It is so common to lie in bed tossing and turning the night before a scheduled medical operation troubled by surgery anxiety. You lie there, close your eyes in an attempt to sleep but your mind conjures up all types of fears, seeing things going wrong, scaring you out of your mind.
It is totally normal to feel anxious before surgery. Even if an operation can restore your health or even save your life, most people feel uncomfortable about “going under the knife.” The closer you get to the time of your surgery many face a pounding heart, a racing heart (fast pulse), irregular heartbeat, nausea, a nervous stomach, and shortness of breath as your surgery anxiety increases. The thoughts that go through your head see only the worst possible outcome. Surgery anxiety can be truly frightening.
If you are somebody who gets yourself into a bad emotional state scared of having an operation then you’re not alone. Millions of people react just like you.
I received a text message from a new coaching client the other day, she informed me that she had walked out of the preparation room minutes before her operation yesterday afternoon, canceling her operation, she just couldn’t face it. She’d been worried for days and her fears just kept escalating. The minute she got home she regretted her decision and is determined to see it through and work with me to ensure she can.
We all have our fears. I doubt if there is anyone out there that is so strong that they can go into surgery without giving it a second thought or having some fear. It is important to make sure that fears and anxiety do not become too overwhelming. If they do then like my client they’ll win over and keep you from seeing through your required operation.
There is no cure-all for anxiety. You won’t be able to completely eradicate your fear, but you can learn to cope with it. But there are many things that can help people better cope with anxiety before surgery, strategies for managing pre-surgery anxiety.
1. RECOGNISE WHAT YOU’RE AFRAID OF
The first — and maybe most important — step when it comes to fear is realizing you’re afraid. Identify the source of fear and define why you’re afraid. Maybe it’s worrying about the fact that your life is in the hands of another and you have no control. Fearing that there will be complications and things will get worse. Not being sure of how things will be when you are recovering, scared of the pain. You need to get to the root cause of fear, it’s helpful to ask this question: What is it I’m imagining that makes this so troubling? Once you can determine the true factor bringing on your surgery anxiety you must question its validity. In most cases you realise you are worrying over nothing. Even you will laugh at how silly you’re being.
2. ARM YOURSELF WITH INFORMATION
Facing surgery can be a frightening experience fraught with questions, doubts and uncertainties. An important step in dealing with surgical anxiety is to become as well informed as possible regarding the surgical treatment you will undergo. Having a complete understanding of the procedure, why it is necessary, and how it is performed can relieve a great deal of worry. Find out what time your surgery will happen, how long it will take and the likely recovery time. Discover everything you feel is important for you to know. Forearmed is forewarned.
3. PREPARING BOTH EMOTIONALLY AND PHYSICALLY
Going for surgery can make you feel lots of difficult emotions. It is normal to feel anxious, frightened, down, angry and upset. Fear and anxiety are the body’s normal response to a threat. Even when you understand that you need surgery to survive, it is difficult to override the body’s instinctive response to being hurt. Different people find different helpful strategies for managing emotions. It is helpful to build up some tools that you can use when you are feeling overwhelmed.
Meditation and relaxation are powerful tools for managing pain and anxiety. Different techniques such as visual imagery, Mindfulness, breathing exercises, and progressive muscular relaxation will help. I have produced a pre-recorded audio book which includes scripts for this to make using these techniques for yourself very easy. You can get it here.
Awesome tools for coping with the emotional impact of Visual Impairment.
4. CHALLENGE YOUR NEGATIVITY
Adopting a positive attitude will set you on the road to recovery. Consider negativity as a red flag. It is important to stay positive and present in the face of fear although not easy. Irrationality is often characterized by negativity. You have to challenge your negative thoughts. Ask yourself: what is the basis of these thoughts I’m having? Am I being unnecessarily paranoid? Am I blowing the operation and its risks way out of proportion? Am I being inflexible? More importantly, if I continue with this line of thought, is it in any way conducive to my wellbeing? Am I not hurting myself with this kind of thinking?
5. EXPECT THE BEST
Stay positive and only see yourself as healed in the future. See your operation as being successful and your health returning to a good level soon after. It is essential that you expect a full recovery after your operation. An optimistic attitude can do wonders for not just your recovery but for your confidence leading up to the operation.
A good way to bring your mind to see things working out well is to use positive affirmations. Affirmations are positive statements that describe a desired situation, which are often repeated, until they get impressed on the subconscious mind. Positive affirmations can help you to develop a positive pre-surgery mindset. This type of mindset is one where you have no fear about surgery and see it as a positive thing, allowing you to stay calm and relaxed about your procedure, overcoming surgery anxiety. Affirmations help purify our thoughts and restructure the dynamic of our brains, so use affirmations such as: I am confident about surgery ; I am safe on the operating table; I am happy about undergoing surgery as it means I will become better; I am fearless of surgery. You should take them and repeat them at least twice each day, making sure to say each one at least ten times each session and making sure you say them in a confident and positive manner.
Be prepared, be ready and refuse to allow your fears to eat away at you, or worse still allow your surgery anxiety to stop you from undergoing this necessary operation.