If you’re reading this, it means you are old enough to read. And if you’re old enough to read, you’re probably also old enough to have experienced the joys of being around someone who has quit smoking. Whether it is a parent, friend, partner – when someone decides to quit smoking, our first thought is most likely “YAY!” … our second thought is mostly likely “OH. NO.”
There’s nothing fun about quitting smoking – for ANYONE involved. If you’re the person quitting, get ready for mood swings that will change the way you see your life. If you’re watching someone quit, get ready for mood swings that will change the way you see your life!
One minute you’re going to be happy and laughing, and the next you might be throwing your computer through the window.
Why does quitting get us moody?
There are a few reasons. Firstly, many people use smoking as a way to relax. If they’re feeling stressed at work, they take a few draws of their cigarette and instantly feel calmer. Smoking is a stress release – at least that’s what they believe and when they quit smoking, they no longer have that outlet.
And in fact, the opposite is true. Research has actually found that 20% of smokers have high levels of stress, compared to 10% of non-smokers.
Predominantly it’s all in the psyche and many smokers were actually depressed long before they started smoking, which is why when they quit it seems as though that depression comes back ten-fold. Many smokers actually started for that very reason! And if you were depressed before you started smoking, quitting will bring back all those emotions again.
According to research, quitting nicotine can also result in neuroadaptation – basically your brain needs to adapt to life without smoking, and that leads to changes in your thinking patterns, motivation, inhibition and concentration.
You need to buy an air purifier for smokers in your home.
What are some of the moods you might face?
You can expect to face a number of different moods, or emotions, when you quit smoking, including depression, anxiety, irritability, feeling generally down, lack of motivation, inability to focus and generally feeling less happy about life in general. If that makes you wonder why you are considering quitting, don’t worry. These won’t last forever. In fact, most of these will be gone within 1 to 3 months, unless there is an underlying factor (such as clinical depression).
How to deal with the moods
I’d love to sit here and say, “just breathe through it and you’ll do fine”. But that’s not the reality of it. Quitting smoking isn’t easy and dealing with those mood swings afterwards it not only hard on you, but also the people around you. Which is why many people find it so hard to quit. They’d prefer to keep smoking and know they are happy, than to have to go through the withdrawals.
So what can you do?
The major emotion you’re going to face is anger. And you’re going to either hold that in until one day someone does something simple – and you blow up; or you’re going to take it out on anyone and everyone around you. The latter is the most common. And that is completely unfair on them.
The best thing you can do is to avoid the triggers behind your anger. If a particular person in your life, or a particular aspect of life, makes you angry – stay away from them. If someone starts talking about a topic you know will get you fired up, keep your mouth closed or simply walk away. If you are at work and your boss is getting on your nerves, take a few deep breaths and just get on with the job. If you were invited to a party where all your friends will be smoking, don’t be afraid to say no and stay home instead. If it is still early days, no doubt you’re either going to get angry at them for doing what you aren’t, or you’ll start up again.
Keeping busy is another way to get through the moods. Take up a new hobby, start a new book or watch a new series on TV to keep you distracted.
If you do get angry and you simply can’t stop it, focus on why you’re angry and ask if it’s really worth it. Keep in mind that the anger that follows quitting usually subsides within 2-3 weeks, so the end is very near.
Depression is also common and one of the best ways to combat that is to focus on the positive. Although, as I mentioned earlier, depression was around long before the habit for many people, it’s not the same for anyone. If you are suffering from depression and nothing you do can make you feel any better, you need to seek professional help so first things first – go see your doctor.
If you are sure your depression is simply a result of quitting, you can help combat this yourself and make yourself feel better. This isn’t going to work with clinical depression, but if you’re simply feeling a little down – go for it. Firstly, write a list – pros and cons of quitting – and establish why you wanted to quit in the first place.
Remember what you’re doing it for and why. Write down all the good things in your life and what you hope to achieve by quitting. And finally write down what you’re going to spend all that extra money on. Put the list up on the wall or fridge and any time you’re feeling a little blue, read over it again.
A great way to combat both of the above is to ensure you get enough sleep and exercise. Both of these are mood enhancers and if you’re not getting enough of either of them, you’re going to feel a lot worse than you would otherwise.
Be proud of yourself. Be proud that you’ve come this far and be proud of where you can now go with your healthier self! Focus on the positive and within a few weeks, you’ll wonder why you ever started smoking in the first place.