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Don’t let nicotine withdrawal stop you from successfully quitting. These tips can help.

Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health, but one of the biggest deterrents is the withdrawal symptoms some people experience. Not everyone has the same symptoms or feels them at the same level of intensity, but most people have some symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Knowing how to manage those symptoms makes it more likely that you can successfully quit smoking.

Here are some common symptoms you may experience when you stop smoking – and what you can do to get through them so you stay smoke-free:
  • Experiencing cravings/urges to smoke – It can take a while until you get yourself out of the habit of grabbing for a cigarette in certain situations. Think about what triggers your cravings. Is it a specific location? Event? Person? Emotion? Once you identify what your triggers are, it’s easier to come up with ways to avoid the triggers or to have a plan in place for what you’ll do when they occur. Remind yourself that cravings will always pass and arm yourself with tools to help you get through them, such as distraction or keeping something in your hands.
  • Feeling irritated, jumpy, restless, anxious or out of sorts – You may find that you’re not in the best of moods when you first quit smoking and this is normal. Your body is getting used to being without nicotine and your emotions may take a hit in the process. These emotions will soon pass and you won’t feel like this forever. Remember your reason for quitting, which can help you get through the toughest of times. Doing some physical activity or finding ways to keep busy may help.
  • Having trouble sleeping or concentrating – Your sleep may be disrupted at first and you may also find it harder to focus and concentrate as your body goes through nicotine withdrawal. Take time to relax even if you can’t sleep and practice a few sleep-inducing habits, such as laying off the caffeine, creating a comfortable sleeping environment, turning off electronics about an hour before bed and not eating or drinking too close to bedtime. If concentration is a problem, avoid having to make major decisions during the initial phases of quitting.
  • Gaining weight – Some people find that they gain weight because they’re always reaching for something to eat instead of having a cigarette in their mouths. You may also find that you’re eating because you’re stressed or you may simply be enjoying food more because your taste buds work so much better. To help avoid weight gain, turn to healthy and low-calorie foods when you need a cigarette substitute, such as celery, carrot sticks, sugar-free gum or mints. Increasing your activity level can help offset any added calories you may be eating.

Keep in mind that although symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can be uncomfortable, they won’t hurt you. Finding ways to manage your symptoms helps you push forward in your quest to be smoke-free. The good news is that the longer you go without having a cigarette, the more your symptoms will fade.

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Date Last Reviewed: March 19, 2024

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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