To quit smoking, you have to learn how to deal with your cravings and temptations to smoke. But staying smoke-free involves learning how to think and act like a nonsmoker.
Many people who are able to make it through those first tough weeks without smoking run into trouble about 3 to 4 weeks after they quit. Surprisingly, this is just about the time when physical cravings have stopped. And yet-people often go back to smoking. Why does this happen? Some researchers found that staying smoke-free may depend on how well someone has been able to start seeing himself or herself as a nonsmoker.3 To help you start seeing yourself as a nonsmoker, think about hanging out with other nonsmokers, starting a healthy behavior such as going to an exercise class or a healthy-cooking class, or trying any other activity that is not compatible with thinking of yourself as a smoker.
Tips to deal with cravings in the first few weeks
Many of the changes you feel when you first quit smoking don't feel good. Nicotine withdrawal can make you feel grouchy, hungry, and nervous. You may have trouble sleeping or concentrating. These symptoms can last for a few days to several weeks. But they do go away, especially if you take medicine. You may struggle with changing your smoking habits and rituals. This is a lot to deal with, but keep at it. You will feel better.
The following tips may help you in the first few weeks:
- Deal with temptations and cravings when you quit smoking.
- After you quit, don't smoke at all-not even one puff. Prevent a slip (smoking one or two cigarettes) or relapse (returning to regular smoking) by avoiding smoking triggers, such as alcohol and stress. Don't keep cigarettes in your house or car. If you do slip or relapse, stay calm. Remind yourself that you have a plan, and think about how hard you've worked to quit for good.
- Ask friends and family members for help.
- Deal with weight gain.
Tips to stay smoke-free over time
To stay smoke-free, you will have to make it past a second big challenge. This will come about 3 to 4 weeks after you quit, when you notice that your physical cravings are almost gone. Making it past this second big challenge will depend on how well you have been able to start thinking and acting like a nonsmoker. You will be able to enjoy and value a smoke-free lifestyle when you:3
- Realize from your experiences that you are able to cope with stresses without smoking.
- Face situations where you used to smoke and no longer feel like you need to smoke.
- Find other ways to do things that you used smoking to help you do in the past.
- Reject or move past your image of yourself as a smoker.