Heart surgery is a huge life event--and, like any other surgery, it comes with all kinds of different emotions. While it's important to know that your feelings are valid no matter what they are, it's equally important to know how to handle them in healthy ways.
Let's take a closer look at emotional and mental health after heart surgery and why both are a key part of the recovery process.
Your Mind After Heart Surgery
Although heart surgery recovery is often focused on the body, it should also include ample focus on the mind. After all, these two elements are closely connected, and treating one while neglecting the other isn't a good way to truly recover.
Furthermore, up to 25% of patients experience cardiac depression, according to Heart.org. That means mental and emotional health play a significant role in heart surgery, whether you address them or not--so it's best to get ahead by understanding what to expect.
How Will You Feel?
Like with most big events in life, there's no wrong way to feel before, during, or after heart surgery. However, it's easy to see where many of those feelings might be negative, including:
How Will You Know?
Although complicated feelings are a natural part of the heart surgery process, it's important to know when regular emotions become cause for concern. Here are a few signs that your feelings might be taking you down an unhealthy path:
- Constant worry or stress.
- Lack of energy even as your body heals.
- Loss of interest in favorite activities.
- Loss of appetite or overeating.
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much.
- Difficulty thinking, focusing, or communicating.
How to Manage Your Heart Surgery Emotions
Even if you don't notice any signs of declining mental and emotional health, it's still critical to build solutions into your heart surgery recovery approach. This doesn't just help protect your mind; it also helps speed up your recovery and make you feel connected to your body in healthier, happier ways.
Here are a few tips for managing your heart surgery emotions, whatever they might be:
#1: Set realistic expectations.
When recovering from heart surgery, you might be tempted to try living up to impossible expectations, especially if you're used to overachieving or carrying a lot of emotional weight. The truth, however, is that recovery takes time, no matter who you are--so set realistic expectations and don't think of yourself as a failure if you fall a little short.
#2: Create a safe exercise routine.
Exercise is a great way to connect your body and mind, and it has a key role to play in recovery of all kinds. Ask your doctor what kinds of physical activity you can safely perform as you continue to recover after heart surgery.
#3: Get outside whenever you can.
If you stay in one spot all day--especially if that spot is your bed or the couch--you might get too focused on negative feelings. Instead, switch things up by getting some fresh air as often as possible. Even if all you do is sit on your front porch or walk to the mailbox, it's helpful to feel the sun on your face and get a little change of scenery now and again.
#4: Stay connected.
It's too easy to isolate yourself when you're going through tough times, whether emotionally or physically (or both). After heart surgery, it's especially important to stay in contact with your friends, family, neighbors, and other social connections. The people you care about will want to take part in your recovery process--but they'll also be able to help you notice if your mental and emotional health are struggling.
Heart Surgery Recovery: Asking for Help
Heart surgery isn't the kind of thing you can do alone, especially if you're struggling with mental or emotional health. If you decide it's time for a helping hand, here are some things to try:
- Tell your doctor how you're feeling. Ask if there are treatments available to help you feel better.
- Seek out family and friends. Tell them that it's common for heart surgery patients to experience depression and that the two often go together.
- If you're part of a faith community, reach out to friends and staff members there for fellowship and support.
- If you're having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor and follow their recommendations.
- Avoid stressful situations and take time to relax.
- Take your medication and take care of your physical needs after your surgery.
In conclusion, heart surgery recovery is as much about the mind as the body. It;s important to take care of both so you can approach this journey in a healthy, positive way.