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A Holistic Approach to Surgery Recovery





By Heather Campbell





FInding out that you need Surgery can be overwhelming and stressful for many people.   Most likely, it is the best option for your best recovery from a particular health concern, or you Doctor would not have advised it.   But that doesn't make an easy experience for most people.    

It’s normal to feel anxious before a planned surgery or procedure – you may be worried about having an anaesthetic, feeling pain or being away from home. You may also be concerned that the surgery won’t go well or that the recovery afterwards will take a long time.

An Integrative and Holistic Approach to preparing for Surgery can help to ease the anxieties and improve your surgical outcomes.   This article will explore the Ready, Set, Recover Method of Surgery Preparation as an Integrative Approach that improves your Surgical Experience in Mind, Body and Spirit.



Integrative approach to surgery recovery 

What is integrative medicine?


Integrative medicine focuses on you as a whole person and not just your illness or disease. While it seeks to understand the underlying cause of your symptoms or condition, it does so by looking at your complete mind, body and spirit. Integrative medicine uses an evidence-based approach to improve your health.

Integrative medicine believes your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs affect your health. It believes those needs rely on each other and affect your entire well-being. There are many different aspects to address, so integrative medicine uses a combination of therapies and lifestyle changes.

With integrative medicine, the relationships between you and your healthcare providers are important. You are equal partners in your healing process. Integrative medicine aims for well-coordinated care among different providers and specialists. It combines conventional Western Medicine with Complimentary and Alternative Medicine therapies to treat the whole person.   Integrative medicine “integrates” all aspects of your well-being to achieve optimal health and healing.


Bridging Knowledge and Action in Surgical Recovery


The journey toward recovery following surgery is a complex process that starts long before and extends far beyond a patient being on the operating table. For the best experiences with less stress and faster recoveries, blending clinical guidance with active patient participation is key. In this article, we’ll discuss why participating in structured programs like Ready Set Recover help bridge the gap between scientifically proven actions and practical, daily routines to optimize healing.

While surgeons obviously play an enormously important role, they’re not the whole equation.The decisions patients make also effect their recovery.

Studies underscore the importance of this collaboration. For example, a 2022 study published in the 'Journal of Patient Experience' entitled ‘Impact of Patient Engagement on Healthcare Quality: A Scoping Review’ emphasized that patient engagement in post-operative care significantly reduces complication rates and improves overall outcomes (Marzban et al., 2022). These findings highlight the critical role patients play in their own healing process.



Holistic Approach to Surgery Recovery 

The Mind/Body Connection in Recovery: A Holistic Approach to Healing


Surgical recovery is not solely a physical process; the connection between mental well-being and physical health is well-documented and particularly pertinent in the context of post-operative recovery. In fact, the psychological state of a patient can have a profound impact on their physical healing. Stress and anxiety, for instance, can impede the body’s natural healing processes. Conversely, a positive mental outlook can enhance recovery.

Effective stress management techniques are essential in post-operative care. Practices like mindfulness meditation have been shown to reduce anxiety and improve pain management. A study in the 'Journal of Psychosomatic Research' found that mindfulness meditation significantly reduced stress and pain perception in post-operative patients (Hanley et al., 2022).



Proactive Steps for Optimal Recovery: Empowering Patients through Action


Often, the idea of recovery connotes lying in bed and resting. That’s certainly one aspect, but rest is actually an activity and recovery is really an active process that requires the patient’s full engagement. Let’s look at some of these proactive steps, encompassing areas such as sleep, nutrition, and mental well-being, that are pivotal in enhancing the healing journey.


Sleep: The Cornerstone of Recovery


Sleep plays a crucial role in the body’s healing process. It is during deep sleep that the body undergoes most of its repair work. Ensuring adequate and quality sleep is paramount for a smooth recovery. Here are some tips:

  1. Establish a Regular Sleep Schedule: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Consistency reinforces your body's sleep-wake cycle. Going to sleep late and waking up late on the weekends is like forced jetlag. And who wants that?
  2. Create a Restful Environment: Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature. Reduce noise and light, and consider using earplugs or a sleep mask if necessary.
  3. Limit Screen Time Before Bed: The blue light emitted by screens on phones, computers, and televisions can interfere with the ability to fall asleep. Try to avoid screens at least an hour before bedtime.
  4. Avoid Stimulants and Heavy Meals Before Bedtime: Substances like caffeine and nicotine can disrupt sleep patterns. Similarly, eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort and should be avoided.
  5. Establish a Relaxing Pre-Sleep Routine: Engage in calming activities before bed, like reading a book, listening to soft music, or taking a warm bath. These can help signal to your body that it's time to wind down.
  6. Be Physically Active: Regular physical activity can promote better sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep. However, avoid being overly active close to bedtime.
  7. Manage Worries: Try to resolve your worries or concerns before bedtime. Jot down what's on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow. Stress management techniques like mindfulness or deep breathing can also be helpful.
  8. Comfortable Bedding: Ensure your mattress and pillows are comfortable. The quality of your bedding can significantly impact your sleep.
  9. Seek Professional Advice if Needed: If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor. Identifying and treating any underlying causes can help you get the better sleep you need.

