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My girlfriend is soon to undergo key-hole surgery on her knee.

She is constantly very anxious about the operation, which then brings her mood down, because it's all she can think about.

Personally, I think she is over-thinking it, but minds work in different ways; it isn't uncommon for her to over-think certain situations. It's not that I don't understand the seriousness of the operation, I simply have a lot of faith in our doctors.

The surgery is not too far away now, but if I can I'd like to help her keep a positive mind in the coming weeks. What can I try in this situation to take her mind off the operation (granted, unlikely) or, failing that, make her feel more comfortable about it?

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    I don't know how IPS handles this normally, but I know that on many other sites you are encouraged to wait around 24 hours before accepting an answer to give people in different timezones the chance to look at the question and the answers. I appreciate that my answer was helpful to you and of course you are free to accept whatever you want and whenever you want, but waiting a bit can potentially increase the answer amount and quality you receive. Just a tip for the future ;) – Secespitus Oct 27 '17 at 12:36
  • @Secespitus How honorable, if you say so :) – user3058 Oct 27 '17 at 12:38
  • Her physician should have a video explaining and even demonstrating the surgery. Watching such a video often is reassuring, and if not, at least it narrows down the worry to what actually will occur rather than anything and everything imaginable. This is just an aside to @Secespitus' great answer. – anongoodnurse Oct 27 '17 at 14:40
  • @anongoodnurse Thanks that's a great idea. – user3058 Oct 27 '17 at 15:12
  • @anongoodnurse that would be a terrible way to reduce my anxiety. The more I know about a procedure, the more freaked out I get. I doubt I could muster up the courage to have one done if I'd seen a video of it! – Kat Oct 27 '17 at 22:04
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Talk with her about other stuff

The first thing that comes to mind is that you should try to comfort her by talking with her like you would normally do. About normal everyday stuff, about hobbies, about news from around the world. Play games with her, read together, watch TV together - whatever it is that the two of you are normally doing together.

If that fails - talk about what the two of you are doing after the surgery

Just think about the future and talk about what events you might have planned for the time after the surgery. Maybe you two want to go to the park/cinema/... Again, whatever the two of you would normally do (and what is possible in the near time after the surgery).

All in all - make her think about the positive things

What will be better after the surgery? What will be easier? What can she do that she can't do now? What are problems she has today that she won't have anymore after the surgery?

Take her mind off of the immediate surgery. That only allows negative thoughts to occupy her mind. Fill that mind with positive thoughts about the time after the supposedly (in her mind) dangerous operation.

But: remember that sometimes listening is better than proposing a solution

It's important to be there for her. Maybe she just needs someone who will listen. It's not important to take her mind off of the operation she just wants to voice her concerns. Talking will make her feel better. Try to understand her and the problems and fears she tells you about. Don't try to solve them immediately by citing papers or saying that you have faith in the doctors.

Just listen, nod occasionally and say "Everything will be alright, you will see. And afterwards we are going to a date in the park."

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Some valid points by Secespitus but I would like to propose another route.

I deal with this often at work, and I believe that the key to any pre- or post-surgery anxiety can be mitigated by being prepared. I would advise you to check with the hospital where she's going to have the surgery and ask about pre-surgery counselling. There are trained psychologists that can help with suggesting several coping techniques.

If you cannot/will not see a psychologist, I can give you a few tips

  • Gather information about the surgery and recovery. Your doctor should be able to help on this. Knowing what the operation and the post-op entails can help one relax a bit only with just knowing how things will go down.
  • Discuss pain control so that she's prepared for the type of pain to expect and how to manage it
  • Discuss her fears and concerns with her doctor.

You can only also look online for any resources surrounding her surgery. Many countries also have Computer Assisted Instructions (CAI) that are computer interactive services that improve presurgical preparations.

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"Fear is the mind killer" as they say. My experience with several people (family, coworkers) who are plagued by frequent fears is that it is very hard indeed to change that through talking.

You are asking "how to comfort". I would suggest that you do literally that. Take her in your arms, let her talk - but try to gently steer her out of the death spiral where they talk themselves ever deeper into the fear ("they might slip, and then they cut off some tendon, and then I can never walk again and....").

Really, the only real, practical help against fear, especially fear of the unknown/the future are, in my opinion and experience, things like meditation (specifically buddhist Vipassana, which, even at a very beginner level, makes you sense how your own mind races in endless loops), relaxation and such. Is she at all into this? I cannot really tell you if you can go that route, but if you think that my work, it would be a great time to put it to the test.

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