I am inviting you to join me and many others in preparing for surgery and recovery in a thoughtful, intentional, systematic way.
I invite you to begin and sustain a rigorous program of mental and physical training. Begin it today, and use it to make substantive change in as many aspects of your life as see fit. Use this program to chart a course for the rest of your life.
Right now, you are likely suffering discomfort, pain or at least chronic inconvenience from whatever is leading you to surgery. And if you are the average American, your diet is high in refined foods and sitting with screens, and low in fresh fruit and vegetables and exercise, and you have one or more other health issues. If I asked you what healthful habits and practices are built into your day and into your week, I would expect to hear about good intentions, but other commitments and varied distractions come first.
Lest you think I’m judging you, know that I personally never had an regular exercise routine until I received my diagnosis (osteoarthritic hips). What I’m trying to convey is that the mindset and level of self-care that you’re operating with right now is not the optimal one for what you’re heading into. Any disagreement there?
I’m saying that you can’t subject your recovery to your present habits of mind around self-care, the system of rewards we give ourselves in return for accomplishing dreaded activities needs revision, both because we need to be mindful that we purify all our inputs (I’m looking at you, refrigerator) but also because this physical training journey is going to be a real bummer in every way if you don’t make it your new hobby.
You heard me right. Becoming a Master of Self Care is your new hobby. Or your new job. Your new commission. Prime Directive. I’m saying it needs to occupy far more of your imagination. And a fair chunk of your day. I’ll get very specific with that, but let’s just be clear about one thing:
If you try to coast through this, you’re going to get half-assed results, and ones which will be harder to address later. Scar tissue, for instance, can be smoothed for greater freedom of movement.
Rather than fitting more self-care (health-enhancing foods,stretching, physical and mental training, self-massage, etc) into your day, I am suggesting that self-care comes first, and you turn down the dial on as much of the other stuff as you can.
While you are preparing for surgery, you’re probably experiencing work stress PLUS surgery stress (if you’re retired, it could be family or volunteer responsibilities), so it may sound like I’m telling you to cram ONE MORE THING into an impossibly full and stressful life.
Here’s the secret: every minute of self-care can yield you an extra minute because you’ll have more energy and more capacity to respond to life. We don’t get energy from caffeine and sugar. We get it by refilling the well.
You stand at a crossroads. You can let the stream carry you, just doing what your surgeon and PT tell you, and you will be able to carry out your daily activities of life. But if you want the experience to not suck, and if you intend to use your body in more demanding ways (sports, movement arts, dancing, vigorous lovemaking…), that’s necessary but not nearly sufficient. Or maybe it will just take twice as long.
But from speaking with surgeons and PTs, it’s my understanding that many people end up with partial recovery. What’s described in this program is not the minimum you need to do. But it’s the most efficient and effective aspects selected from an even broader range of self-care and recovery support which I researched and tried. I don’t ask you to take my word on this. All I ask is that you try each of my recommendations once.
I have strived to offer a variety of recommendations, with varied price points within the recommendations. For example, my recommended cold packs cost $20 on Amazon, or there is a cold therapy machine you can get used on eBay for ~$100.
So I’ve tried to optimize your recovery for all these variables, bang for buck, bang for time spent, and making clear what I feel is good enough vs going for best possible outcome. You can decide for yourself how much you want to apply yourself in terms of Comfort, Fitness Outcome, Scar Disappearance, and so forth.
If you’re not all-in for this, I’d suggest you consider how you’d be thinking about this if it were your child or beloved partner and not you. For whatever reason, many of us have a hard time deciding to take exquisite care of ourselves.