As the country begins the process of re-opening and lifting some restrictions, we find many activities are resuming. These include medical procedures that may have been postponed, as hospitals and medical facilities everywhere braced and prepared for treating individuals with COVID-19 back in March. If you are one of many patients who are being scheduled for procedures and treatments that require hospitalization, you and your family members are probably being confronted with the likelihood that no one will be allowed to enter the hospital with you, or stay with you during recovery. Medical care facilities around the country are implementing strict policies that ban visitors to try and limit the spread and risk of COVID-19 within their facilities, and there is no sign that these restrictions will be lifted in the near future.
Getting medical treatments that require hospital stays are generally anxiety producing for patients and their loved ones. If we add to this that they will likely need to go through this without a support person by their side, and the added concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is to be expected that patients and their loved ones will experience and increase in worry and anxiety.
Here are some tips that may help decrease some of those worries and anxiety:
- You and your family can inquire as to what precautions are in place to protect patients from COVID, if this is something that you are feeling concerned about. Going into the situation as informed as possible will help you and your loved ones feel more in control and less anxious, setting you up for a better experience.
- Ensure your family knows who and where to call for information if they are unable to reach you, to help decrease their concern and worry. If they feel more at ease, there is less opportunity that you will be impacted by their anxiety too.
- Set up reliable communication. Make sure you have a phone, a charger, headphones (if allowed) and that you know how to use them all. If possible, make use of video calls to communicate with your loved ones- you may find they bring more emotional connection and comfort than voice calls or text messages alone.
- Pack some activities that your doctor pre-approves, and you enjoy, to keep yourself entertained during your stay. Crossword puzzles, art, reading material, or a smart device with downloaded (in case streaming is not possible) shows, movies or games, are some examples. The more entertained you are, the less time you will have to focus on worries or being alone.
- Be prepared to implement some relaxation techniques during your stay, to use when you feel the need. Some examples are listening to your favorite music, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, grounding techniques and visualization.
- If permitted, pack some of your favorite, doctor-approved, non-perishable snacks to enjoy as you recover.
- Remember that some anxiety around medical procedures and hospital stays is completely normal. Tell yourself this to prevent being critical of yourself or putting yourself down for having these emotions. Instead, focus on taking care of yourself, being kind to yourself and implementing positive coping tools to help you manage these feelings.
- Sleep! Rest is an important part of recovery. If you find yourself having trouble sleeping, practice some of the relaxation techniques mentioned above. If allowed, come prepared with essential oils that may help you wind down, or request a permitted caffeine free tea to enjoy.
Before implementing any of the above suggestions, be sure to discuss these with your doctor, to ensure everything you want to implement is allowed by the medical facility and approved by your physician. During times of high stress or anxiety, you can help manage how you are feeling by focusing on what you are able to control, such as seeking helpful and necessary information, and implementing tools that help you feel more calm. Keep in mind that the treatment you are receiving is meant to help your body and improve your health outlook, and you will soon be reunited with your loved ones. As the saying goes, “this too shall pass”.
Written by Taina Aceves, LMFT. Ms. Aceves is currently accepting therapy patients via telehealth at Pacific Neurobehavioral Clinic, PC.