How can you get through it?
Many people smoke because nicotine helps them relax. Without the nicotine, they feel uptight and grouchy. But there are better ways to cope with these feelings, and they help you resist cigarette cravings. Try these ideas:
- Take several deep breaths slowly. Hold the last one, then breathe out as slowly as possible. Try to relax all your muscles.
- Try massage, yoga, or the traditional Chinese relaxation exercises tai chi and qi gong.
- Listen to relaxing music. Learn self-hypnosis, meditation, and guided imagery.
- If you can, try to avoid stressful situations when you first stop smoking. Take a break, and take a walk to avoid the stress.
These ideas can help you relax. But it's also good to figure out the cause of your stress. Then, learn how to change the way you react to it. For more, see Stress Management.
Be more active
Physical activity may help reduce your nicotine cravings and relieve some withdrawal symptoms. It doesn't have to be intense activity; mild exercise is fine.1 Being more active also may help you reduce stress and keep your weight down.
When you have the urge to smoke, do something active instead. Walk around the block. Head to the gym. Do some gardening or housework. Take the dog for a walk. Play with the kids.
For more, see Fitness.
Get plenty of rest
If you have trouble sleeping, try these tips:
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
- Take a warm bath or a relaxing walk before bed.
- Avoid drinking alcohol late in the evening, because it can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.
- Don't have coffee, black tea, or other drinks with caffeine in the 8 hours before you go to bed.
- Do not take naps, unless you are sure they don't keep you awake at night.
- If you can't sleep, talk to your doctor about medicines to help you sleep while you are first going through withdrawal.
- Try meditation or deep breathing before you go to bed.
For more, see Insomnia.
Quitting smoking increases your appetite. To avoid gaining weight, keep in mind that the secret to weight control is eating healthy food and being more active.
- Don't try to diet. Most people who deprive themselves of food at the same time they are trying to stop smoking have an even harder time of stopping smoking.
- Substitute more fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods for foods that have a lot of sugar or fat.
For more, see:
- Quitting smoking: Dealing with weight gain.
Reduce demands on your time and energy
Quitting smoking can be harder if you have a lot of work or family demands.
- Try to set your quit date for a time when there are fewer work and family demands.
- Tell your spouse, family, and friends to ask less of you during the first days and weeks that you quit.
- Do something fun with the money you save from not buying cigarettes.
- Be aware that being tired from activity, lack of sleep, or your emotions can make it harder not to smoke.
Get counseling or other support
Don't try to do it alone.
- Call the national quit line at 1-800-QUITNOW and talk to some experts.
- Ask friends and family for help. Ask them not to smoke around you, and try to avoid situations that remind you of smoking.
- See a counselor, doctor, or nurse who is trained in helping people quit. The more counseling you get, the better your chances of quitting.
- Enroll in a stop-smoking class or program.
Use a stop-smoking medicine
Medicines can help you deal with nicotine withdrawal and cigarette cravings. Research shows that they more than double your chances of quitting for good.2 They also help prevent weight gain.
- Nicotine replacement medicines can help relieve the physical cravings for nicotine. Nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, and inhalers are helpful, especially when you have a strong craving.
- Medicines without nicotine, such as bupropion, can help you quit smoking. They also can help with depression, if you are depressed.
- Varenicline (Chantix) is a medicine that blocks the effects of nicotine. So, if you do have a cigarette, you don't get the same reward from the nicotine. This reduces your cravings and helps your body learn to cope without cigarettes.
For more on using medicine, see:
- Should I take medicine to quit smoking?
- Should I use nicotine replacement therapy to quit smoking?
Read how others manage
Many people try to quit smoking many times before they can stop for good.
Research shows that you'll be more successful if you get help. Here's how a few people finally managed to quit.
It took Michael seven tries to get over his addiction to cigarettes.
“It’s awful. The power of the addiction is very, very strong,” he says. “You just become so frustrated. You feel all this pent-up energy and don't know how to relieve it.
“And you could just go to the corner store and buy a pack and end the misery. ... That’s what I would end up doing.”
He finally managed to quit by using nicotine patches. He's been smoke-free for nearly four years.
Eric had his first cigarette when he was 12. By age 23, he was tearing through a pack and a half a day.
He tried quitting "cold turkey." He tried nicotine gum. Neither worked for him. So he tried nicotine patches.
The patches made him feel sick for a few days. The first week without cigarettes felt like torture, because his cravings were so strong. But they eased up. Within five weeks, he had managed to stop smoking.
Test Your Knowledge
A lot of smokers light up when they're stressed. They say that a cigarette helps them relax. But taking a brisk walk or doing some other physical activity is a much healthier way to deal with stress.
Continue to Where do you go from here?
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