If you're like most smokers, you've probably heard a lifetime's worth of quit-smoking advice. Most people who advise you on quitting, though, have never smoked and may not understand the pain of giving up nicotine. Quitting smoking is no joke. Newly quit smokers can experience intense depression, anger, anxiety, and even thoughts of suicide. The good news is that the pain is temporary. Cravings decrease significantly within a week or two, and will eventually be gone forever. In the meantime, try some of these tried-and-true strategies to get through the first few days.
1. Find a Replacement
For smokers, nicotine becomes like a constant friendly companion. Smoking is there when you're sad, when you're stressed, and when you want to celebrate. If you want to successfully kick the habit, you have to find a replacement. In the short-term, do whatever it takes. Need to eat a box of oreos? You can lose the weight later. Want to spend a little more than usual? Go for it. The key is to ride out the first few days, by whatever means necessary – as long as your replacement isn't anything dangerous.
2. Get Busy
If you sit around your house feeling terrible, you're doomed to fail at your quit attempt. Instead, get busy. Over-schedule yourself for the week you give up smoking. Spend time with friends. Start a new project. Do anything to keep your mind off smoking, but make sure you only pick tasks you enjoy. If that home improvement tasks goes south, you might turn to nicotine to cope, and that's an outcome no one wants.
3. Lower Expectations
If you expect to be at full capacity, working productively and getting along with everyone, immediately after quitting, think again. Quitting is hard, and can and will interfere with your ability to concentrate. Go easy on yourself. Take some time off work if you need to, and only spend time around people who support you when you're down.
4. Don't Give In
Think of every moment you spend not smoking – no matter how painful that moment may be – as an investment in never having to go through this again. Don't give in, even once, or you'll start the whole process over again. And think twice before using nicotine patches and gums; research shows that most successful quitters kick the habit without these nicotine-based aids.
5. Reward Your Successes
Quitting smoking may be the hardest thing you ever do. This massive accomplishment demands a celebration. Reward yourself in small ways – with a nice dinner, a movie you love, or a massage – each day you successfully abstain. And set up bigger rewards at the one-week, one-month, and three-month mark. When your brain sees quitting as a rewarding process, rather than a painful and slow torture, it becomes much easier to stick with quitting, even when the going gets rough.