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The Importance of Prioritizing Mental Health Before and After Surgery

Point Of View: You’ve just been told you need surgery, and your mind is racing. An uneasy feeling has washed over you like a giant ocean wave. While surgery is the best option to heal your ailment, you are still understandably anxious.

Undergoing even the most minor of surgeries is a significant event that not only affects the body, but also the mind. While surgical procedures aim to improve physical health, the impact on mental well-being should not be overlooked. Prioritizing mental health before and after surgery is essential for a smoother recovery and overall well-being.

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, the staff at the St. Cloud Surgical Center put together a list of things to do before, during, and after your surgery to help with any mental health concerns. 


Before you head into the operating room, it’s important to take the following steps to support your mental health: 

  1. Maintain Open Communication with your healthcare team. They are there to discuss any concerns or anxiety you may have about your upcoming procedure. Our team will help understand what to expect and can help alleviate any fears or uncertainties. 
  2. Practice Relaxation Techniques such as deep breathing or meditation to promote a sense of calmness. 
  3. Engage in Activities that bring you joy, like spending time with loved ones, listening to music, or going for a walk. Life doesn’t have to stop while you are waiting for your surgery date. 
  4. Setup Your Support System before surgery and lean on them for emotional support. Surround yourself with family members or friends who can offer encouragement during unsettling times. 


Although it may seem silly since most surgeries require general anesthesia, mental health considerations still play a role during surgery. The biggest thing we want to address is trust. Trusting in your healthcare team and the surgery process is essential. If you don’t feel safe in the operating room, please address this with the staff immediately. At St. Cloud Surgical Center, we want you to feel comfortable and remember we are trained professionals dedicated to your well-being. 

What About Children? 

A child undergoing surgery is not only scary for them, but also for the parent. First and foremost, it’s your job as their caretaker to remain calm and assure them everything is going to be okay. 

For most children, the fear of the unknown is what causes them to be anxious. If it’s their first surgery, they may struggle to understand the complexities of medical procedures. Your care team can help provide resources for age-appropriate information about the surgery to help alleviate their concerns. Simple things like reading their favorite books, listening to soothing music, or practicing breathing exercises together can help keep the butterflies at bay. 

Lastly, be the kind, loving parent that you are. Sometimes all they need is emotional support, their hand held, and a big hug! Like all of us, they want to feel safe and supported as they navigate an unfamiliar experience. 


For many patients, the period following surgery can be challenging both physically and emotionally. What we want you to know is, it’s normal to experience a range of emotions including relief, gratitude, frustration, and even sadness. Prioritizing your mental health during the recovery process is optimal for healing. 

Managing Pain and Discomfort

While some pain and discomfort are expected for patients, they are oftentimes confused when mental well-being becomes an added pain point. If the pain is becoming too overwhelming that it causes thoughts of self-harm, affects your sleep, or causes bouts of depression and anxiety, contact your healthcare team immediately. Do not let these feelings go unaddressed.

When you are a patient of St. Cloud Surgical Center, our team of nurses will follow-up with you at various times post-surgery to discuss how your recovery is going. At this time, they will get a pulse on your mental health. Keeping that line of communication open and honest is paramount. 

Setting Realistic Expectations

Rome wasn’t built in a day and your recovery won’t happen overnight either. Recovery from surgery takes time, especially if you’re looking at something as major as a joint replacement. It’s important to set realistic expectations for yourself. Your care team will also help with this and remind you to take things slow. Progress may be gradual, and for some there may be setbacks along the way. Be patient with yourself and celebrate the small victories! 

If you find yourself struggling with the progress, or lack thereof, you have made in your recovery, you are not alone. Emotions may fluctuate during this time. Allow yourself to feel and express your emotions without judgment. 

It’s also important to recognize that emotions may fluctuate during the recovery process. Allow yourself to feel and express your emotions without judgment. Talking to a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional can provide support and perspective during this time.

Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle

Lastly, maintaining a healthy lifestyle post-surgery is key. No matter what the situation, taking care of your body is essential for both physical and mental well-being, but even more so post-surgery. Diet and exercise play a vital role in healing. 

Diet: Eat a well-balanced diet rich in nutrients, stay hydrated, and avoid excessive alcohol or caffeine intake as both can interfere with sleep and mood. 

Exercise: Gentle exercise at the recommendation of your surgeon can promote physical and emotional recovery. Simple things such as short walks around the block and gentle stretching can improve mood and reduce stress. If you are required to attend physical therapy, don’t skip your sessions!

Prioritizing mental health before and after surgery is essential for overall well-being and optimal recovery. By taking proactive steps to manage pre-surgery anxiety, addressing pain and discomfort, setting realistic expectations, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and seeking support when needed, you can navigate the surgical process with greater ease and resilience. Remember, your mental health matters, and investing in self-care during this time is a vital aspect of your healing journey.

If you’re struggling with your mental health during the recovery process, don’t hesitate to seek support. Your healthcare team can provide resources and referrals to mental health professionals who specialize in supporting individuals through medical procedures.

Remember, you’re not alone, and reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.