If you’re scheduled to have surgery, chances are you’re worried even if it’s not your first time.
“Most people are anxious before surgery and for good reason,” according to Peggy Huddleston, author of “Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster: A Guide of Mind-Body Techniques.”
For starters, there are always risks to consider when you’re having any surgical procedure and with anesthesia. In fact, a study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that 85 percent of people were anxious about going under.
Some may fear what the doctor will find, while others fear hospitals, even when they’re visiting. Perhaps the biggest source of fear, however is the loss of control.
Take heed because experts say you can feel relaxed, in control and even recover quicker with the right tools. Here are eight.
1. Breathe and relax.
Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided relaxation or meditation programs can help to slow down your breath, your racing heart and calm your mind and body. These techniques can help in the days leading up to surgery as well as immediately before.
“Getting deeply relaxed shifts you out of the flight-or-fight response and helps you feel peaceful,” Huddleston said.
2. Visualize a calmer you.
Eighty-five percent of our thoughts originate from our unconscious mind, so the more you expose yourself to positive thoughts, the more calm you’re likely to be. Try to envision yourself feeling relaxed and comfortable as you wait to be brought into surgery and in the operating room. Then, instead of worrying about the pain, imagine you’re in your hospital room or at home and you’re telling someone you love that you feel comfortable.
“When you get deeply relaxed, you’re able to get these positive beliefs about surgery and good surgical results into the unconscious mind,” Huddleston said.
3. Be informed.
You’re more likely to feel at ease if you educate yourself about the surgery and know what to expect in the hospital and post-operatively. Ask your doctor questions and do your own research. Sure, you might read a few scary stories, but most people feel less anxious, said Jodi Aman, a psychotherapist and creator of the Give Fear the Boot anxiety recovery program.
4. Address your worries.
If you have specific fears about pain or medication for example, target those and envision yourself feeling calm, able to accept the situation, and trusting of the staff.
“It gives you a sense of power because you’re actually doing something that makes a difference,” Aman said.
5. Listen to music.
A study in the journal Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica found that people who listened to relaxing music right before surgery were more relaxed than those who opted for medication to calm their nerves.
6. Get support.
Ask family members and friends to think of you right before surgery and wrap you in a “blanket of love” in your favorite color, which will help you feel peaceful and loved, Huddleston said. You could also talk to someone else about their experience with surgery and chances are, you’ll find out it wasn’t that bad.
7. Make a plan.
Think about what you’ll need after surgery, like someone who can pick up your prescription or help you at home.
“That puts you in a state of control, and makes you feel empowered, and it can even help pre-surgery,” Aman said.
8. Consider medication.
If your worry is overwhelming, ask your doctor if an anti-anxiety medication like Xanax is ok to take the night before. You can also ask the anesthesiologist for medication to calm you down right before the surgery.
Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She's also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.