5 Tips for Surviving Surgical Recovery, both Mentally and Physically
Now I wouldn't call myself an expert, but after four brain surgeries, one reconstructive mouth surgery after a bike accident, and one gruesome tongue surgery, I'd say I know my way around the healing process. If you've experienced anything medical like this, you know that there are a lot of ups and downs. The pain isn't just physical, it's mental. You're just trying to get through the day. And that leads us to tip number 1
#1 Take things day by day
One of my biggest pieces of advice given to me was by my warrior of a Aunt who's battled years of breast cancer. I was really struggling after my second brain surgery. Not only was I supposed to wear a netting with bandages over my head at all times, but my boyfriend had just gotten deported! Talk about a double whammy!
My aunt sits me down, looks me in the eye and says, "Kashmir, the only thing you can do right now is focus on today The future has no answers and it's not worth worrying about. Take it day by day; and if that's too hard, focus on the hour."
I was at a point where I was literally going hour by hour. Okay we made it to 4:00, let's make it to 5:00.
In any recovery, surgical, break up, mourning... the future is daunting. You want more than anything to feel like your best self again, but how do you get there? It takes time and your body and mind need to heal. The only thing that matters, is the present moment, so spend your energy on this moment.
#2 Protein, zinc and antioxidants are your friends!
A big part of healing physically is making sure you have a nutrient rich diet. When I say nutrients, I mean things that assist the body in a speedy recovery. Protein is a big one, as the amino acids in it aid in repairing muscle damage by regenerating tissue and enhance immune function. My doctors recommended that I ate my body weight in grams of protein. That was 125 grams of protein a day!
A not so obvious supplement I was urged to take, was zinc. Zinc helps your body fight off bacteria and viruses, but according to this site, it does so much more than that.
"Zinc is necessary for the production of collagen, a tissue responsible for scar formation. Taking zinc can help speed up the healing of surgical incisions and also boost the immune system."
Lastly, let's just give some credit to the power of antioxidants when it comes to healing. Antioxidants can be found in berries, dark leafy greens, tomatoes and much more! It's crucial to add these in the mix after surgery to speed up wound healing.
According to a study done by S D Fitzmaurice 2011 et al., "Antioxidants are postulated to help control wound oxidative stress and thereby accelerate wound healing."
If eating healthy isn't your jam, go for a protein shake or smoothie. Other helpful things to consider when healing include probiotics, fiber, and ginger! Talk to your doctor and together you should come up with a plan that works for you.
#3 Meditate, it's good for you!
I couldn't write this list of tips without including meditation. During the stint of my four head surgeries, I was in and out of hospitals for 1.5 years. I didn't know what the future looked like and every day I was fighting the feeling of uncertainty. I hope that whatever journey you're on, it's much shorter. But back to the point- get your meditation on.
Your body is healing, you're tired, and you're forced to rest. You're one step away from going within and feeling all of the magic, just close your eyes! Meditation quiets the mind, and if you're patient enough, it will bring you euphoric-like feelings. On the worst days of my recovery process, I'd disappear to my bedroom and meditate for up to two hours. It was the only thing that brought me true peace.
Meditation is fun. One of my favorite types is going in for a visualization practice. I often use free guided meditation videos on YouTube that quite literally take you on a journey. Give it a try, there's a whole world inside of you ;)
#4 Prepare for comfort and relaxing activities
I'm not just talking about cozy pajamas, I'm talking about having your favorite ice cream on hand or a list of new series to watch. I'd recommend that before surgery you get a list of good movies and shows to watch, grocery shop for all of the necessities, and maybe even get yourself a new book or journal. Staying comfortable is half the battle!
Recovery is painful but if you have a good audiobook to look forward to or a new computer game to play, you can make the healing process a lot more enjoyable. For my last head surgery, I knew my healing journey would be long, so I actually started an online course. Don't get me wrong, I was out of commission for the first ten days, but after two weeks, I was glad I had something to do.
Other relaxing activities include, knitting, playing an instrument, writing, video games, singing, makeup tutorials, listening to music, photography, cuddling with an animal, organizing your closet, cooking a new recipe, and/or light stretching. Obviously, these depend on where you are at on your journey. And if all of these are too high energy for your specific case, revert back to tip #3!
#5 Get proper wound care
The last useful bit of advice I can provide is something I cannot stress enough... mind your wound! This is coming from someone who's had their head split open twice from infections that went unnoticed. You can read all the juicy details in my memoir, Kashmir. Just to add— that was very strange and not common at all, but I do wish I knew the signs of infection.
I'm not a medical professional, but if you notice any abnormal pain, bleeding, discharge, or swelling from the surgical site, you need to call one. It's very important you follow post op instructions and take care of your incision. Get in the habit of washing your hands before and after any wound care.
Infections happen so don't stress if it does happen to you. The important thing is to catch it before it gets out of control, which should be very easy now that you're informed! Rest, a good diet and avoiding exposure to germs will keep you on the right track.