Tips for Healing the Mind, Body and Spirit after Surgery

Surgery may be challenging to recover from since the intrusion can impact the integrity of our bodies. As a therapist who has provided assistance to people who have undergone surgery as well as someone who has experienced it myself, here are some useful tips to help you prepare and cope.

Meditation and yoga can help manage pre-op anxiety. This is also a good time to practice relaxation breath work. You may want to spend extra time meditating and doing asanas associated with the chakra in the area of your body that will be undergoing surgery. This can help summon and strengthen healing energies in that area. 

Clear with your surgeon what you should and should not do post-op. If there are specific activities you want to do, ask if they are OK because the answers may not be obvious. Be sure to learn about the normal course of healing for your kind of surgery. Is there any concern about pain and internal scarring? Will you be coping with loose skin or weight gain, bloating or hormonal shifts? If you will be confined to your bed or to limited movement, you may experience weakened core muscles. This, in turn, can lead to pain in your hips and lower back. Ask what can you do since stretching may complicate your recovery. It can be helpful to bring a friend or family member with you when you meet with your surgeon.

Once you see what to expect, line up people who can help during your recovery. If you are uncomfortable asking for assistance, confront this and get over it. Wouldn’t you help someone you loved who had just undergone a major operation? During my first two weeks of recuperation, friends brought dinner to my house and took out my trash. Another was available to listen whenever I needed to talk. Knowing she was there made all the difference. My sister in law brought me a small stuffed dog that I could press on my incision to lessen the pain every time I laughed, coughed or sneezed.

Even when surgery prevents or cures a serious illness, it can still shake up one’s body image and sense of self.  Feelings of loss may be particularly strong when your operation involves the removal of a body part (such as with a hysterectomy or appendectomy) without any tangible reward (i.e., the baby you receive after a Cesarean). I’ve provided therapy for patients whose surgery evoked difficult memories of puberty and whose procedures triggered trauma flashbacks. This can be painful and disturbing but it is not uncommon. Therapy can help if your operation causes you intense emotional distress.

If you are generally someone who “listens to your body,” the months after surgery can be confusing. You may feel perfectly healthy, yet it may take time before you can move as you did before. It’s essential to stay focused on what you can do on a moment-to-moment basis. After my surgery, my center of gravity shifted and I still struggle with balance in some poses. Even the slightest backbend was painful. It was a happy day when I was finally able to open into upward dog. I do my sun salutations with a lot more appreciation now! 

Healing for me has meant wanting to protect and feel alive in my core. Jane Ellison’s Lower Back Care and Core Support has helped me reestablish the relationship between relaxing my back muscles and strengthening my front. My hula-hoop is my new best friend. My core is even stronger now than it was pre-op.

No one wants to go through surgery. But recovery can serve as an opportunity. If you are naturally a caretaker, it can be a challenge to feel vulnerable and allow others to care for you. The recovery journey also offers the experience of reclaiming what was lost and appreciating your life with fresh awareness. If your surgery is successful, it can also lead to greater mobility and better health, both of which can deepen your practice and your life.

Merryl Reichbach, LMSW, ACE, MA She is a Clinical Social Worker and art therapist with children, teens and their families.  She also has a private practice as a certified holistic health counselor (graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition) ACE Certified Personal Trainer and loves integrating art, yoga, writing and dance into her life and her work.


Website: Jumping Woman Wellness

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