These tips are particularly important for those recovering from surgery, as good sleep is essential for the healing process. It's also advisable to follow any specific guidelines your healthcare provider may have given you regarding sleep during your recovery period.


Nutritional Strategies: Fueling the Body for Healing


Nutrition is another key component of the recovery process. A balanced diet rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals is essential for the body’s repair mechanisms. Patients are often advised to increase their intake of certain nutrients to support healing. Talk with your doctor about what will be important for you and ask about these key nutritional strategies:

  1. Protein Intake: Protein is essential for wound healing and muscle repair. Include lean protein sources like chicken, fish, eggs, dairy, tofu, legumes, and nuts in your diet.
  2. Vitamins and Minerals:
  • Vitamin C: Important for collagen synthesis and wound healing. Good sources include citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli.
  • Vitamin A: Supports immune function and skin health. Find it in sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, and kale.
  • Zinc: Aids in wound healing and immune function. Sources include meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds, and nuts.
  1. Stay Hydrated: Water is essential for all bodily functions, including healing. Aim to drink adequate fluids daily, avoiding excessive caffeine and alcohol.
  2. Fiber-Rich Foods: Post-operative recovery can often slow down the digestive system, so incorporating fiber-rich foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes can help prevent constipation.
  3. Anti-Inflammatory Foods: Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, flaxseeds, and walnuts, can help reduce inflammation in the body.
  4. Small, Frequent Meals: Instead of three large meals, consider eating smaller, more frequent meals to keep your energy levels stable and aid in digestion, especially if your appetite is reduced post-surgery.
  5. Avoid Processed Foods: Minimize intake of processed and high-sugar foods that can lead to inflammation and hinder recovery.
  6. Special Diets for Specific Surgeries: Depending on the type of surgery, you might have specific dietary needs. For instance, surgeries involving the digestive system may require a liquid or soft diet initially.
  7. Consult with a Dietitian: Post-surgery, your nutritional needs can be unique. Consulting with a registered dietitian can provide personalized dietary advice based on your specific health status and surgical procedure.
  8. Avoiding Certain Foods: Depending on your medication and type of surgery, you might need to avoid certain foods that could interact with medications or hinder recovery. Always follow the advice of your healthcare provider.

These strategies are aimed at promoting healing, preventing infection, and helping you regain strength and energy after surgery. It's important to tailor these guidelines to your specific needs and medical advice. Having a partner like Dr. Francis is a wonderful resource for great guidelines.

 Foods to support recovery from surgery

Knowledge and Empowerment: The Role of Informed Decision-Making


An informed patient is an empowered patient. Understanding the surgical procedure, recovery expectations, and potential complications enables people to actively participate in their healing process. This knowledge also helps in managing expectations and reducing anxiety.

Preparation before surgery can alleviate anxiety and promote a smoother recovery. Mindfulness and meditation practices help in maintaining a calm and focused mindset, which is beneficial for post-operative healing. Here are some things to consider to enhance your preparation and incorporate mindfulness into your recovery journey:


Preparation Tips:


  1. Understand the Procedure: Learn as much as you can about your surgery. Knowing what to expect can reduce anxiety and help you feel more in control.
  2. Follow Pre-Operative Instructions: Adhere to the guidelines provided by your healthcare team, including dietary restrictions or medication adjustments.
  3. Plan for Post-Surgery Needs: Arrange for transportation home from the hospital, and prepare your living space to make post-surgery life easier, such as placing frequently used items within easy reach.
  4. Arrange for Help: Plan for someone to help you with daily tasks, especially in the initial days post-surgery when mobility may be limited.
  5. Prepare Mentally: Acknowledge any fears or anxieties you may have and discuss them with your healthcare provider. Being mentally prepared is just as important as physical preparation.
  6. Post-Surgery Care Planning: Understand your post-surgery care plan, including wound care, medications, physical therapy, and follow-up appointments.



