You did your homework –you read up on nicotine replacement treatments, different smoking cessation methods, medication, and all the tips and tricks you could get your hands on. Also, you’re firmly committed to quitting your habit and you have a mental checklist of reasons why you are doing it.
You might think you’re all set but the road to being addiction-free is going to be a bumpy one. Nicotine cravings will start soon after you quit smoking. They’re going to be a combination of physical cravings, psychological need, and pure habit.
The first two weeks of nicotine withdrawal are the hardest. Some counselors and therapists refer to them as the ‘Hell Week’ and ‘Heck Week’.
A couple of hours after you smoke your last cigarette your blood pressure will drop. So will your blood sugar levels and levels of dopamine and adrenaline. This is when most smokers fold – physical cravings for nicotine become too much to handle. You’re experiencing headaches, hunger pangs, anxiety bouts, depression, and more.
However, it’s crucial that you have a plan in place for when you get an urge to light a cigarette. These will all be little, immediate things you can do to occupy your mind and give yourself some time for an internal discussion and reaffirmation of your commitment to quitting.
Tips and Tricks for Managing Nicotine Cravings
The trick to successful cessation is to learn how to delay the urge to light your first cigarette after you’ve made your decision. It’s a slow process but postponing that first cigarette is actually all you need to accomplish. Delay it long enough and in two weeks’ time you will be in the clear. You have several options at your disposal when it comes to occupying your mind, mouth, and hands:
- Go outside for a brisk walk. Exercise will help you clear your mind and reduce the need for a nicotine fix. It releases small amounts of dopamine and adrenaline that your body is craving and thinks it can get only through a cigarette.
- Drink a large glass of water. A lot of smokers who are going through withdrawal report that water helps fight the craving. Avoid drinks that you associate with cigarettes, such as alcohol and coffee.
- Dance it out. As odd at it may seem, if you’re in a position to put on some music that you love and dance to it, do it. You will get some exercise under your belt but you will also have some fun while doing it. Mix pleasure with business – it’s good for you.
- Count to 20. If you get a sudden urge to light a cigarette and you have immediate access to one, count to 20 before doing anything else. Use that time to remind yourself why you are on the road that you’re on and what you stand to gain by quitting smoking. Buying yourself some time to reason the craving away is the best thing you can do to avoid acting on impulse.
- Make a cigarette jar. Before you stop smoking, you’ll probably be thinking about it for a couple of weeks. Use that time – collect the ash and the buds and fill a large jar with them. On the day you quit fill that jar with water and keep it handy. Whenever you get an urge to light a cigarette, reach for the jar, open it and take a big whiff. This is an unorthodox but highly effective method of keeping those cravings in check.
- Buy a tablet or a new video game. Justify the expense through savings you’re going to make by quitting smoking. Whenever an urge to smoke hits you go and play that game or get busy on your new gadget. It will help you distract your mind but it will also remind you of what you can afford for the money you kept burning through while smoking.
- Keep your mouth busy. Some smokers report that they have an overwhelming urge to smoke because their mouth is unoccupied. Load up on healthy snacks and chewing gums and reach for them whenever you get that feeling.
- Have paper and pen close by. Keeping your hands busy during the cessation period can be tricky and idle hands are the devil’s tools in this case. When the urge hits you pick up that piece of paper and start doodling.
- Go to a public place. If the cravings hit you while you’re in the middle of the street and you can’t distract yourself with anything else, walk into a restaurant or a shop. Remove yourself from the situation in which you will have an opportunity to light up a cigarette. A vast majority of public places don’t allow smoking. Sit down in a restaurant, order a soup, and wait it out.
- Mentally calculate your savings. Think about the money you will get to use on something else, something you will actually enjoy such as a family vacation or a new car.
- Find something that relaxes you. Anxiety will strike at will and smokers tend to deal with it by lighting a cigarette. Since you no longer have that luxury it’s important to find something else that relaxes you. A new hobby – or an old hobby that you’ve put aside a long time ago -, a good book, or your favorite TV show – anything will do as long as it helps you deal with your stress without having a cigarette.
- Call a friend. If all else fails, make sure you have a backup system and someone you can call whose is going to support you and reinforce your commitment to smoking cessation.
Everything on this list will help you keep busy long enough for the urge to pass. However, cravings are going to strike at moments you expect it the least so be prepared to ride them out. The first few weeks are the most grueling and afterward it gets a lot easier. These tips will help you keep the urge under control until such time your body gets completely nicotine-free and used to the new situation.