The 10 best distraction techniques for pre-surgery anxiety

Anxiety before an operation is inevitable. Whether it be a minor procedure that allows you to check in and out quite quickly or one that could come with further complications; visiting the hospital is not something that anyone is enthusiastic about.

It is only natural to become quite anxious on the day of your procedure and even in the days leading up to it. Health concerns and anxiety go hand in hand, and can end up as a catch-22! The more anxious you become, the more difficult it is for your body to fight off sickness.

You are going to need all of your strength to get healthy again and combat any side effects from the anaesthesia. Let’s go through a list of the tools you need to help you get through your procedure with a smile on your face.

Write in a diary

Writing in a diary can be a very soothing activity. Sometimes just the act of writing down your thoughts and fears helps to make them feel like less of a burden.

How it works

When thoughts are rushing through our mind with nowhere to go this can lead to high levels of anxiety.

It can behelpful to write down your fears and emotions in an organised fashion prior to your surgery. You could set this out like a decision making tree, pros/cons list or just general text. You may even like to write down all the things that you are grateful for in your life, this is often very calming!

Breathing exercises

When we are anxious about something as frightening as a looming surgery we often forget to breathe. You need to breathe! Breathing exercises help you to focus on this limitation; they force you to slow down and focus on the moment.

How it works

By focusing on your breathing you are less able to continue dwelling on all the anxious thoughts in your mind. The act of being aware of each breath slows down your heart rate and brings you back to the present moment.


Yoga is an anxiety combating activity for the young and for the old! The body can hold onto tension just like it can hold onto excess weight. So if you have ever considered dieting you also need to consider doing away with all of your excess tension.

How it works

Yoga postures can help to ease the discomfort you feel throughout your body when anxious. Though the benefits don’t stop there. The practice of yoga can also minimise negative and anxious thoughts by helping you to gain a sense of calm and focus on your breathing.

Draw or colour in

Drawing or colouring in is a great activity because it allows the mind to focus on something relatively basic.

How it works

Instead of focusing on the anxious pre-surgery thoughts in your free time, you can channel your energy into a creative outlet. Drawing or colouring is the perfect activity because it requires concentration and it’s fun. It also brings out the inner child, which is calming in itself.

Solve a puzzle

Keeping the mind occupied is a winner for many when it comes to battling pre-surgery anxiety or nerves. Puzzles are not for everyone, especially the over-anxious but they can do wonders for some.

How it works

Solving a puzzle like a crossword or Sudoku challenge switches your attention from your worries to the task at hand. It keeps you in the moment, rather than in the future. It is generally more effective than getting busy at work because puzzles don’t come with any pressure.

Wear HappyMed Video Glasses

Audiovisual therapy is a new form of medicine, and you don’t need to take a single pill. Sound too good to be true?  

The HappyMed Video Glasses are a cinema experience developed specifically for medical use. The technology uses Movies, Music & Meditation to bring otherwise anxious patients into a more relaxed state without the use of sedatives. They can be used in the waiting room and the operating theatre and in the recovery room!

How it works

The brain has limited capacity to process painful, distressing or anxiety-inducing stimuli. When an individual’s attention is shifted towards more pleasant sensations, activation is reduced in the areas of the brain associated with pain.

Play video games

Time to get out that old PlayStation and play a few rounds of Mario Kart. Video games are not just a time waster, they can really help you to forget about your problems.

How it works

You will be so engaged in the game and trying not to crash that you won’t have any spare brain space left for anxious thoughts. In our day to day lives many of us don’t have time for video games so this ‘guilty pleasure’ can do wonders.

Read a book

For those who enjoy reading, a good book truly can take you somewhere else. When you’re anxious about your reality, picking up a book by your favourite author can help a lot.

How it works

The calming effect of reading a book does indeed depend on the individual and the level of stress. It works by taking you to a new place for a while and also changing your state of mind and perspective.

Reading about other people experiences can help you to forget about your problems for a while and narrow your focus. Studies have shown that even just 6 minutes of reading per day can be beneficial.  

Cuddle your pet

Pets are the best company, especially when you’re not feeling so top. A cute face and lots of unconditional love are just what the doctor ordered.

How it works

Pets are cute, cuddly and don’t need you to hold a conversation with them! They really enjoy lazing around and give lots of love. There is nothing more calming for pre-surgery anxiety than snuggling with a purring cat! There have also been studies that have proven that the purr does have other health benefits, too.


Exercise is not only important for physical fitness but it is equally important for mental well-being. If you’re healthy enough to continue exercising before your surgery it will certainly help calm the nerves.

How it works

Exercise gets the endorphins flowing, which act as a natural painkiller and also can improve your ability to sleep at night. Both of these two factors are significant when it comes to lowering anxiety levels. If you are so stressed that you cannot sleep then your stress levels can end up spiraling out of control.