Smoking is a difficult addiction to quit. Although it is universally bad for us, the feelings we get from it are quite relaxing and soothing, often allowing people to make it through the day without worry.
But getting off of smoking has so many benefits for your body and yourself that it is worth sacrificing that little high for a better life down the line. In the end, it is worth doing even if you are not 100% sure about it.
The problem for a lot of newly given up smokers is that as the days drag on and the nights become restless, they begin to feel worse and worse. Everything starts to seem terrible and all they want is one more cigarette.
The cravings come and go in waves with only the nicotine aides there to help them. ‘But this shouldn’t be!’ Many newly quit smokers say, ‘I quit smoking, I should feel better!’
This is indeed puzzling, why would you feel worse quitting a habit that is bad for you? What are the causes? In this article, we will look at why people feel worse when quitting smoking before they begin to feel better.
Quitting And The Subsequent Illness
If you are feeling sick after quitting smoking, don’t panic. This is not an isolated incident or something going wrong, in fact it is perfectly normal to feel ill when quitting smoking.
The reason that this is happening is that your body is going through withdrawal.
Withdrawal is when something is taken away from an organism or a kind of system that has come to use it regularly or rely on it for certain functions.
This does not mean this thing is necessary, just that the system has become dependent on using it.
With this item taken away, the system has to adapt to completing tasks without using the item to help it.
In the case of the bodily system, this thing is tobacco and when you’ve been smoking frequently for a good amount of time, then your body becomes dependent on it.
There is one ingredient above all others in tobacco that your body craves when quitting, and that is nicotine.
Nicotine is an alkaloid, which is organic plant matter, that has a physiological action when it is consumed by humans.
In the case of nicotine, this action is stimulation of various parts of the body and this can make you feel good or relaxed.
Yet, nicotine is highly addictive, and your body comes to rely on its continued use to make bodily functions easier or to just do them differently.
This isn’t so much of a problem for social or once in a while smokers, but for regular smokers, their body becomes more used to using nicotine and its effects in its day to day functions.
The more you smoke, the more your body relies on the daily introduction of nicotine to get going.
As such, when it is suddenly taken away, your body has to go back to the old way of doing things without the added stimulant.
This can mean readjusting a lot of bodily functions after years of relying on a stimulant to get them done. It is a big adjustment and can adversely affect you for an extended period.
Is It Normal To Feel Ill After Quitting Smoking?
As we stated earlier, there is no reason to panic over this. The reaction you are having to quitting smoking is perfectly normal and should not worry you in the slightest.
If you smoke regularly, even if it is just one or two a day, you are going to feel a bit poorly or uncomfortable after you quit.
Smokers don’t just smoke for the hell of it, the smoke you ingest when inhaling is a drug of a kind. You are in taking a bunch of ingredients that make you feel good, relaxed, and, quite often, a little high.
When you quit smoking, you are giving up that bit of pleasure you feel, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you smoke a few times a day, it is giving up a few moments of pleasure each day which adds up.
What Are The Symptoms Of Quitting Smoking?
As you can imagine, with the effects of smoking having a significant impact on your body, there are going to be a variety of symptoms that you could experience when you finally give it up for good.
The most common one of these is constipation or any sort of bowel trouble really. As stated earlier, nicotine is a stimulant, and one of the most prominent effects it has is on the bowels.
When your body becomes chemically dependent on nicotine, your bowels utilize the stimulating nature of the drug to move themselves easier, and so excrement is transported more easily to your colon.
Once you have taken away that stimulant, the bowel and colon will stop working as effectively and will struggle to excrete waste as efficiently as they should. This will cause a backlog and constipation from the lack of bowel movement.
While your body is adapting to life without its favorite stimulant, you may also experience stomach cramps or nausea, but if you can tough it out for 1 to 2 weeks all 3 symptoms should fade.
Just remember to drink plenty of fluids, eat lots of fiber rich foods, and exercise plenty during this period. These are proven ways to aid in bowel movement.
Quitting smoking also affects your mood. Remember how we talked about the pleasure you get from smoking?
Well, when that is taken away, all the little anxieties and stresses that smoking was holding back now come to the fore.
