Don’t underestimate how much stress your body goes through when dealing with trauma associated with surgery. Here’s an interesting fact. Stress relief before and after surgery can improve outcomes for a healthy recovery. In other words, our emotional state can affect our physical state, including immunity and wound healing.
Are You Feeling a High Level of Stress about Surgery?
Everybody is going to feel some level of stress when it comes to undergoing surgery, but some people experience it more than others. Physically, stress can manifest itself these ways:
- aches and pains including, headaches, backaches, stomach aches
- sweating and/or heart palpitations (fluttering)
- changes in your normal patterns such as: sleep, appetite, interest in sex
- constipation or diarrhea
- easily unnerved by loud noises or unexpected touch
- prone to colds, cold sores, and illnesses
- increased use of alcohol or drugs and/or overeating
How to Lower Stress Levels before an Operation
When you have planned surgery, the period leading up to the operation can a ticking time bomb for rattled nerves. After all, every operation—even minor ones—have the chance of going wrong. You might find yourself worrying about the success of the operation, whether or not your doctor knows what he/she is doing, how long the recovery process will be, how long you’ll be out of work; and most importantly—will the operation be successful?
Here are some ways to reduce stress when undergoing surgery:
Deep breathing or diaphragmic breathing exercises can quickly relax and reverse your body’s response to stress. You don’t need any special equipment or tools, except your lungs, so you can do this exercise anywhere, anyplace. Diaphragmic breathing (also called abdominal or belly breathing) exercises aids surgery-related stress. It can reduce the physiological changes caused by too much stress such as lowered immunity and slower healing. So, breathe in, breathe out, by contracting the diaphragm, a muscle located horizontally between the chest cavity and stomach cavity. Air enters the lungs and the belly expands during this type of breathing.
Relaxing Guided Imagery
Have you ever taken a yoga class that uses guided imagery to help the class relax at the end of the workout? If “not”, you’re missing out on something! And if you answered “yes,” then you know how guided imagery can transport you to calmer places –like the beach, tropical forest, or a relaxing walk in the woods.
There’s a form of guided imagery that through relaxation techniques you can become accustomed to a new and potentially scary situation while remaining in a relaxed state. This is called Stress Inoculation Training and through guided imagery you associate certain sounds and sensations (in this case sounds of an operating room from pre-op to recovery) with calm emotions. When you go into surgery and hear these sounds or sensations, you’ll be in a relaxed state.
It’s similar to self-hypnosis in the sense that you achieve a deep state of relaxation in your subconscious mind. The difference is that with self-hypnosis, you’re putting ideas into your subconscious mind, and with guided imagery you’re taking ideas out of your subconscious mind.
When it comes to stressful situations, a lot of the stress is self-induced in the sense that is originates in your mind. Feelings like, not knowing what to expect, negativity and being out of control can all create stress. Cognitive therapy is a way to control these feelings. This is similar to the type of therapy somebody who is afraid of flying on airplanes may use to conquer their fear.
Friends and family and even the patients themselves can be surprised how long reactions to trauma can last. Sometimes it can take weeks or months. In severe circumstances it can take years to fully recover from a trauma and surgery. Friends and family can be extremely supportive and helpful during this time, but sometimes they can push people to “get over it” something before they’re ready. If that’s the case, let them how much you appreciate their help, but you need to take however long it takes to achieve a full recovery.