Recovering from surgery can be a long and difficult process physically, however the mental health aspect is often overlooked. So, we are going to focus on how you can protect your mental health after surgery! Knowing when it is time to ask for help and how to look after yourself mentally from the beginning is key to a healthy overall recovery.
Sometimes people struggle to identify when they might be struggling with their mental health, simply passing it off as them having a bad day or just feeling a bit down. Whilst this is the case sometimes, you should know when it is time to do something about it. Here are a few symptoms that you should be looking out for post-surgery that might indicate that it would be useful to speak to someone:
- Feeling anxious
- Feeling stressed
- Severe loneliness
- Excessive sleeping
If at any point you feel like you may be experiencing one of these symptoms and it is having an impact on you, then make sure you seek help.
Spend Time Outside
One of the best things you can do to help look after your mental health after surgery is to spend time outside. Having a bit of fresh air can make a big difference when you are feeling a bit cooped up. Make sure that you are accompanied by a carer or loved one if you are still unsteady on your feet, and do a few steps around the garden, go for a short walk or sit outside for a while and read a book.
Having a slight change of scenery could be just what you need to clear the mind and feel much better in yourself. Even if the weather isn’t great, making the effort to wrap up a bit and get some fresh air could be great for you.
Think of the Positives
Another way to cope when you feel like you are struggling is to try and think of the positives. Rather than focusing on the things you are finding difficult, spend some time thinking about the things you are grateful for. This might be the fact you were able to have the surgery to help you get better, it could be that you are able to see your loved ones, your pets or even just having a roof over your head.
If you feel yourself starting to feel anxious or down, try to switch your mindset to more positive thoughts. This is easier said than done, however in some situations it could be just what you need.
Move Around As Much As Possible
If you are feeling a bit fed up with sitting around, try to do your best to move around. The amount of movement you will be able to do will depend massively on the type of surgery you’ve had, for example someone who has had a breast implant replacement will be able to move around much quicker than someone who has had a hip replacement.
However, getting up and moving around as much as you can is great for your mental health. Start by doing small walks or even just a few steps around your home, only when you have been given the all clear by your surgeon. Gradually work your way up and build your strength.
Develop A Routine
For people who feel like the day is all blurring into one, developing a routine can really help. In the morning, set an alarm for a reasonable time to make sure you have had enough sleep, perhaps 9am. Then try to have breakfast by 10am, clean and redress your wound by 11am and do a short walk by 12pm.
You could keep 12pm-1pm free for lunch, and then spend 1pm-3pm doing something you enjoy, like puzzles, watching your favourite film or doing some art. You might invite a loved one over from 3pm-5pm for a coffee, then you can start thinking about eating and winding down for the evening in front of the TV.
Although these might seem like simple tasks, developing a routine can be fantastic for people’s mental health.
Often people may struggle with their mental health after surgery because it feels like their life has been put on hold. However, it is so important to celebrate small milestones because these will help you to realise how far you have come and it can also help you to appreciate how you are moving back towards ‘normality’. Setting yourself a few small targets over the course of a week is another great way to celebrate small achievements.
This could be something like doing your first few steps after surgery which will be a significant goal for some patients, it could be making your first cup of tea or running a mile. Everyone’s goals will be different, so perhaps make a list of the things you would like to achieve so you can tick them off as you go!
Speak To Your Doctor
The most important thing you need to do to help you cope with mental health struggles after surgery is to speak to your doctor. They will be the best qualified to help you to overcome your struggles and feel more like yourself. It could be that you need some assistance through medication, counselling or just some additional guidance to make you feel better.
Mental health is something that should always be taken very seriously, including after surgery as you are in a vulnerable position both mentally and physically. If there is anything you take from this article, make sure that you know you should not be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. Whether this is a family member, friend, carer or your doctor, it is so important to speak to someone. It is likely that when you speak to someone about how you are feeling it will be much easier to put everything into perspective and to help you to feel better.