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Article: 3 Ways to Calm Plastic Surgery Anxiety

3 Ways to Calm Plastic Surgery Anxiety

Experiencing anxiety for your upcoming surgery is a topic rarely discussed in the surgery arena. 

However, having anxiety around your surgery and the outcome is common and expected.

Questions can begin swimming in your mind as you weigh the pros and cons, such as: Will this surgery work? Will I be safe under anesthesia? Will there be complications? What will my friends and family think? How will I be treated afterward?

Rest assured, these thoughts are completely natural! However, if gone unchecked, they can fester into chronic anxiety and stress, or even impact your feelings about the results of your surgery. Ultimately, this deeply-rooted anxiety can impact not only your mental health but your physical health, too, disrupting the recovery process.

How does having chronic anxiety affect cosmetic surgery? 

  • It lowers the overall ability for self care before surgery.

Anxiety can impact one’s day to day activities causing increased fatigue, irritability, and trouble with sleep. When preparing for surgery not only is it important to prepare your body (see prehab), but you’ll need to consider how to make things easier during recovery. This can include arranging child care, taking time off work, and/or managing housework. Experiencing anxiety could make these tasks more difficult to organize.

  • It can impair your immune system.

What the science tells us is that cortisol, the substance released by our body primarily in response to mental stress, interacts greatly with the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the immune system. Cortisol levels tend to follow a pattern, rising in the morning, falling, and then increasing and decreasing at certain times of day. However, when cortisol levels remain at a constant level, this can cause dysregulation of the immune system. Inflammatory cytokines (particles in the blood that tell us inflammation is nearby, usually released during acute stress) increase in the blood at constant and higher than usual levels, signaling the body to react to invaders that would normally be considered safe. While cortisol and the acute stress response are normal and required after surgery, if the system is disturbed, it can hinder your healing process.

  • It can raise blood sugar, which slows down incision healing. 

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is mediated by cortisol and is responsible for regulating internal balance such as temperature, removal of excess water, and maintaining blood sugar. The ANS does this through regulating insulin and glucagon secretion (to determine when and how much glucose will be allowed into the body’s cells), and cortisol itself helps the body utilize glucose from the liver, sending energy to heal incisions. If blood sugar is not able to be utilized efficiently due to impairments in cortisol function, this could mean slowed healing time where energy cannot be directed to where it is needed most.

  • It alters hormones that are involved in surgery recovery. 

In addition to cortisol and insulin/glucagon, other hormones of the endocrine system must be mobilized to aid in surgery recovery. Particularly, hormones such as growth hormone (GH), catecholamines, and prolactin. These hormones are essential “team members” that continue the body’s focus on surgery recovery, ensuring that the target area(s) are getting what they need! Due to this tight-knit team behavior, when one is out of whack, the others may follow.

Therefore, managing anxiety before surgery helps put your body in a better position for healing and recovery. 

Here we discuss 3 things you can do to lower your anxiety about your surgery:

1. Avoid  plastic surgery groups who only discuss plastic surgery complications.

Oftentimes there is a story behind the story, and you do not know the true medical reason a person had a bad outcome or serious complication. Stick to the encouragement and move on.

2. Engage in nutritional prehab, which has been shown to lower anxiety after surgery.  

    The body can feel anxious when certain nutrients are deficient, blood sugar is low, or extreme fatigue kicks in. Eating properly before surgery may prevent these from happening, as well as prep your body for making the necessary repairs when needed. Keeping you blood sugar stable through eating properly also will lower your risk of anxiety as you go into surgery. 

    3. Consider talking to a therapist in the perioperative period (before, immediately after, weeks after) your surgery.  

    Changing your appearance can take an enormous emotional and psychological toll. Although it is often a positive experience, it can also be very emotional adjusting to the ‘new you.” Furthermore, studies have found that emotions and psychological distress experienced pre surgery often continue in the post-operative period. Speaking to a therapist during this season may help you pinpoint your “Why” of your surgery, understand how society may treat you differently, and loving yourself before surgery just as much as after surgery.

    Bottom line:

    1. Plastic Surgery Anxiety is common! You are not alone. 

    2. Keep your anxiety at a minimum by:

    • Avoiding fear-mongering Facebook groups
    • Engage in nutritional prehab, which keeps you prepared and your blood sugar stable.
    • Consider talking to a therapist during your journey.  

    3. You can find some other practical tips here. 

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