When you’re planning to quit smoking, it helps to be aware of what challenges you can expect along the way. Nicotine addiction has physical, mental and social components and to stay smoke-free you’ll need to learn how to manage the challenges associated with each. We are frequently asked questions about the common obstacles people face when they want to quit smoking.
Here’s a quick lowdown of what to expect when you give up cigarettes:
What kind of nicotine withdrawal symptoms will I have?
Look at nicotine withdrawal symptoms as a sign that you are healing
Nicotine is the main addictive substance in cigarettes and when you smoke regularly your body and brain get addicted to nicotine. When you give up cigarettes, your body has to get used to not having nicotine, which is what causes withdrawal symptoms. Craving cigarettes, feeling sad or irritable or having trouble sleeping are some of the common symptoms you can expect. Less common symptoms include constipation, a feeling of dizziness, mouth ulcers or cold-like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat, and sneezing. Nicotine cravings are what you will deal with the longest so do your best to avoid triggers and draw up a plan to cope with smoking craving.
Withdrawal can be challenging but it helps to look at the symptoms as a sign that your body is recovering. For most people, the worst symptoms last between a few days to a few weeks. Nicotine replacement therapy can be helpful to manage withdrawal and deal with cravings. It also helps to have a plan to deal with the challenges brought on by quitting that will help you stay smoke-free.
Will I feel emotional when I quit smoking? I’m worried about having to deal with anxiety and depression.
It’s OK to not feel your best
Making the decision to quit smoking is a big life change and it’s perfectly natural to experience heightened emotions during this stage. You may feel irritable, angry, anxious and may experience feelings of depression. Remember that the emotional upheaval is perfectly normal and is also just a passing phase. Focus on the reason you want to quit and the many benefits of quitting smoking that you stand to gain, to stay committed to quitting and have the right perspective. Building a support group of friends and family and speaking to a trained counselor will also help. If you have a history of anxiety or depression, speak to your doctor about additional support to help you through this phase.
I’ve heard that most people put on a lot of weight when they quit smoking. Will that happen to me as well?
Weight gain may just be a temporary blip in your quest to quit
Quitting smoking is not always accompanied by weight gain but it is fairly common. Cigarettes contain two chemicals, serotonin, and dopamine, that reduce hunger, so when you stop smoking your appetite will increase for a while. A lot of people who are trying to quit also snack to fill the time instead of smoking. What’s more, when you quit you may crave more sweets and carbs. It helps to plan ahead and have healthy snacks on hand, so you can manage your diet better. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can help as well because it has been shown to delay weight gain. And if you do gain some weight, don’t be too hard on yourself. Treat it as a temporary blip and remember that quitting smoking is only going to do wonders for your overall well being.
I want to quit but smoking is a big destresser for me. How will I cope with stress after I quit?
Managing stress will be one of the challenges you need to be mentally prepared for when you quit smoking. Smoking is commonly perceived as a destresser but the reality is that the stress release smoking provides is only temporary. Smoking doesn’t solve your problems, it only shifts your focus temporarily. For most people, their stress levels reduce significantly six months after quitting. Now that cigarettes are no longer an option, you will need to find different ways to deal with stress. Nicotine gum and lozenges can help you quit smoking and along with that you can explore long term strategies like relaxation and deep breathing, meditation, increased physical activity, creative work or volunteering that you can integrate into your lifestyle.
Quitting smoking is not an easy journey and some of the challenges can be daunting. Try to remember that this too shall pass and that you will feel better if you hang in there and quit for good.