11:51 19 April 2005
Emotional or suffering from mood swings
You may be feeling very tearful or really irritable. This is also totally normal (ask any ex-smoker). One of the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal is a heightened sense of emotion so if you're not shouting, the chances are that you're crying instead. Let it out and don't worry, this phase passes.
Nicotine is a stimulant and has a laxative effect. You may also have cut down on other stimulants such as coffee and as a result may be slightly constipated for a few days. This is very common and providing you drink lots of water and eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and fibre-rich food, your body will quickly get back to normal.
Coughing or sore throat
You may have a sore throat and be coughing more than you ever did as a smoker! This is completely normal and is a sign that your lungs are doing what they're supposed to do and rejecting the tar and debris that has built up over the years.
Cravings only last a few minutes. Even when they are violent and catch you unawares, they are still fleeting. Breathe through them. Take slow deep breaths. Drink water. Delay. The moment will pass.
You may be having difficulty concentrating and the smallest task - paying the gas bill, for instance - may seem monumental. Don't worry, this is normal and it doesn't last - your mind is simply adjusting to higher levels of oxygen, the loss of carbon monoxide and the absence of nicotine. Fresh air and exercise are far more effective stimulants and within two or three weeks, your concentration levels will begin to get back to normal.
Disturbed sleep or insomnia
Disturbed sleep patterns in the early days of stopping smoking are completely normal. Some smokers report night sweats, others that they wake at odd times of the night and can't go back to sleep. Occasionally, some people report mild panic attacks. These symptoms are unlikely to last longer than a week or two. Try deep breathing and simple relaxation techniques and avoid obvious stimulants just before you go to bed.
Headaches, dizziness or tingling
Many people experience headaches and tingling. This is because blood vessels all over your body are opening back up and more blood is now getting to your brain. Dizziness can result from lowered blood pressure (your heart isn't having to work as hard as it used to) and an increase in oxygen to the nerves and tissue.
You may find you're unusually hungry. Because your body is in a state of repair, it needs more energy than usual. Fresh fruit, dried fruit and fruit juices are all great sources of natural energy and won't pile on the pounds.
You may be feeling unusually tired. Nicotine is a stimulant and speeds up your body's metabolism to an unnaturally high level. Your metabolism is adjusting, which may cause a drop in energy levels. If you're able to, go to bed and sleep. If you're at work and feeling droopy, two or three glasses of water or a quick walk round the block will help.
All these symptoms are normal and will pass. However, if they persist or you are at all worried and want advice, contact your GP
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