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First two weeks without cigarettes: what to expect and how to overcome

First two weeks without cigarettes: what to expect and how to overcome

Dec 27 AMAZOS - Managing Ecommerce Business Operations
When you stop smoking and throw away the cigarettes, your body will react to the absence of nicotine in your blood. This state is called "withdrawal," and it may have side effects. However, these side effects can be managed with behavioral methods and medications. Common side effects include cravings for a cigarette, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances, depression, irritability, anger, frustration, restlessness, and anxiety.

The good news: These symptoms are always most intense at the beginning of the process. The longer you stay nicotine-free, the more these symptoms gradually diminish. In other words, quitting is achievable and less challenging than it seems.

To successfully tackle this task, you can use prescription drugs for smoking cessation and/or nicotine replacements like nicotine gum, lozenges, and patches. In addition to these, behavioral recommendations also help efficiently deal with withdrawal symptoms.

However, for most smokers, the first days of the quitting process are tough. There's no denying it. The good news is that after the third or fourth day without a cigarette, relief usually sets in, and it can be significant.

By the way, coughing and increased saliva secretion can also occur after quitting smoking. These are positive phenomena: they indicate that the body is cleansing itself from the residues of smoking substances.

Great Reasons to Quit:
- 20 minutes after smoking the last cigarette, blood pressure and pulse begin to return to more normal levels.
- 24 hours after the last cigarette, carbon monoxide disappears from the body.
- 48 hours after the last cigarette, the body is free of nicotine.
- Two days after quitting, the sensitive nerve endings that were suppressed and heavily damaged during smoking begin to recover. This recovery improves the sense of smell and taste.
- Within two to twelve weeks after the last cigarette, blood circulation improves.
- Within three to nine months after the last cigarette, lung function improves by 10%, significantly reducing symptoms like coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
- During this period, the microscopic hairs on the respiratory organs, which expel dirt from the lungs, also start functioning again, offering better protection against infections.
- A year without cigarettes halves the risk of a heart attack.
- After 5 years without cigarettes, the risk of stroke is the same as that of people who have never smoked.
- After 10 years without cigarettes, the risk of lung cancer is halved.
- After 15 years of quitting, the risk of heart attack is the same as that of non-smokers.

Here's more useful information on smoking cessation side effects and effective coping techniques:

Cravings:
The intense desire to smoke a cigarette stems from the body's craving for nicotine. It starts 6 to 12 hours after quitting and peaks during the first week without cigarettes. Cravings come in bursts, usually lasting between 30 seconds to 90 seconds, sometimes a few minutes.

The good news: Prescription drugs and nicotine replacements, such as nicotine gum, lozenges, and patches, effectively help deal with these symptoms.

Self-Care Tips:
- Remind yourself that intense cravings are temporary and will pass. Watch the seconds tick by on a clock or screen and observe how the craving fades away.
- Keep alternatives handy that occupy the mouth: carrots, seeds, apples, chewing gum - all help reduce the psychological need to smoke.
- Feeling agitated? Use relaxation techniques. For example, take deep breaths for 5 seconds (count slowly to 5 while inhaling) and then slowly exhale (count slowly to 5 while exhaling).

To avoid situations or activities that usually go hand in hand with smoking (like drinking alcohol), prepare a list of all the things that trigger the desire to smoke. Next to each "smoking trigger," write how you can effectively deal with it.

Here are some coping techniques:
- Sit down and relax.
- Change the environment.
- Keep reminding yourself of the reasons for quitting.
- Talk to a friend about the urge to smoke and how to deal with it. Such conversations are very helpful in overcoming the urge to smoke.
- Avoid fatty foods that trigger the desire to smoke.
- Take a short nap.
- Take a shower.
- Exercise.

Concentration Difficulties:
Concentration difficulties are one of the common symptoms of withdrawal. Quitting smoking can "slow down" the activity of various nerve conductors in the brain, causing dullness and concentration problems.

What does it feel like?
Sometimes you may feel unable to perform a task for a long time and might not want to deal with difficult or unwanted tasks.

Smoking provided smokers with downtime. After quitting, there is still a need to relax. It can be hard since cigarettes provided a "good reason" to stop working for 10 to 15 minutes, and now you need to find a new reason.

Research shows that 55% to 75% of people who quit smoking without aids or medication suffer from concentration problems in the first week of quitting. Concentration difficulties usually appear on the first day, peak in the first two weeks, and disappear within a month.

