Steps to mental recovery after a major surgery

patient in hospital bed

Major surgeries often require time taken off work and lengthy recovery periods spent resting and healing. While it is true that much of the recovery is physical, it takes time for your mind and mental health to recover as well after such an event. What steps can you take to help aid your mental recovery after a major surgery?

Eat Healthier

If you’re restricted to bed or the couch while you’re recovering from a major surgery, it might be tempting to fill up on comfort foods, but a poor diet can have a negative impact on both your physical and mental health.

The most important things to focus on are foods that are high in fiber, lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables. These foods will contain the nutrients that you need to heal. Avoid things like processed foods, fast food and dairy products – these can lead to constipation, gas and other things that you don’t want to experience while you’re recovering.

Focus on Relaxation

Surgery can be a stressful and even harrowing experience, so it’s important to focus on relaxation during your recovery. This can vary from person to person – what helps you relax might not help the next person.

Meditation, bubble baths, hobbies and just lying out in the sun are all popular options, but do what works best for you.

Stay Active When Possible

Being active after surgery might seem counterproductive, but it can help to improve your physical and mental recovery – as long as you don’t push yourself too hard. Depending on your surgery and your particular type of recovery, you may benefit from low-impact exercise like walking, swimming or using weights while sitting. Exercise, in addition to being good for your mental health, is also a useful tool for reducing joint pain that can sometimes occur if you are sedentary after an operation.

Just make sure you don’t overexert yourself – the last thing you need is to pull your stitches and end up back in the hospital!

overexert yourself – the last thing you need is to pull your stitches and end up back in the hospital!

Keep Your Mind on Recovery

It’s tempting to let your mind drift to the worst case scenarios when you’re recovering — there are a lot of variables that you can’t control and may not even be aware of, after all. Instead of letting yourself focus on the potential negative, try to keep your mind focused on your recovery through the use of visualization techniques.

It might sound a little strange, but everyone from athletes to therapists has used visualization for years to help them perform better, improve patient treatment and accomplish other goals. You can use your imagination, but you may find it easier to use a guided visualization program, at least the first few times you try it.

Be Aware of Your Mental Health

Even if you’ve never experienced the symptoms of depression, anxiety or another mental illness, you may experience them after surgery. Depression, in particular, is common after a major surgery and it can make recovery more difficult.

Take the time to be aware of your mental health and know when to ask for help. The after-effects of your surgery might cause symptoms such as apathy, changes in appetite, fatigue and mood shifts. If these symptoms become extreme, start interfering with your everyday life or continue after your physical recovery is complete, make an appointment to speak with your doctor.

Most surgical facilities don’t screen their patients for post-procedure depression, so you will need to bring the subject up to your doctor.

Be Patient

Recovery takes time. Don’t expect to be back to your old self overnight and don’t be disappointed if it takes longer than you expected to recover fully. Be patient with yourself and give yourself permission to take the time you need to recover. Surgery isn’t an easy thing, so you should take the time to take care of both your physical and mental health throughout the recovery process.

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