There is no doubt about it, quitting cigarettes, especially if you have had a long habit, is no walk in the park. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance,and the psychological aspect of smoking creates a powerful mental habit too.
The trick then is really to make things as easy as possible for yourself, to get yourself clear of temptation for the first few weeks (look out for those no smoking notices for the places it’s safe to go) and to make use of coping mechanisms. Regarding coping mechanisms, you should have them at hand, meaning that you should have a process you switch into as soon as the craving arises. It all depends on the severity of your habit but, for most people, this is the way to success.
In fact, it all comes back to cravings. This is pretty much the one thing that you need to overcome. Your body does not need the contents of cigarettes, it merely thinks that it does. There is no danger to suddenly stopping smoking–this is not like a drug addict suddenly going cold turkey or an alcoholic suddenly ceasing alcohol consumption. So, you should simply do it. Your body will try to tell you, with various unpleasant biological responses, that you need to put some nicotine into your system. But the truth is that you do not.
Furthermore, despite the fact that there are various unpleasant effects to quitting smoking (see below), it is the cravings which are the most important thing to beat. The side effects are more than bearable, and they will pass in time. The important thing is to break the psychological link between the alleviation of these side effects and smoking a cigarette. For example, if quitting smoking makes you a bit restless and irritable, as it can do, but it does not feel that the way to stop this is to smoke a cigarette, then you will simply bear it. The danger arises when you intimately associate smoking a cigarette with alleviating that restlessness.
Therefore, cravings are the thing to beat. Conquer this hill, and your chances of stopping for good are pretty good.
The Short-Term Effects of Smoking Cessation
Before getting on to some useful tips for conquering cravings, it is worth going over a few of these unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that the smoking cessation causes. There is no point in lying to yourself. If you were a serious smoker in the past, you can expect at least some of these. Nevertheless, they are all bearable and they will all pass in time–and not much time at that.
Here is what you are up against.
Irritability and Erratic Mood
The mood effects of smoking cessation are not pleasant, but we should stress here that it is unlikely to plunge you into depression or anything like that. Rather, you are likely to feel grouchy and irritable and a little erratic in your mood. There are millions of ways you can calm yourself down and take your mind off it. Do something you enjoy, try meditation and mindfulness techniques, and remind yourself that it will not be around for long.
This is closely related to the mood effects of quitting smoking and it can be one of the more alarming of the withdrawal symptoms just because it can interfere with your work or study. This is in some cases unavoidable, which is why it makes sense to stop when you have bit more free time and you don’t need to concentrate on tasks. Try quitting during a holiday from work.
This is another of the withdrawal symptoms which can, quite frankly, be a bit of nightmare (one of the nightmares where you don’t sleep). However, there are many things you can do about it. Be careful about turning to mediation to induce sleep, but over the counter sleeping aids can be remarkably effective, and there are techniques such as exercise and meditation that can really help too.
Hunger and Gaining Weight
This one is a classic, but it doesn’t apply in all cases. The thing to remember is that smoking does not keep you thin, it just kills your appetite. That is not terribly healthy, and there are other ways of keeping your weight down without relying on cigarettes. Also consider that gaining weight might not actually be a bad thing, as long as you don’t cross into being overweight.
Tips for Dealing with Cravings
So those are the withdrawal symptoms of quitting smoking. To stress the point again, the only thing you really need to tackle in order to quit smoking is the nicotine cravings and the psychological link between smoking a cigarette and feeling better. If you can conquer the cravings, the withdrawal effects might still hit you, but the important thing is you will not turn to cigarettes to alleviate them. Here are some tips and coping mechanisms for whenever you feel that urge to light up:
Try Nicotine Replacement Therapy
One of the most popular ways to give up nicotine is to try nicotine replacement therapy. We are talking here about nicotine patches, gum, vapes, and so on. Of course, this isn’t giving up nicotine, but it will help you on your way. The nicotine makes you addicted, but it is not the substance that harms you, so you can rely on these things for as long as you need to. And for alleviating particularly serious withdrawal symptoms, it is a good idea to turn to these products rather than a cigarette.
When did you like to smoke? In the morning with a coffee? When sitting having a drink with friends? When on the phone? When concentrating on your work? These are all considered smoking triggers. You can avoid them outright or have something else close by to satisfy your urge instead–like some carrot sticks to chew, a toothpick to stick in your mouth, and so on. All these will help.
What is the point in delaying satisfying your craving if you are going to smoke anyway? Well, tobacco cravings are normally acute, so when you feel like you need to smoke, tell yourself you will wait at least ten minutes and then do something else in that time. Once that time has elapsed, the craving will most likely have passed.
And make it exercise that you actually enjoy, not exercise that is taxing. If you can pull this off (maybe not the easiest thing to do if you were never a physical person) you are almost certain to feel no cravings when you’re actually doing the exercise. It is hard to feel cravings when your body is so mentally and physically engaged in exercise and when the endorphins are coursing through you.
Cravings really are the one thing you need to conquer to give up smoking. Manage that, and everything else will fall into place.