Zanna van Dijk’s top tips for getting your mojo back after surgery
Surgery of any kind is a shock to the system; your body and its functionality can change completely in a matter of hours and it takes a seriously strong mindset to come to terms with it. I personally had emergency bowel surgery while travelling through The Maldives. It was completely out the blue and resulted in me having a 10-inch incision across my abdomen and months of recovery as a result. I am now officially 12 weeks post-op and feeling back to my previous self. My recovery came thick and fast, double the speed that my surgeon anticipated, and I want to share with you what I did that helped me come back stronger than before.
Embrace The Slow Life.
Let’s be honest, if you have a big surgery, you’re probably going to have to sit on your bum for the first few weeks if not months. Instead of viewing this downtime as a setback, take advantage of it and use it to do things you don’t usually have the time for. I read books that have been on my shelves for years, watched series which I have never made the time to sit through, and invited over friends I haven’t seen in far too long to keep me company. By taking this time to really embrace the slow life you are allowing your body to use its energy stores to heal, speeding up your recovery.
By fuelling your body with delicious wholesome food, you are supporting optimal recovery. Food contains nutrients which can energise you, heal you and make you feel incredible. I personally prioritised protein during my recovery as I had a large wound which needed to be healed, so I ensured I squeezed in a few good quality protein sources a day. I combined this with fruit and veggies, aiming to get more than my five a day every day – eating a rainbow so my body had access to the widest range of vitamins and minerals.
This needs to be done with care. I embraced the sloth life for the first 4-5 weeks of my recovery. Then under the guidance of a physio I started with small mobilising movements and stretches, if anything felt uncomfortable, I stopped immediately. I created a routine for myself, spending 15 minutes every morning going through a series of movements to get blood flowing through my joints and muscles again; and then gently building it up from there. I cannot tell you what exercises are right for you, but I can say that you need to go slow and steady, ideally under the guidance of a professional, and progressively regain your strength by dedicating time every single day to moving your body.
If you’ve had surgery, you are likely going to be left with a scar or two from your incisions. I personally have three scars on my stomach – one from the main cut and then two from cameras which were also inserted. My wound took a while to heal since I sneezed and split it open about 1 week post op (nightmare!). However, as soon as it was closed, I immediately started with scar management. I massage my scar twice a day with pure vitamin E oil, which is essential as it helps to break down the tissue which reduces scar pain and the development of adhesions – a common complication of surgery. Once the oil is absorbed, I then applied a layer of KELO-COTE® silicone gel which is clinically proven to help reduce the appearance of scars. This combination helps to support optimal scar healing.
Your body is going to change as a result of your surgery. Whether that’s reduced functionality or the addition of a nifty new scar. It is essential to accept these changes and become confident in your new skin and self. When I was rebuilding my strength, I went to the gym and did my mobilising routine with pride. Sure, I wasn’t lifting heavy weights like I used to, but I was proud of what my body was overcoming. Also, I personally love getting my scar out as I think it’s pretty rad, it tells a story of what my body has overcome and just looks badass. Accepting this new you will help make your journey so much more enjoyable.
You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to it. It is perfectly natural to have a few break downs and a little cry every now and then, but you aren’t going to get any better if you spend all your valuable energy feeling sorry for yourself. (Harsh, but true!). You need to pick yourself up and use the power of positivity. During my recovery I celebrated every little win and was always working towards the next milestone. Outside of the physical recovery, look for other positives such as having more time to spend with those you love, having a much-needed break from work and being able to reflect on your incredibly strong and resilient my body was. I honestly believe that my positive mindset helped me recovery exponentially.
The most important thing you can do to support your recovery after surgery and
get back your mo-jo is being proactive. Don’t sit back and embrace defeat, stand up and rise to the challenge that has been handed to you. Your body does so much for you, and it wants to fight back, it wants to get stronger, it wants to overcome adversity. Show your body respect and do everything in your power to enable it to recover, it will thank you for that.
Notes to editors
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JB-000912. Date of preparation: June 2021