How to Mentally Prepare Yourself for Surgery

The best way to mentally prepare for surgery is by taking care of your body, working on your emotions, and filling yourself with positive stimuli. It'll make everything much easier.
How to Mentally Prepare Yourself for Surgery
Sergio De Dios González

Written and verified by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Last update: 20 October, 2022

Surgery is an extraordinary and potentially stressful event for which you need to mentally prepare yourself. In fact, any surgical intervention almost always involves a certain degree of nervousness. This varies, depending on the type of operation, the risks, the situation, or the coping strategies in place.

Unsurprisingly, most people experience anxiety before any intervention of this type. While it’s impossible to completely eliminate anxiety, it’s possible to significantly reduce it and be better able to cope with it. That’s why it’s so important to prepare yourself mentally for surgery.

Actually, you don’t have to do anything elaborate. It’s enough to adopt some healthy routines before your surgery and make use of certain really useful relaxation techniques.

Only the doctor and the playwright enjoy the rare privilege of collecting the discomfort they give us.”

-Santiago Ramon y Cajal-

Put your body first

Together, mind and body make up an indivisible unit. In talking about preparing you mentally for surgery, we’re going to start with your body. If your doctor agrees, don’t give up physical activity in the days before your surgery. The fact that your body is used to responding to certain physical stress will really help in your recovery.

For the same reasons, you should also try to take extra care of your diet. Eliminate fats and reduce flour and sugar. Focus on proteins, fruits, and vegetables. Also, increase your intake of foods that contain iron, such as liver, legumes, meat, and tofu. In addition, make sure you consume a great deal of vitamin C by drinking natural juices. Ideally, you should have a nutritionist advise you.

Woman drinking orange juice, depicting how to prepare yourself for surgery
Before mentally preparing for surgery, it’s essential that your body’s ready. For this, it’s best to talk to your doctor.

Mentally preparing for surgery: emotions

One essential aspect in preparing for surgery is clearing up any doubts you might have with your doctor. Try not to leave any questions out, and don’t settle for answers that are vague or that you don’t understand. Being well-informed about the procedure will help you increase your feelings of control.

This is also a good time to practice some relaxation techniques. You can start by controlling your breathing, practicing yoga, or just taking a leisurely walk. Also, try to visit green spaces, as they’re really calming.

The most relaxing song in the world

Many studies have claimed that music plays a determining role in our emotional well-being and relaxation. More particularly, regarding surgery, an investigation was conducted by the University of Pennsylvania (USA) and published in the BMJ Journal.

In this study, 157 patients were given the option of receiving the sedative midazolam or listening to the song, “Weightless”, by the British band Marconi Union, while a part of their body was anesthetized. In both cases, their levels of anxiety were reduced in the same proportions, with the advantage that those who listened to the song didn’t have to take any medication.

Three healthy practices

Another way to prepare yourself mentally for surgery is to carry out three simple relaxation practices. They can be used before, during, or after surgery. The first of these is breathing meditation. It consists of taking deep breaths in and out, keeping your mind focused only on the flow of air.

The second is the body scan. It consists of reviewing your body, or an area of it, focusing exclusively on detecting the sensations that occur there. There’s no need to judge them or try to interpret them, but simply to detect and perceive them.

The third is anxiety and fear meditation. It consists of concentrating, while breathing slowly, on the emotions of anxiety and fear. Try to identify how they manifest, without trying to fight them. The goal is to accept these emotions as a natural part of this process and learn how to calmly witness your anxiety.

Woman with eyes closed
Breathing and relaxation exercises help restore emotional balance and relieve stress.

Prepare everything in advance

Try to have everything ready the day before your surgery, especially if you’re going to need some special care during your recovery. In addition to blocking the tension that can be generated by the appearance of certain unforeseen events, with this mental preparation it’s almost as if you were already beginning recovery. That’s how positive this process can be on your state of mind.

Work out who’s going to go with you, how you’re going to get to the clinic, what clothes you’ll wear, what you need to bring, etc. Likewise, work out who’s going to pick you up afterward, and how you need to arrange things in your house so that you’re comfortable on your return.

It’s a tense moment and, therefore, it’s not advisable to make important decisions that aren’t necessary right now. This isn’t the time to experiment either. So put on your safety goggles, those in which you know you’ll be protected.

Preparing yourself mentally for surgery is well worth it. In fact, it’ll help everything run more smoothly. Give lots of hugs to the people you love, accept the affection they offer you, and have faith in the fact that your surgery will make a contribution to you feeling better.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Cordero-Ponce, M., Romero-Sánchez, I. M., López-Barea, J., & Martínez-Ramos, P. (2008). Abordaje del paciente en unidad de cirugía mayor ambulatoria. Enfermería clínica, 18(3), 156-160.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.