simple technique and one of the most utilised approaches to mindfulness. It can be as simple as a few minutes in the morning or evening depending on your routine. Find a quiet, decluttered space in your home and make yourself feel comfortable. Some people choose to sit on a chair while others prefer to sit on the ground with their legs crossed and arms rested. Gently close your eyes and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. You may notice your breath is quite shallow. Therefore to allow you to breathe more deeply and hence relax, hold your breath for approximately 5 seconds and then exhale. Once you have become more relaxed return to your normal breath pattern. Become aware of how you are feeling in your overall body. Are some areas of your body tight and tense? Allow yourself to acknowledge how you are feeling. Your thoughts begin to wander, that is completely fine. Let your mind wander. Listen to the sound of your environment and allow yourself to take sense of your environment. Again acknowledge this moment. Some people may like to stay in this state for 10 – 15 minutes, others longer. Once you feel you are ready, then gently soften your gaze, open your eyes and focus on where you are. Assess how you are feeling now after the session. Many people feel a greater sense of calm and their bodies, both physically and mentally, are more relaxed. This meditative approach can be done daily or weekly depending on what you feel works best for you. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. Some people bespoke their meditation to incorporate gentle music in the background, the burning of essential oils such as lavender or adding in gentle yoga sequences. Again see what works best for you.

 

  • Gratitude Journal: The concept of journaling is something we are all familiar with. It has been found that recording what we are grateful for allows us to appreciate the present, reduce stress levels and increase our levels of happiness. Again there is no right or wrong way to journal. Some people like to record two or three points maybe twice a week of what they are grateful for. Many find it therapeutic reviewing what they have recorded over time.

 

  • Online resources: There are many mindfulness apps that can guide you in your practice. ‘Headspace’ is an excellent app that you can download on your phone. It has many guided exercises that allow you as a beginner to get started. Other apps include the ‘smiling mind’ which has exercises for children and young adults, as well as the app ‘conscious, to name just a few.

Above are just a few pointers in directing you to including mindfulness in your daily routine. As you will see, the approach is personal to the individual. Even just by focussing on our breathing, recording our thoughts and taking time to acknowledge our presence can help in adding balance to our busy lives. To finish a quote I really like, ‘mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and the experience’ (Jon Kabatt Zin) and as we all know, we must be friends with ourselves first and foremost.

Good health’s not just for January, it’s for life!

Laura Dowling

Laura, Supervising Pharmacist Manager, Stillorgan

New year, new you! …. Screams every second Facebook post and magazine article that I have read over the past couple of weeks. The post-Christmas bulge and general feeling of guilt after a month (or more!) of over indulgence during the silly season generally encourages people to jump on the health bandwagon. Dry January, gym memberships and dieting can all contribute to a healthier lifestyle but a proper understanding of nutrition and portion sizes can lead to a healthier you for life.

Here at LloydsPharmacy we can help you to achieve your health goals with nutrition and exercise advice as well as taking regular measurements of your weight, waist circumference and upper arm. We can guide you through our eight week programme with enthusiasm and understanding. But our aim is to ultimately arm you with the tools that will help you to carry on with your new, healthy lifestyle for the months and years beyond our programme.

We will encourage you to set realistic goals when it comes to weight loss. Most calorie restrictive diets flounder after five weeks as calorie restriction in the long term is very unachievable. Life just tends to get in the way! Nights out, weddings and parties often end up with our patients falling off the weight loss wagon. Sometimes people just find it too difficult to get back on it again and they are plagued with feelings of guilt and self-loathing which in turn can lead to more overeating.

I always give my patients the following tips:

  • Meal planning and preparation with lots of vegetables, whole grains and lean meats is so important. It prevents you from overeating the wrong kids of foods when you are very hungry.
  • Experiment with new recipes: herbs and spices add delicious flavours to food, chickpeas are nourishing, very versatile, cheap and so easy to add to recipes.
  • Alcohol provides empty calories that does not satiate and often causes overeating, so limit your alcohol consumption.
  • Correct weight loss involves 80% diet and 20% exercise. Pounding away in the gym is of little benefit if your diet is not healthy and portion controlled.
  • Portion size is so important. The correct portion size for rice, pasta and potatoes is the cooked amount that would fit in the palm of your hand. This is considerably less than the large platefuls of pasta that we have become used to eating. You can bulk up your plate with fresh veggies and salads to satiate your appetite and fill your belly!
  • Increase your activity levels. Get your heart rate going and break a sweat! For some this can be as simple as a 20 minute brisk walk every day. You will achieve your weight loss goal quicker and healthier if you do this.
  • Focus on inches lost rather than kilograms/ pounds lost.

The ‘feel good’ factor of living a healthier life should not be underestimated.  A healthy lifestyle can lead to elevated mood, increased energy levels and libido. Clothes will fit you better and you will look much better too. The health benefits are numerous:  lower blood pressure, less likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, lower cholesterol, lower incidences of depression and anxiety… the list goes on.

Vitamin and mineral supplements can really help you to achieve your goals too, especially in the first few weeks of the program. They can boost your energy levels (Revive Active, Quinton Cell Nutrition, Oxylent), decrease your sugar cravings (Miss Fit Crave, Pharma Nord Chromium) and help to increase your overall feeling of wellbeing. A good Vitamin D supplement can also help with mood elevation as we definitely do not get enough sun in this dreary part of the world, especially during these cold and dark winter months.

I will end by reassuring you that everyone falls off the wagon at some stage. At LloydsPharmacy we are here to help you to get back up onto it. We don’t judge, we just offer sound advice and empathetic encouragement. Good luck!

Laura Dowling is the Supervising Pharmacist Manager at LloydsPharmacy in Stillorgan Shopping centre.  She is a health and wellbeing enthusiast and mum to three young boys.

What is ‘Change Your Health Direction’?

Lisa Walsh Headshot Corporate

Lisa Walsh
Life Coach and Training Specialist for LloydsPharmacy

Change Your Health Direction (CYHD) is a FREE 8-week programme offering you the opportunity to visit your local LloydsPharmacy, where one of our trained in-store coaches will speak with you on a weekly basis about your health goals. Our instore health advisory services include smoking control support, blood pressure and BMI checks, weight management diary, lifestyle and health coaching sessions. 

The New Year is a wonderful opportunity for us all to align our health goals and lifestyle habits to keep us on track with everyday healthy living and wellbeing practices. Rather than taking something away from your life as a resolution, I love to ‘take on’. This year I am taking on healthy habits that will improve my lifestyle and wellbeing.

So I am super excited to be part of the ‘Change Your Health Direction’ 8 week programme. What I adore about CYHD is that it gives me 8 weeks to monitor the healthy habits I wish to commit to with the support of a Health Coach in my local LloydsPharmacy and it’s for FREE! Yes, I can have a one-to one mini consultation session with the CYHD coach on a weekly basis all for free!

After the Christmas eating, TV watching and couch cuddling, I am ready to increase my exercise levels again, monitor my immune system, care for my skin more and focus on eating a balanced nutritious diet.  The first step is to meet with my LloydsPharmacy Health Coach and set realistic achievable goals. I can’t wait to ‘take on’ the CYHD programme.

Small changes can make a big difference. Whatever change you choose to ‘take on’ your LloydsPharmacy Health Coach is there to support you as you introduce healthier habits into your lifestyle.

Happy New Year to you all and best of luck with whatever you choose to “take on” for 2018.