If you’ve never been through withdrawals, it sucks. That’s the honest truth, but it’s well worth it in the end.
You emerge with a feeling of freedom like you wouldn’t believe. It’s not until your freedom is gone that you realize just how valuable it is. Nicotine routinely takes that freedom away from people and unsuspecting teenagers. You can regain your freedom, but you’re going to have to be strong through the withdrawal phase. Here’s what you can expect.
Craving a smoke is the most obvious symptom of withdrawals. The cravings can get pretty intense, so it’s wise to prepare yourself. You know the feeling of being really hungry after an extended period of time with no food? You might feel similar to that, but instead of the feeling being geared toward hunger, you’ll want to smoke. One of the best things you can do during this period is to stay away from smokers and places you used to go while smoking. Seeing people smoking is very hard to do while going through withdrawals. It’ll intensify the feeling.
Crankiness, irritation, and stress are all common symptoms. You’ll find things, that used to go unnoticed, to be the biggest nuisance in the world. You might even find yourself being mean to people you love because they are now irritating you. I found that the best way to prepare for this is to tell the people you’ll be around that you’re quitting and might be a little irritable and cranky. They won’t understand what it feels like unless they’ve been through something similar, but at least they be more aware of why you’re not acting like your normal self.
Headaches are another one of those things that you’ll have to power through if you want to quit successfully. Having a headache is always annoying, and nicotine headaches are no different. It’ll contribute to your irritability and crankiness.
Anxiety and depression can also set in during this phase. These are tough. Life just doesn’t have the allure that it once had when you’re anxious and depressed. You’ve probably experienced some form of depression before, knowingly or not. If you have, hopefully you know some tricks that can help you beat this. If not, then checkout this WebMD article for some pointers. From my experience, it’s best to stay busy and be around people whom you respect and they support you. I’ve found that being around people you respect forces you to show strength that you didn’t even know you had.
Insomnia and fatigue are pretty annoying and bothersome. You just won’t have the mojo you once had. It can easily effect the whole next day because you’re not well rested and are struggling to make it though the day. If you have a daily routine, it can be thrown off when you’re going through insomnia. I found myself taking naps and letting my productivity erode.
Increased appetite is common because cigarettes are an appetite suppressant. Nicotine released dopamine and serotonin in your brain which suppress your appetite (1). After you stop smoking, you won’t be getting any of these chemicals released in your brain from nicotine. More than likely, your appetite will increase dramatically. If you don’t want to gain weight, try to satiate your appetite with low calorie-dense foods like fruit and salad. Drinking the appropriate amount of water can also help reduce hunger.
Other symptoms you might experience include postnasal drip, cotton mouth, sore throat, constipation, and chest tightness.
Nicotine has an effect on even the smallest systems in your body, so the symptoms you’ll experience can happen in a wide range of areas. The first week is always the hardest, but you still can experience symptoms for two weeks up to a month. If you can make it past the first week, then you’ve completed the hardest part of the journey and are well on your way to reclaiming your freedom.
Tips on Beating the Cravings
Exercise can help you manage the severity of the symptoms. It’s a proven mood booster and boosting your mood when you’re going through the struggle of nicotine withdrawals can be a huge help.
Celebrating each day you remain cigarette-free is an accomplishment worth celebrating. By celebrating, you will make the process fun and rewarding instead of punishment-like. It’s hard enough as it is, there’s no need to make it harder.
Smoke cessation devices can help a lot. They’re designed to help you taper back on nicotine instead of quitting cold turkey. If you quit cold turkey, your chance of success is only 3.5% (2). By still getting nicotine, it’ll reduce the withdrawal symptoms and make them a lot more manageable. Vaping is technically not a smoking cessation aid according to the FDA, but it does effectively deliver nicotine to your body without the tar and thousands of chemicals found in cigarettes.
Changing your environment can have a huge impact on your success. If you stay in the same environment, you’ll fall into the same patterns of behavior, including smoking. Switch it up to avoid the same stimuli that usually triggers you to pull out a cigarette.