The good news: This is a temporary phenomenon, and prescription drugs and nicotine replacements, such as nicotine gum, patches, and lozenges, also help deal with this issue.

Self-Care Tips:
- Take a break during which you can stare at a picture, look out the window, close your eyes, and relax for 10 minutes. Breathe deeply while doing so.
- Try to find other activities that don't require concentration and last about ten minutes. They provide a "good excuse" to stop the flow of work.

Depression:
Nicotine is a highly addictive substance. It serves simultaneously as a stimulant and a relaxant, depending on mood and time of day. Nicotine changes mood through its effect on chemicals in the brain.

People who have suffered from depression in the past have a 17% to 30% risk of experiencing depression again after quitting smoking. In contrast, the risk for those who have never suffered from depression is much lower: only about 2% of them are likely to suffer from depression following quitting.

If quitting causes

mild depression, it usually starts within 24 hours of the last cigarette.

The good news: Depression is a relatively rare side effect of quitting smoking. It may accompany the quitter for a week or two but usually disappears within a month. Prescription drugs and nicotine replacements, such as nicotine gum, patches, and lozenges, help deal with this issue.

Self-Care Tips:
- When feeling depressed, try to identify its sources, as quitting smoking is not always to blame: could it be fatigue? Hunger? Loneliness? Boredom? If it indeed is one or more of these, try to solve the actual distress.

- It's recommended to calculate precisely how much money quitting smoking has saved and imagine what can be done with it. This can definitely help. There are other positive actions that can be taken to escape mild depression, such as talking with friends, going out with them, or engaging in various enjoyable activities like sports.

Feelings of Anger, Frustration, Restlessness, and Anxiety:
When the body doesn't receive the nicotine it's accustomed to, a wide range of negative feelings such as anger, frustration, restlessness, and anxiety may occur. These feelings are related to nicotine's effect on chemicals in the brain. They can appear as soon as the first day after quitting, peak during the first two weeks, and disappear within a month.

What might happen?
People who feel these emotions may be less patient with others and get into arguments more quickly than usual. Research indicates that 50% to 80% of all people who quit smoking (and do not take medication for quitting) experience these feelings to some extent.

The good news: There are activities and medications that help deal with such situations. Prescription drugs and nicotine replacements, such as nicotine gum, patches, and lozenges, help cope with these feelings.

Activities that may help:
- Engage in physical activity (walking, exercising, etc.).
- Significantly reduce caffeine consumption.
- Relax in a hot bath.
- Practice meditation, yoga, and other calming activities.
- Close your eyes and focus on breathing. Take a deep breath through the nose and exhale through the mouth.

Sleep Disturbances:
Nicotine is a stimulating substance and can delay the feeling of tiredness and shorten sleep duration. After quitting smoking, sleep disturbances may occur during the first 48 hours of withdrawal.

What might happen?
In the first few nights, you might wake up frequently during the night and have difficulty falling asleep. Dreams may also revolve around smoking.

However, even if you initially suffer from sleep disturbances, sleep duration is expected to gradually increase. Those who suffered from sleep disturbances before quitting might - in the short term - experience worsening of these disturbances following quitting.

The good news: Sleep disturbances are a temporary phenomenon. Sleep quality usually improves after about a week.

Self-Care Tips:
- It's advisable to avoid coffee and tea (which contains caffeine) after 6 pm. You can freely drink herbal tea, decaffeinated coffee, diet drinks, and water.
- Try self-relaxation methods before sleep, such as yoga or meditation.
- Don't change your sleeping routine: always wake up at the same time in the morning. Before going to sleep, it's advisable to do quiet and calming activities for 15 to 30 minutes, like reading a book or listening to calming music.

Weight Gain:
Some quitters may experience a slight weight gain - mainly due to improved sense of taste and smell and increased appetite. However, even if you gain weight, you can lose it again after quitting smoking.

Self-Care Tips:
To avoid weight gain as much as possible, increase physical activity and follow these recommendations:
- Avoid the tendency to increase food consumption after quitting smoking.
- Divide your daily menu into several meals a day.
- Try to eat as few foods as rich in sugars and fats as possible.
- If you feel the need for extra food or to eat between meals - it's better to eat chopped vegetables (like carrots, cucumbers, peppers), chew sugar-free gum, or suck on a sugar-free candy.

Popcorn can serve as a snack between meals, and since it's a substitute for bread, it's recommended to give up some bread slices in meals.
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