Nicotine is such a highly addictive chemical, teaching your brain to give it up can feel like a challenge. However, the good news is that with smoking cessation medication and behavioural support, nicotine withdrawal can be managed effectively making quitting more manageable. To make the process much easier it is possible to deal with withdrawal symptoms by adopting effective strategies that you can call upon as you go through your journey to becoming smoke free. Empowering yourself with knowledge about what to expect can make this process more manageable.
Remember the reasons why you started your quit journey
Always keep those reasons why you wanted to quit at the front of your mind.
Make a list.
Carry it with you at all times and add to it as more reasons pop into your head.
Refer to it regularly; it will become a valuable tool to help deal with the cravings.
Recognise when your brain is trying to work against you
You may experience feelings of regret and thoughts of having just one more cigarette as you make your way through the early stages of nicotine withdrawal. In fact, during the first couple of weeks of quitting you may feel as though you can’t think of anything else but smoking.
Addiction has an even stronger hold on your mind than it does on your body. The nicotine receptors in your brain will continue to fire, trying to convince you that you need to smoke again.
Be prepared for the internal conversations that come with this phase of nicotine withdrawal. Try to understand that it’s just a part of the process as you work towards a smoke free lifestyle. For the majority of people, the worst of it will be over by the end of your first smoke free month.
Be Prepared to Deal with Cravings
Nicotine withdrawal can trigger intense cravings. Once nicotine has dissipated from your bloodstream, triggers may then transfer over to the habitual associations you have built up over time. You may feel like you have not started your day properly without that cigarette with your morning coffee. Smoking has become a part of your everyday routine.
Triggers will often appear randomly and can induce intense cravings to smoke. These can make you feel like you’re back in the midst of physical withdrawal, even though nicotine is no longer present in your body.
Rest assured that with practice, you can break down these old habits and create new ones that are much healthier. For example, you may still feel like there’s a phantom cigarette in your hands. Keep your hands busy with a hobby. Check out some of these effective distraction techniques that our successful quitters have adopted to ward of cravings and add them to your quit plan.
Keep healthy snacks on hand to help you with the hand-to-mouth association of smoking.
Avoid drinking alcohol during the early stages, it can act on brain receptors to increase the intensity of your cravings. You can feel re-assured that there will come a time when drinking alcohol, or being around others, who smoke won’t bother you, but don’t expect it within the first several weeks of becoming smoke free.
Surround Yourself with Positive Support
You are more likely to quit for good if you have strong, positive support around you. Friends and family can be helpful, but they may not understand what you are going through if they have never smoked. Take advantage of all the support that is available to you for free. An NHS stop smoking service can greatly improve your chances of quitting or take advantage of the Smokefree.gov helplines to help you deal with cravings throughout your quit journey.
Reward yourself, you deserve it
When you smoke, the nicotine in tobacco enables brain chemicals to activate the ‘reward centre’ in your brain. Find other ways to reward yourself, so you can change the way your brain experiences and remembers ‘reward’.
Every single day you put between you and that last cigarette you smoked is working to strengthen your resolve. Bit by bit, you’re learning how to live without nicotine.
Reward yourself daily with the things you enjoy. Don’t wait for the approval of others—do it for yourself. Daily rewards don’t need to be elaborate.
Check out this list of fun and simple activities:
- Cook your favourite dish
- Watch a movie (here’s a list of great movies that trigger motivation)
- Absorb your mind in a video game
- Treat yourself to a massage
- Do some fun exercise
- Listen to music
- Have a long, luxurious bubble bath
- Join us for a free community health walk
- Read a book or magazine
- Have a lie-in
Change Your Mind
Studies have suggested that an average person has around 6,200 thoughts per day, many of which are self-defeating.
Expect that your mind will weave one self-defeating fiction after another, so pay attention to what you’re thinking. When you notice a self-defeating thought appear, replace it immediately with one that is supportive. Replace thoughts of ‘I can’t’ with statements of ‘I can’ and keep giving yourself positive cues.
You may think: When will I ever stop thinking about smoking?
Replace this statement with something like this: I know that I miss smoking because I’m addicted to nicotine. Once I recover from that, I won’t miss smoking anymore.
Feelings come after thoughts. Your feelings are a reflection of what you are telling yourself (what you are thinking) in your head. Don’t buy into a negative, self-defeating mindset. Teach your brain to build powerful quit muscles to help you ward off intense cravings and recover from nicotine addiction.
Every Day you don’t smoke makes you stronger and more likely to succeed
You start your quit plan on day one. You might not see the gains at first but they’re happening all the same.
Each and every day, you’re building up momentum that will propel you forward with greater ease as time goes on. This positive energy will start to flow into other areas of your life. You’ll use it to achieve other goals you once thought were unachievable.
A Word From One You Plymouth
Becoming smoke free is a personal experience and some people may need more time to put smoking behind them than others. It’s important not to compare your quit journey with those of others. Trust in the process and give yourself the time you need to recover fully. Remember you are 4 times more likely to quit with medication and behavioural support.