If you’ve ever tried to quit using tobacco products, you have probably experienced withdrawal symptoms—the irritability, headaches, fatigue, and even constipation.
Tobacco is grown for its leaves, which contain the addictive chemical nicotine. Tobacco also contains over 19 cancer-causing elements along with over 4,000 added chemical compounds. The addictive power of tobacco is similar to alcohol, morphine, and even cocaine.
Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms typically affect people according to how long and how much they’ve smoked. The heavier the smoker, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms commonly are. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms are a combination of physical and psychological manifestations. The most common symptoms include:
- increased appetite
- dry mouth
- intense cravings
- trouble sleeping
- trouble concentrating
Strategies to Manage Nicotine Withdrawal
Making withdrawal symptoms go away completely isn’t possible, but there are ways to minimize them. The occurrence and severity of symptoms is different for everyone. It partially depends on how you quit. For example, if you choose the “cold turkey” method without the use of any smoking cessation aids, you’ll likely notice symptoms within as little as two hours.
People who use smoking cessation aids such as patches, gums, and electronic cigarettes typically experience less severe withdrawal symptoms. That’s because this method cuts back usage levels rather than pulling the plug all at once. The severity of physical symptoms should reach their climax approximately 72 hours after your last cigarette.
The withdrawal symptoms, both physical and mental, will make it tough to stick it out and not start smoking again. But there are things you can do to ensure you stick with quitting. Below are some helpful and practical tips for managing your nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
Quitting smoking can cause an increase in appetite. If you find yourself wanting to eat more, take advantage of your new-found appetite to consume a healthy array of vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins. Following a healthy diet has a two-fold effect of 1) reducing the severity and length of your withdrawal symptoms and, 2) providing a much-needed hobby (learning how to eat healthy) to distract you from your withdrawal symptoms.
Part of nicotine’s addictive power is that it elevates your mood. It’s common for people who quit smoking to fall into a mild depression. One way to counterpart this problem is exercise. Physical activity triggers the release of mood-raising endorphins in your body that will naturally help you feel better both physically and mentally.
Ask for Assistance
Having someone provide support and accountability can have a huge impact on your efforts to be tobacco-free. When discussing your goal of being tobacco-free, make sure to be completely open and honest. Also, allow your support system to speak with frankness if they see you sabotaging your efforts through poor choices. A great way to utilize your partner is by calling them when you get a strong craving. Instead of giving in and smoking a cigarette, you can call them and get the assistance you need to make it through the craving.
Celebrate Small Victories
Celebrating small milestones can help you maintain a positive outlook on your journey. Reward yourself when you reach significant benchmarks such as one week, one month, etc. These mini-goals will help you focus on a short-term milestone and keep you from getting overwhelmed.
There seems to be an app for everything—including to help you quit smoking. If you’re one of the millions who own an iPhone, you’re in luck. There are apps that do everything from utilizing timers to creating reports that show how many days, months, and years you’ve added to your life because by abstaining from tobacco. Apps range in price from free to $9.99.
Find Alternative Stress Relievers
Many people turn to cigarettes as a means to relieve stress. It’s imperative that you find alternative and healthier ways to manage your stress. Simple stress management techniques such as listening to music, meditating, going for a walk, reading, or even cleaning can provide new ways for you to manage stress without smoking. Find something that works for you and incorporate it right away.
Change Your Environment
Although it’s entirely up to you to make the right choices to be smoke free, there are things that others can do to support you. If you have friends and family members who smoke, ask them to respect your decision to stop by not smoking while you’re around. Who knows, this may even inspire them to quit right along with you.