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What quitting feels like

It's hard to quit smoking. Your body experiences nicotine withdrawal, but the symptoms usually only last for a few weeks or so. Find out how to manage the most common symptoms and how to deal with a relapse.

Withdrawal symptoms

When you quit smoking, you will have withdrawal symptoms. These can last from a few days to a few weeks — it's different for every person — but they are temporary.

The first week is the hardest as your body has become used to having regular nicotine 'hits'. Don't worry — the cravings gradually get less frequent as your body recovers from its addiction.

Here are some common symptoms and tips for dealing with them:

  • Feeling tense and irritable — feeling angry and snapping at those around you, feeling panicky or anxious.
    Go for a walk. Take deep breaths. Soak in a warm bath. Meditate. Do some stretching exercises.
  • Depression — feeling sad, having a sense of grief or loss, lack of self-confidence.
    Use positive self-talk. Speak to a friend or family member. See your doctor if the depression is intense or does not go away.
  • Appetite changes — enjoying the smell and taste of food can result in overeating, or maybe you're comfort eating in place of smoking.
    Follow a well-balanced diet. Choose healthy, low-fat snacks such as fruit or vegetables.
  • Constipation and gas — you might have lots of wind, stomach aches and other digestive issues.
    Drink plenty of fluids. Eat lots of fruit, vegetables and high-fibre cereal.
  • Insomnia — just can't get to sleep.
    Avoid beverages containing caffeine (for example, coffee, tea, cola) particularly before bed. Try relaxation exercises before bed.
  • Difficulty concentrating — finding it hard to focus.
    Break large projects into smaller tasks. Take regular breaks.
  • Cough, dry throat and mouth, nasal drip — feeling like you've got the flu.
    Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Dizziness — your body is getting more oxygen so you might feel a bit light-headed.
    Sit down and rest until it passes.

Read about the tools and methods that can help you deal with the cravings and stay smoke-free.

Once the first couple of weeks are over, your chances of staying smoke-free are much higher. After a month you will be feeling much better — well done!

Coping with relapses

Be aware that relapses can happen. Don't be hard on yourself; you are not alone. Research shows that smokers may need as many as 30 attempts to quit before they are successful.

Read about how to cope with quitting.

Next step

It's important to understand your triggers and have a plan for dealing with them.

Last updated: 
2 April 2019

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