The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can be intense, particularly if you’re not taking a medicine to help you quit. When you quit, your body has to get used to not having nicotine. Most relapses happen in the first week after quitting, when withdrawal symptoms are strongest, and your body is still dependent on nicotine. The good news is while withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, they aren’t dangerous. In fact, quitting nicotine is the best thing you can do for your health. Here are some ways to cope with nicotine withdrawal.
Think about the situations, people, places, and feelings that often lead you to reach for a cigarette or vape device. These are your triggers. Common triggers include finishing a meal, taking a work break, or riding in the car.
You probably can’t avoid your triggers entirely. But you can take control of them before they take control of you. When your trigger hits, do something else instead of using tobacco. Sometimes it’s just a matter of having something in your mouth or your hand. Common substitutes include:
- Chewing sugar-free gum
- Going someplace where you can’t smoke or vape
- Sucking on a straw or toothpick
- Brushing your teeth
- Going for a walk
- Squeezing a rubber ball
- Doing some deep breathing
- Having a healthy snack like carrots, raisins, or sunflower seeds
- Calling a friend to talk
Having intense cravings are a fact of quitting. It’s important to have a plan for how you’ll handle a craving when it hits. Make a list of your triggers for vaping or smoking and another list for acceptable substitutes. When you’re faced with an intense craving, pick a substitute to help you cope. Your cravings may be less intense if you’re taking a medicine or are using a form of nicotine replacement therapy.
You might be crankier and more short-tempered than usual. This it totally normal and expected. Try deep breathing, meditation, asking for family support or laughing. Irritability lessens over time and is usually gone after 2 to 4 weeks.
You might be surprised to find you’re coughing more – not less – in the first few days after you quit smoking or vaping. This is actually a good sign! It means your lungs are working hard to clean themselves. To cope with coughing, try to step up physical activity to speed up the cleaning process.
Craving nicotine is often confused with hunger pangs. Be sure to drink plenty of water and try snacking on healthier items like carrots, raisins, or sunflower seeds.
Nicotine affects sleep patterns and your body will need time to readjust. To help with sleep problems try exercising earlier in the day so you’re tired at bedtime or try reading or taking a warm shower just before bed. Remember to avoid using digital devices one hour before bed.
If you’re struggling to quit – take heart. Millions of Americans quit using nicotine every year – and so can you.