Irritability, a shortening of your temper, insomnia, and tiredness will persist throughout this time.
With nothing to give you a breather throughout the day and relax you before bed, the stresses of daily life will start to get to you and the inability to sleep well will mean you just can’t bounce back like you used to. These symptoms last for 2 to 4 weeks, but my god does it feel longer.
The best steps you can take in this time are to not push yourself and find an activity that calms you down. Quitting smoking is not fun, and you shouldn’t act like you are fine if you are not.
If you feel too tired to cope, don’t push through the pain, have a lie down or a nap and take your time.
Any activity that you find relaxing is also ideal. This could be watching movies, reading books, going for a jog, having a pint of beer, talking with friends, anything that soothes you and gives you the little break that you have been missing when not smoking.
The other thing to look out for when quitting smoking is respiratory symptoms. As your body and lungs clear themselves of the gunk and toxins that have been building up for years, you will experience cold-like symptoms.
A running nose, sore throat, and coughing, all of these are just your body getting rid of the foreign substances that cigarette smoking introduced, especially the tar that has built up in your lungs.
If you smoked infrequently, this may last a day or so, but if you smoked regularly for an extended period, be prepared to be feeling these symptoms for several weeks.
It takes time to get the body back to normal, and the immune system will kick into high gear during this period to do so.
One thing to look out for heavy smokers that are quitting is the possibility of a chest infection cropping up during this time.
Your chances of a chest infection are phenomenally higher during this time, as the body’s immune system is somewhat hobbled. If you begin to experience symptoms, see a doctor.
These are the main symptoms of quitting smoking, although there are others – hunger, poor focus, etc. – but comparatively to the big ones, they are not as big of an issue.
Just remember, if you can make it to a month without a cigarette, you are likely to keep going without one and most of the symptoms should albeit by then.
What Can Help Me?
Everyone who quits smoking needs something to get them through the ordeal. There is no shame in cracking and getting something to help you through the day. From our experience, there are a few things you can try to achieve this.
The first is comfort food. It may sound like we are replacing one bad habit with another, but honestly as long as you are not over doing it, having one or two bad food days now and again can be a big boost to our mental health.
If you are feeling so low and burnt out that you require a cigarette, pick up the phone and order yourself your favorite Chinese or pizza and watch a movie. It will help you forget about your cravings, if only for a little while.
However, be wary of your intake. People who quit addictions have a habit of making something else their addiction to replace the other one.
If you feel yourself towing that line, pull yourself back and reassess how you are coping with quitting. If it is awful, speak to someone about it, a friend, family members, even a counselor, anyone you trust.
Exercising and taking long walks in rural areas can help. These activities require action and will take your mind off smoking. They are also unlikely to have smoking associations for you, so you won’t be tempted to smoke while doing them.
One thing that smokers often find difficult with quitting is the lack of something to hold. They are so used to placing something between their fingers and in their mouth that it becomes difficult not to do so anymore.
It can also trigger cravings, which is not what you want. Therefore, it is important to slowly get rid of this habit by replacing cigarettes with objects.
A marble to hold in the hand or a carrot to place between the lips, this may sound silly, but replacing the object of addiction with something unimportant tricks the brain into believing that the object of addiction was never essential.
You should also try nicotine products. A nicotine patch or gum can really help you when you need it.
It can also help your body deal with everything else – the tar in the lungs, for example – before you tackle the nicotine cravings, thus making the whole experience longer but easier in the long run.
If all else fails, speak to a professional. Call a doctor or a smoker’s helpline, and they can give you great advice on how to quit and put you in contact with a support network so when you are not quitting alone.
There are people who scoff at smoking and consider quitting smoking an easy feat that people just don’t want to do. Well, those people have either never touched a cigarette, smoked only a couple of times, or are lying.
Smoking is an addiction, plain and simple. It is a grueling process to quit it, and it will make you feel worse in the short term, making you feel worse than you thought you could.
However, if you can make it through that first month, those 4 weeks, you will come out the other side beginning to feel better and that feeling will continue getting better until your body adapts to a life without cigarettes.