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May 14, 2020

Most South African smokers would have been forced to quit smoking during national lockdown due to no tobacco products being available. While quitting smoking is great for your health, especially during a worldwide pandemic where COVID-19 attacks your respiratory system, whether you personally choose to quit or not, the withdrawal symptoms can be just as unpleasant. The good news is that withdrawal is temporary and not dangerous, but it’s usually the worst during the first week as your body readjusts to the lack of nicotine, naturally found in dried tobacco leaves.

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms

Because nicotine is what causes an addition to tobacco products, withdrawal symptoms could be worse for you if you smoke more often, or have smoked for longer than others. Symptoms may include the following:

  • Strong cravings to smoke
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dry mouth
  • Coughing
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

Your symptoms may be worse at certain times of the day, or even in certain places or situations if you associate these things with smoking.

So, how are you to cope with withdrawal symptoms? We hope that the following tips may be of some help to you.

How to cope with nicotine withdrawal

  1. Avoid triggers

Avoid situations that you associate with smoking as much as possible to curb any cravings. If, for example, you can’t avoid your triggers, such as being around other smokers, or mealtimes, try to distract yourself as much as possible. Keep busy, or do something you enjoy, focussing your mind away from your craving.

  1. Cut caffeine

To reduce feelings of anxiety or irritability, avoid coffee, tea and other caffeinated drinks. If you really can’t live without your morning cup of Joe, limit your caffeine intake as much as you can.

  1. Chew

To help stop the psychological need to smoke, chew sugarless gum or bite into some crunchy fruit and veg like apples, pears, carrots and celery. You’ll kill two birds with one stone: You’ll keep your mouth busy and benefit from a healthy alternative.

  1. Exercise

Substitute nicotine’s “pick me up” sensation with a healthy alternative: exercise. Instead of lighting up when you’re under pressure, do some physical activity. Only 30 minutes of exercise a day will help your body to release endorphins – hormones which help to boost your mood, help you cope with stress and may even help you to sleep better.

  1. Rest and sleep

You may feel rather sluggish as your body works hard to detox the nicotine. Don’t feel bad to take naps, or go to bed early to deal with the temporary fatigue. Try and get an average of eight hours sleep per night.

  1. Just breathe

If withdrawal is making you feel irritable, anxious or both, try deep breathing techniques or meditation to help you cope. For example, take 10 deep breathes when you feel like you’re about to snap. Some quiet time on your own, such as soaking in a bubble bath, can also help you relax. However, if you’re feeling depressed for an extended period of time, consult your healthcare professional. Bestmed has a dedicated network of great healthcare professionals.

  1. Smoking cessation aids

‘Cessation’ means ‘putting to an ending’, so smoking cessation aids can hep you to resist and, therefore, even help you quit smoking. Different types of cessation aids include nicotine patches, nicotine gum, over-the-counter lozenges, as well as prescription oral and nasal sprays. The patches and gum provide you with a small amount of nicotine to keep your urge to light up at bay.

It’s important to remember that your withdrawal symptoms are only temporary and although you may not feel so great without lighting up, your symptoms are not dangerous. In fact, not smoking, no matter how long or how much you have smoked, will have immediate health benefits for your body.

So, hang in there! You can do this!

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