Practical Tips for the First Week of Smoking Cessation

Use These Ideas to Manage Nicotine Withdrawal

You may feel like you're on a roller coaster during the first couple of weeks of smoking cessation.  Whether you use a quit aid of some sort or go cold turkey, you’re going to feel some discomforts due to nicotine withdrawal.

Some people have more trouble with the first week, and others with the second, but the good news is that for most ex-smokers, the worst of physical withdrawal from nicotine is over within the first two weeks of smoking cessation.

Physically, your body is reacting to the absence of not only nicotine but all of the other chemicals in cigarettes that you've been inhaling 20 or more times a day for years. When the supply gets cut off, you can expect to feel the effects of that.

Flu-like symptoms are common during the first couple of weeks of smoking cessation. The amount of discomfort you'll experience depends in part on how well you take care of yourself during this phase. Follow the tips below to help you minimize the effects of physical and mental withdrawal from nicotine.

Quit Tips for the First Week of Smoking Cessation

1) Eat a well-balanced diet.
Treats are fine, but be careful not to go overboard with the wrong kinds of food right now. Your body is working hard to expel toxins during the withdrawal process, and that takes energy. Choose foods that will provide you with the high-quality fuel you need. Avoid the empty calories of junk food.

Don't skip meals.   Skipped meals will probably leave you with low blood sugar, which will trigger the urge to smoke. Skipped meals usually mean more snacking too, something you want to avoid. Aim for three larger or 5 smaller meals a day, depending on your preference.

2) Take a multivitamin.
Smoking depletes our bodies of nutrients. Give yourself a boost with the help of a multivitamin. This, combined with a good diet will help you keep the fatigue that often occurs during nicotine withdrawal to a minimum.

3) Stock the fridge with healthy snacks.
Have small bags of bite-size fresh veggies within easy reach. Celery and carrot sticks with low fat ranch dressing or tzatziki sauce for dipping makes a good snack.

Fresh fruit, such as pineapple chunks, berries, melon or other fruits in season will satisfy your sweet tooth if they're clean and ready to eat when you're looking for a snack. Good freezer treats include Italian ice and frozen grapes.

4) Get out for a walk.
A short walk every day – as little as 15 minutes even, can work wonders for beating back smoking urges and improving mood.  Exercise also releases endorphins, the "feel good" hormone. So, head out for a walk around the block once or twice a day. You’ll come back refreshed and relaxed.

5) Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
Water helps you flush residual toxins from smoking out of your body more quickly. It also works well as a craving buster. Drink water before you snack and you'll eat less. Water is an important part of your diet.  Keep yourself well-hydrated, and you'll feel better in general. That will, in turn, help you manage withdrawal symptoms more easily. 

Try herbal teas or fruit juices, too. Limit coffee, soft drinks, and alcohol - they can increase the urge to smoke.

6) Keep some supplies in your car.
If you spend a lot of time driving, have some items handy to help you pass the time more comfortably. Drink some of that water we just talked about while you're driving. Keep a bottle or two in the car at all times. Also, store a bag of hard candies and lollipops in the glove compartment and have some straws or cinnamon sticks available to chew on.

7) Do some deep breathing.
Cravings usually hit fast and with force. They're strongest at the start and fade in intensity within 3 - 5 minutes. Don't panic when you get a craving to smoke. Take a few moments to concentrate on your breathing. Close your eyes if possible and breathe in and out slowly. Let the craving wash over you like a wave while you focus on your breathing. The urge will pass and you’ll be left feeling stronger for having overcome it successfully.

8) Distract yourself.
What we pay attention to has a habit of growing. Don't let thoughts of smoking run unchecked through your mind. Nip them in the bud by identifying them and taking action to change your mindset. Use this list of 101 Things to Do Instead of Smoking for ideas, or make your own list of activities you can do when the urge hits.

9) Reward yourself.
Come up with a list of small gifts that you can give yourself every day. Take a hot bath. Buy a new candle. Read a fun magazine. Enlist someone else in the family to cook dinner. Small daily rewards will boost your spirits and fortify your resolve to keep the quit. 

10) Get more sleep.
Early cessation is tiring. Your body is stressed and so is your mind. Allow more time to sleep if you need it. Don’t worry, the weariness won't last. Your energy will return soon.

11) Change your habits. Use a different route to work, eat breakfast in a different place, or get up and jump into the shower before that first cup of coffee.  Expect to feel awkward, to begin with, but don't panic. The more practice you put into new routines, the more comfortable they will become. Eventually, those new routines will become the norm.

12) Do something to reduce your stress.   We all used cigarettes as our go-to stress neutralizer and now we have to begin the work of managing tension in new ways. Take a hot shower, read a book, or get outside for a quick walk around the block.

And a few more tips...

  • Create a List of Reasons for quitting, and read it every day.
  • Avoid places (and people)  you connect with smoking for now, if possible.
  • Develop a plan for relieving high-stress situations.
  • Listen to relaxing music.
  • Watch a funny movie.
  • Call a friend you can trust to talk you through it.
  • Use the 5 D's to help you manage the discomforts that are normal during the early days of smoking cessation.


Consider looking in on an Internet support forum for smoking cessation. There is nothing more beneficial for managing the ups and downs that come with nicotine withdrawal than getting help from people who have been through it.

Read how others have survived nicotine withdrawal.

While the first week of smoking cessation is intense for almost everyone, remember that better days are ahead.  The discomforts are all temporary, so dig your heels in and go the distance.  It's worth it!