When you’re undergoing breast surgery, it’s common to go through a rollercoaster of emotions. You might feel scared, anxious or even depressed about the procedure. At the same time, you might also feel happy that you will be able to put the surgery behind you soon and, after everything you’ve been through, pleased that the doctors can reconstruct a new breast.
While all of these emotions before, during and after surgery are normal, your mental health can actually play a significant role in your surgery recovery. Studies have shown that stress alters your immune system’s ability to heal wounds, and being anxious or depressed can increase the amount of pain you’re in. So what can you do to improve your mental health during your surgery recovery?
Those around you will probably wish you the best for your surgery and encourage you to “Think positive!” Easier said than done, we’re sure, but there is a lot of scientific support behind the idea that maintaining a positive state of mind before and after surgery has major health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of them include an increased life span, lower rates of depression, lower levels of distress, better cardiovascular health and more.
How do you think more positively? It takes time to bump out the scary thoughts in your mind and replace them with more positive ones, but you should practice positive self-talk every day. Repeat statements to yourself such as “I can get through this,” “This surgery will work,” and “I will be healthy.” Positive thoughts make you feel happy and optimistic, and when you do, your brain produces serotonin, which makes you happier, calmer and less anxious.
Be kind to yourself
Surgery can be a long, stressful process both physically and mentally, and many patients are eager to get back up and go at their pre-surgery pace. This is the time to relax and let your body heal. Don’t do more than you can do, and don’t get upset that you can’t do more. That will change in time.
You might be feeling uncertain or anxious about breast surgery because you haven’t had all of your questions answered. Make sure to ask your doctors anything you want to know before the procedure starts. If you still need additional information or emotional support, join an in-person or online support group and ask others who have been on this journey already what they went through. Ask them for tips on coping with what can happen afterward. Other breast cancer patients are very helpful when it comes to supporting their ‘sisters.’
Most importantly, if you’re struggling with depression, anxiety or any other mental health issues during your surgery recovery, speak up. The doctors are there to help and support you and will do what they can to support your mental healing as well.