Mindfulness Tips:


  1. Practice Deep Breathing: Engage in deep breathing exercises to promote relaxation and reduce stress. This can be particularly helpful before and after the surgery.
  2. Mindfulness Meditation: Regular meditation can help maintain a calm mind, reduce pre-surgery anxiety, and aid in pain management during recovery.
  3. Body Scan Relaxation: Spend time each day doing a body scan – a mindfulness exercise where you focus on each part of the body in turn, noting sensations and gently releasing tension.
  4. Stay Present: Practice staying in the present moment, rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. Focus on your breathing or the sensations in your body to anchor you in the now.
  5. Gratitude Journaling: Keep a gratitude journal where you note things you are thankful for each day. This can shift your focus to the positive aspects of your life and recovery.
  6. Mindful Movement: Once approved by your doctor, engage in gentle, mindful movements such as walking, stretching, or yoga to reconnect with your body and promote healing.
  7. Guided Imagery: Use guided imagery techniques, visualizing a peaceful and healing environment, which can help reduce stress and promote a sense of well-being.
  8. Seek Support: Consider joining a support group or seeking a therapist experienced in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) to help guide you through mindfulness practices.

Incorporating these preparation and mindfulness practices can greatly enhance your overall recovery experience, helping you to approach surgery and recovery with a calm, informed, and positive mindset.


 Meditation for Surgery Recovery

The Value of Support Systems: Emotional and Practical Assistance


Lastly, having a robust support system in place can significantly impact the recovery experience. Emotional support from family and friends, coupled with practical assistance, ensures that the patient can focus on healing without undue stress. Here’s a quick rundown of the many different ways that relying on others can positively impact someone’s mental and physical needs.


Emotional Support: The Power of Presence and Understanding


  • Family and Friends: The presence of loved ones during recovery can be incredibly comforting. Their understanding, empathy, and encouragement are vital. They provide a sense of normalcy and security, which can be particularly reassuring during a time of vulnerability.

  • Sharing and Venting: Having someone to talk to about fears, frustrations, or simply sharing day-to-day experiences can be therapeutic. It helps in processing emotions and reduces feelings of isolation.

  • Motivation and Positivity: Loved ones often play a crucial role in keeping spirits high. Their optimism and motivation can be contagious, helping patients maintain a positive outlook, which is crucial for recovery.



Practical Assistance: Easing the Burden of Daily Tasks


  • Help with Daily Activities: Post-surgery, patients may face limitations in mobility or energy. Assistance with daily tasks like cooking, cleaning, or running errands can significantly reduce physical strain and stress.

  • Transportation: Driving may not be feasible for a while post-surgery. Having someone to handle transportation for follow-up appointments or even for short outings can be a huge relief.

  • Medication Management: Managing post-operative medications can be overwhelming. Support from family or friends in organizing medications, setting reminders, or even understanding medication instructions can be invaluable.

  • Child and Pet Care: Assistance with children or pets, who require attention and energy, can help patients focus on their recovery without worrying about neglecting their responsibilities.



Professional Support Systems


  • Healthcare Professionals: Nurses, therapists, and counselors provide not just medical care but also emotional support. Their expertise and reassurance can ease anxieties about the recovery process.
  • Support Groups: Joining support groups, where experiences and tips can be shared with others in similar situations, can be empowering. It provides a sense of community and belonging.
  • Telehealth Services: For those who may not have immediate access to physical support, telehealth services offer a way to connect with healthcare providers or counselors for guidance and reassurance.
  • A robust support system, integrating both emotional and practical assistance, is a cornerstone of successful post-surgical recovery. It alleviates stress, fosters a positive mental state, and allows the patient to focus on the most important task at hand: healing. This support, in its many forms, is as vital as any medical treatment in the journey towards complete recuperation.


 Emotional Support for Surgery Support and Recovery

Positively Preparing and Recovery: It’s Work!


Hopefully it’s now clear that optimal recovery actually takes work. There’s preparation, adhering to a plan and actions to reduce stress. Even for the most organized people, it’s a lot and it can feel overwhelming at times and if you haven’t had your surgery yet, it’s difficult to even comprehend what it will be like to deal with an entirely new layer of emotional and physical challenges. And even for people who’ve experienced surgery before, there’s a big difference in understanding what to do, and actually doing it.

That’s where programs like Ready Set Recover come in - by providing a comprehensive approach that facilitates a deeper understanding of the recovery process and a structured framework that leads to successful healing outcomes. Remember, the ultimate goal is not just to recover, but to do so with greater ease. You’re in control of more than you possibly imagined. Time to take control!



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Heather Campbell is the CEO & Co-Founder of Ready Set Recover. Her purpose in life is to make people feel and be seen, heard and celebrated.


Prior to founding Ready Set Recover, she held senior leadership roles as VP Synergy and Brand integration at ESPN, VP of Alchemy at Audacy (an audio content company), and Chair of the School and Education Committee in D2 of NYC where she founded a new school. She’s a motivational public speaker and engaging consultant who uses storytelling to open people up to possibilities and outline actions they then feel empowered to take. She competed for and won a full merit scholarship for her MBA at NYU’s Stern School of Business and has her BA from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.


Heather lives in The Berkshires in Western Mass with her husband, 2 daughters, and dog and is thankful for their support and energy in life.