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Looking After Patient Mental Health Before & After Surgery

Mental health before, during and after surgery are important for a patient's wellbeing and recovery. Understand how best to support your mental health in this article.

Looking After Patient Mental Health Before & After Surgery

Written by Chloe Gale

Medical Review by Medical Quality Officer, David Jones , MPharm

Published: Wednesday 10 August 2022

Preparing for surgery may feel daunting, but we’re here to help, not just with organisation and administration but with support and a friendly ear. Patients should aim to be physically, emotionally and mentally well for surgery to aid in fast recovery and a stress-free patient journey.

Things to consider before having surgery.

Surgery is a big undertaking, and so it's important patients are able to commit to their treatment plan, attend all appointments and follow their surgeon’s recommendations. If patients have other things going on in their lives, it can add to the stress. Nobody likes having too much on their plate. If perhaps you are undergoing any of these, it may not be the best time to undergo surgery:

  • Moving house
  • Bereavement
  • Childbirth/new addition to the family
  • Loss of job
  • Generally feeling unwell mentality/physically/emotionally.

All our Patient Care Advisers are on-hand to talk you through everything you need to know. Should you, however, be feeling overly stressed and unwell, we recommend speaking to your GP or calling one of the helplines recommended by Mind. We appreciate that many things in life are out of our control, so should patients find themselves booked for surgery and unable to move forward with the procedure due to life circumstances, all Patient Care Advisers are able to support patients and reschedule their surgery for a later date that works for them.

Staying cool and collected for surgery

Individuals may try to cope with pre-surgery anxiety in very different ways: Some may try to prevent anxiety or stress by getting as much information about the procedure as they can and talking with other people about their concerns, both of which we’re able to provide to all our patients. Others may use distraction tactics such as reading or use exercise or relaxation techniques like slow and deep breathing. Several studies have suggested that listening to music before surgery can relieve anxiety. Music has the ability to help relax and distract patients. Different people will find different genres of music helpful, depending on their personal taste in music, so it's worth trying various types.

Patients who smoke tend to smoke even more when they’re feeling anxious, so it’s natural they may be tempted prior to their procedure date. However, even if that calms their nerves in the short term, smoking can increase the risk of complications after surgery, so it is not advised that patients use this method to reduce stress. Instead, exercise, a brisk walk and a healthy diet are recommended to help support the patients' mental health whilst preparing them for their procedure. Patients need to ensure they are smoke and nicotine-free six weeks before and six weeks after surgery.

men talking

Mental health following surgery

Following surgery, it can be normal for patients to experience unwanted feelings. There may be discomfort, and the daily routine is interrupted during that initial recovery period, so it’s not surprising that some people may well feel low or even sad after they have had their surgery. The important thing is to talk to someone. Patients will have regular follow-up appointments at the hospital with nurses and their surgeon, so they can discuss any negative feelings or concerns they may well have. Our Patient Care Advisers are also available to listen to and support patients where they can. Patients should go easy on themselves; after undergoing their procedure and anaesthetic, their body is doing all it can to recover and rebound, so feeling somewhat “not yourself” can be normal. These feelings often pass as the recovery progresses, and patients start to see and appreciate the benefits of surgery. Preparing for surgery as much as possible may help reduce the feelings of disruption, and ensuring there is a network of support at home will also help reduce the risk of post-surgery depression.

For some patients, emotional symptoms of depression can occur, and this may be a sign of post-surgery depression. This is a potential side effect following surgery regardless of how well the operation goes. It is important that if patients feel this way, especially for a few weeks, they should speak to their GP to get support.

The patient's perspective

If patients have any questions or concerns after reading this article, please speak to your Patient Care Adviser.

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