The First Week
The hardest of the stages of quitting smoking is in the first week. This is where the withdrawal symptoms peak. These symptoms can actually start in during the first 30 minutes of not smoking. How severe the symptoms are and how soon they set in depend on how long and how heavily you smoked.
Nicotine doesn’t last very long when it hits the brain, so it needs to be administered regularly for the brain to continue its feeling of satiation. The brain will start to miss that nicotine the most during the first few days.
The strongest and earliest symptom will be cravings, followed by anxiety, depression, nervousness and a lack of focus. The symptoms become their strongest during the first 3-5 days, then they start to decrease.
As your respiratory system starts to heal itself, you will feel a buildup of mucus, you will have trouble exerting yourself for long periods of time, you may feel insomnia, and you will probably have a tightness in your chest.
Weeks Two through Four
Your body will start to normalize over these weeks, but it is a long, slow process. You will feel your appetite returning to normal, and you will start to feel less fatigue by the end of the fourth week.
Two weeks in, your mental acuity will return. You will no longer feel mentally bogged down and lethargic.
Coughing and excessive mucus production will persist for the first couple of weeks, but by the end of the fourth week, they should be all cleared up as well.
Cravings will still be strong during these weeks, but not as strong as they were for the first week. A sharp decline in cravings is usually experienced during the third week. With these cravings come feelings of anxiety, frustrations agitation and stress. You will need to be careful about triggers that set off your emotions or that apply stress to your during these weeks. Any trigger activations can make it incredibly difficult to resist the cravings.
Fifth Week and Beyond
You may suffer from smoking nostalgia for the rest of your life. This is the feeling of missing what you experienced while you smoked. But you have to remind yourself how hard it was to quit and all the things you had to go through to get where you are now.
Once you hit the fifth week of quitting, there won’t be an intensity to the cravings, but you will have be vigilant for the rest of your life. You may be put at risk if you are around smokers. The scent can make you start to miss the habit.
You won't experience the intensity of cravings and withdrawal symptoms that you did in those first weeks, but if you are not careful, then you can fall back into your old habits.