Dr. Marlene Birkholtz, Banner Health
Preparing for surgery can be a daunting task: You have to arrange for time off work, make sure someone is going to walk the dog, and pick up your mail. But don’t forget to tend to the biggest part of all: the mental and emotional stress of anticipated pain and disability.
Researchers increasingly link mental, emotional and spiritual health to that of the physical body. So when a major physical event like surgery is on the table-no pun intended-the other human elements need caring for too.
Educating yourself before the procedure is key. The more informed patients are about what’s going to happen to them, the better they can be to cooperate with post-operative instructions including rest, nutrition and exercise, and the sooner they can return to normal activities. Patients should openly discuss their pain level with their nurse when they are hospitalized so it can be managed effectively. And, upon discharge, patients should closely follow their physician’s discharge orders. Many people try to return to normal activities too soon after surgery, resulting in pain and slowing the healing process.
How to Stave Off Surgery Stress
1. Get as much information as possible. Speak with all the doctors involved in the procedure, including the anesthesiologist, surgeon and your primary care physician. Seek out reliable information from the Internet or meet with people who have undergone the procedure in the past.
2. Choose a surgeon you trust. Ask family, friends and your family physician for a referral. Meeting with the surgeon before the procedure helps build a relationship.
3. Stick to a healthy lifestyle before surgery. Stop smoking and consult your doctor about the foods, vitamins and exercise that aid in a speedy recovery.
4. Take an active role in your healthcare. Express your concerns, worries or discomfort with the surgery process and make sure you get everything answered.
5. Enlist support. Research has found that a social and emotional network is essential to relieving stress and aiding in recovery.
6. Keep a notebook. Document the names and titles of all the medical staff involved and details of all tests and medications.
7. Seek professional advice. In extreme cases of stress, sessions with a therapist or someone who can instruct you on stress-management techniques can be very helpful.