Pre-Surgery Anxiety: The Top Tips to Stay Calm Before Going Into Surgery

Having surgery can be a scary idea, and most of us try to avoid it as much as possible. But, whether you’re getting gallbladder surgery, donating an organ to a loved one or having a tumor removed, sometimes surgery is necessary.


If you find the idea of your impending surgery frightening, don’t worry – you aren’t alone. A lot of people deal with pre-surgery anxiety, and there are some great ways to deal with it.

Read on to learn about some of the top ways to manage your anxiety and prepare for your procedure.

What Causes Pre-Surgery Anxiety?

There’s a lot that can be scary about having surgery, and it’s normal to have some anxiety about getting a procedure done.

For one thing, there’s a lot of fear of the unknown – will the surgery go okay, and will it fix the problem you’re having? You’re putting your life in someone else’s hands, and that can be intimidating.

You may also worry about the loss of control over your life for a little while and having to recover around strangers. Pain management issues can cause some anxiety, as ca fear about being in an unfamiliar environment or under anesthesia. All of these are normal and understandable fears.

Levels of Surgery Anxiety

There are different levels of anxiety about surgery. Most of us feel a little nervous and may spend some time worrying about the procedure. But according to experts, there are three distinct levels of pre-surgery anxiety: low-level, moderate anxiety and high anxiety.

People who are optimists or who tend to ignore impending danger or consequences will likely experience low levels of anxiety before surgery. People who respond directly to the information they receive may be scared of the consequences of surgery, but might feel better when they learn how rare these complications are. People with high levels of anxiety may have an almost irrational fear of surgery and may do anything they can to avoid it.

Trust Your Medical Team

One of the best things you can do to deal with pre-surgery anxiety is to make the decision to trust your medical team. We know this may be easier said than done, but when it comes to it, you need to be able to trust the people charged with keeping you alive and well. This is important both for the outcome of the surgery and dealing with anxiety before the procedure.

Do some research on your medical team and find out what experience and accolades they have. Focus on how successful they have been and the good reputation they have with previous patients.

If, after this research, you don’t feel like you can trust your doctor, it may be time to look for another medical team.

Learn About the Procedure

Oftentimes, fear about surgery can stem from a fear of the unknown. For instance, let’s say you find out you need an appendectomy. Take time to learn about the process involved in removing your appendix, how long will the surgery take, what will the recovery time be like and what sorts of complications can occur.

Not knowing allows your brain to concoct all sorts of horror story scenarios. But, the more you know, the less you have to fear; your brain doesn’t have to panic about what might happen because you already know what will happen.

Do as much research as you can about your procedure and find out exactly what you can expect.

Make a Plan

Having a solid plan can also be a great way to help you regain control of a situation which may be largely out of your hands. You have very little control when it comes to surgery – and for good reason. So, having something in the process that you can control can help give you a greater sense of security.

Work with your doctor to establish a recovery plan that you feel comfortable with. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be assertive about what you want for your healthcare.

And work with your loved ones to create a plan for what will happen after you leave the hospital – who will pick you up, where you will go, who will stay with you and for how long.

Follow Any Directions

When you’re having discussions with your doctor before your surgery, be sure to ask them about anything you need to do before your procedure. Do you need to fast, avoid fluids or stop smoking?

Should you have someone ready to drive you home after the procedure, and should you avoid driving for a period of time after?

Write down any instructions your doctor gives you, and follow them. This will help give you a greater sense of control in your surgery. You’ll feel better knowing you’ve done everything you can to make sure the surgery goes as well as possible.

Talk to Your Doctor

You may already have noticed a theme in some of our advice of talking to your doctor. (This is an important step in dealing with any pre-surgery anxiety you might have.) Your doctor is a huge resource for both information and help, and you should take advantage of that.

Ask your doctor any questions you may have about the surgery and get their help in creating a recovery plan. You should also not be afraid to talk to them about your anxiety. They may be able to give you information which will put some of your fears to rest, or they may be able to give you some resources for coping with the anxiety, including counselors and support groups.

Distract Yourself

There’s nothing worse for anxiety than sitting around and letting it stew. The longer your mind has to run in circles, the worse scenarios and worries it can come up with. So, avoid the problem from the jump and do things to distract yourself when you start to worry.

If your doctor permits it, try going for a walk or working out when you start to feel anxious.

Spend time with a friend, work in your garden or run some errands. Listen to music, an audiobook, or a podcast and try not to dwell for too long about all the what-ifs of surgery.

Use Relaxation Techniques

There are several tried-and-true methods of dealing with anxiety on a more general level than just pre-surgery anxiety. And, while you may not need to incorporate these into your daily life, they can be helpful as a way to manage your anxiety while you wait for surgery.

Try practicing meditation, mindfulness and deep breathing techniques when you start to get anxious. Cut back on caffeine, as it can contribute to anxiety. And, if your doctor will permit it, yoga and other gentle exercises can be great for releasing endorphins and calming anxiety.

Stop Smoking

That stressful time when you’re about to have surgery may make it seem like smoking is the best idea. After all, it is true that in the short-term, smoking can help calm your nerves. But, it can cause additional complications with your recovery that you don’t want to have to worry about.

Smoking can increase the chance of complications during surgery and slow down wound healing after. Not to mention that while you’re in the hospital, if you’re walking outside to smoke every few hours, you could miss loved ones trying to visit you or doctors trying to visit and discuss the procedure with you.

Take this as an opportunity to do something good for your body and quit smoking.

Clean Your Home

Eliminating other sources of stress in your life before surgery is a good idea. You have enough to worry about already, and there’s something about a clean home that makes everything seem so much better. It can also help you after your procedure, too.

After your surgery, chances are you’re going to be laid up in bed for at least a few days. And, while you hopefully have a partner or loved one who can help keep the house clean, you’ll feel much better knowing your home is tidy before you go into surgery.

Not to mention this can be another great way to distract yourself from sitting around worrying all the time.

Get the Best Surgical Team

Having surgery is a big deal, and it’s normal to experience some surgery anxiety. But just because you’re feeling anxious doesn’t mean you have to sit around helpless, waiting for the scalpel to fall.

Practice some of the tips we’ve suggested here, and get the support you need to approach your procedure with confidence.

If you’re having surgery in Lawrence County, PA, come to Edgewood Surgical Hospital. We are a world-class surgical facility with unmatched, patient-centered care and a patient satisfaction rate of 95 percent.

Contact us today to schedule your procedure with the finest team of surgeons in the region.