I quit smoking, so why do I feel worse?

There are so many benefits to quitting smoking that you might be asking yourself why you haven’t managed to do it. Unfortunately, for many people, quitting means that things tend to get a whole lot worse before they get better. The withdrawal symptoms you experience when you go cold turkey can kid you into thinking that quitting is so horrendous that it simply isn’t worth the effort.

Don’t be fooled! It is vital that you stop smoking. Your body and mind are going to beg for mercy initially, but you will eventually turn a corner and discover a happier and healthier you.

What are the side effects of quitting smoking?
Smoking affects your entire body including every system and organ. Little wonder that when you are addicted to nicotine and then stop smoking, your body will take time to adjust. Withdrawal symptoms vary from one person to another as we are all individuals and the number of cigarettes we smoke varies. But, sorry to bring you bad news, some level of suffering is inevitable. The good news is that the various side effects of quitting don’t last forever.

Here are the potential side effects of nicotine withdrawal and how to deal with them:

Feeling generally yucky
You may experience a period of flu-like symptoms including a general sense of being unwell, lethargy and fatigue. Don’t push yourself too hard and get plenty of rest. Find something to do that keeps you distracted and try not to be alone in case temptation overwhelms you.

Tingling extremities
You may find that your hands and feet begin to tingle. This is a bizarre feeling but one which demonstrates that your body is recovering. Your extremities will be tingling because your circulation has begun to improve. In other words, tingling is a good sign. Light exercise such as walking can help.

Sore throat and coughing
Smoking deposits large amounts of debris in your throat and lungs. As soon as you quit, your body starts repairing itself and tries to clear out the crap that cigarettes have left behind. This process can cause coughing and a sore throat, but these irritating symptoms won’t last for long. A couple of days of coughing will sort out the debris and you will then find yourself breathing easier.

You might experience headaches as your body adjusts to life without smoke and nicotine. Your internal systems and brain will be busy working out what the hell to do next and this stress can lead to headaches. Try to remain calm and relaxed. It’s fine to take mild painkillers but keep these to a minimum.

A minority of quitters will be forced to endure feelings of nausea. Nausea is another sign that your body is adjusting to its new circumstances, and the unpleasant feeling should subside quite quickly.

Increased appetite
As your body recovers, you will feel more energetic and this can lead to an increased appetite. It is also possible that you will use food as a substitute for your cigarettes. Food will feel like a good replacement for the hand to mouth aspect of smoking. It is important that you don’t snack excessively and that you choose healthy options. Overeating will lead to weight gain and weight gain could leave you feeling even more depressed.

Nicotine impacts your small bowel and colon. As your body begins to adjust to the absence of nicotine, it is possible that you will experience bouts of constipation. These can be relieved by over the counter treatments but if the constipation persists, seek medical advice.

Irritability and anger
When you are suffering from intense cravings and your usual routine has been disrupted, you may start to feel irritable and even angry. You will almost certainly have used smoking as a crutch when you were stressed, anxious and annoyed. Now, that crutch has been kicked away and you are left feeling vulnerable. Your nicotine cravings will peak between week 2 and week 4.  It is worth experimenting with various forms of stress relief such as exercise, chewing gum, essential oils, yoga and mindfulness.

Depression and insomnia
You probably smoked to make yourself feel better and now you don’t have that option. The sense of loss and absence of a pick-me-up can lead to depression and keep you awake at night. Depression is a condition that shouldn’t be ignored. Seek help from a professional who can recommend the appropriate medication or therapy. You could also try meditation and mindfulness.

Poor concentration
When you are battling withdrawal symptoms, it is likely that your little grey cells will become distracted. Your mind may start to wander away from the task at hand and to focus on how crappy you are feeling instead. Concentration issues should begin to subside after a couple of weeks. Exercise, engaging in nature, sleeping better and brain games can all help to improve your concentration.

Dry mouth
Smoking causes you to experience a dry mouth and this might be one of the things that you will be glad to leave behind. But you could find that your mouth remains dry for a while as the anxiety associated with quitting can exacerbate the issue.  Keep yourself hydrated, try to relieve the stress you are feeling and remind yourself that your symptoms will be short-lived.

Can smoking cessation aids reduce your side effects?
Most of the side effects that you must endure when you quit smoking are caused by nicotine withdrawal. Clearly, if you continue to treat yourself to nicotine fixes, you can minimise the impact of those side effects. Nicotine gum, nicotine patches and nicotine sprays can all help you to stop smoking without feeling like slitting your own wrists. However, there are downsides to these cessation aids.

Nicotine patches will irritate your skin and leave red rashes on your body. Nicotine gum may make you gag, and sprays are a little inconvenient when you are with other people. Perhaps the biggest issue with cessation aids is the fact that they don’t address the habitual aspect of smoking. You have become used to holding something in your hand and experiencing a throat hit when you inhale. For this reason, electronic cigarettes have helped many smokers to leave their habit behind.

How can vaping help you to quit?
Vaping could be your route to salvation. You can receive your nicotine fix and a throat hit when you inhale. Better still, you will have something to hold in your hand and you can take your pick from hundreds of tasty e liquid flavours.

E liquids are available in a variety of nicotine strengths, enabling you to reduce your nicotine intake to zero over time.

Vaping closely replicates both the experience and the habit of smoking. You will be replacing your cigarettes rather than simply leaving them behind and this could make all the difference to how you feel. As your chances of quitting for good are largely dictated by how your feel, vaping is an attractive option.

It would be foolish to suggest that quitting smoking could ever be easy. It’s tough and there is no getting around that fact. But, the unpleasant side effects of nicotine withdrawal are temporary and you can avoid them altogether by using cessation aids or vaping. Life is never going to be the same again. However, when your health improves, you stop coughing, you smell nicer and you have more energy, you are likely to decide that your new life is an improvement on your old one.

You will feel worse for a while when you quit and then you will feel much, much better! Honestly!