Operation Inner Peace and Fear

It's a common reaction when facing a medical procedure. Some people are psychologically scarred by a past experience. Others fixate on the pain they might suffer.

If you're a stressed-out patient, there's hope. You can take steps to face down your fears. The following strategies may made a dramatic difference :

Don't deny your fear
It's helpful to recognize your anxiety and get your feelings out in the open. Stay connected with your friends and family. Patients with a large support network feel less anxiety and pain prior to operations and have a quicker, smoother recovery.

Ask questions
Talk to your physician and to other patients. Pepper your doctor with questions. His answers will give you a better idea of what to expect. Your doctor may also put you in touch with patients who'd undergone the same operation. Talking to them will make you feel like you weren't alone. They survived—so could you.

Meet your anesthesiologist
Do this well ahead of an operation. Be honest with the specialist about you fear, because it can affect your response to anesthesia. We tend to become hypertensive when we are fearful, which can make recovery more complicated.

Practice daily relaxation in the weeks leading up to surgery
Do daily relaxation exercises such as deep breathing, meditation and guided imagery (picturing positive images in your mind, like a tranquil scene on a lake or the face of a person who makes you happy). Once you get the hang of these techniques, you can use them in the hospital to bring inner peace.

Have a loved one keep you company before the operation
What's the best thing friends and family can do? Just stay there with them, hold their hand, have them take deep breaths. They might need to cry a little or talk about their fears.

Listen to music during pre-operation
Research shows music reduces anxiety and blood pressure in hospital patients. It helps people focus on something other than their worries and the hospital noises around them. Some even play music during their operation. It brings them calmness and makes the heart rate slower, which is a good thing because it means less sedation may be needed. Ritual music, such as Tibetan chants, is particularly effective, but the important thing is to choose whatever makes you feel relaxed and uplifted.

Bring a little piece of home to the hospital
Taking along photos and other belongings that help you feel comforted, relaxed and secure.

All these efforts could do great to combat your fear about surgery on the day of the operation.