Surgery can be a major interruption to daily life, says Dr. Robert Lieberson. Preparing for surgery can provide a smoother experience and even speed the healing process.

An estimated 500,000 Americans go into surgery each year in the hope of solving a low back problem. These cases are usually met with high success rates, but it is rarely the first treatment choice. Dr. Robert Lieberson is a Stanford-trained neurosurgeon with more than 40 years of education and practice experience. He recommends five tips for those facing back surgery.

Write Down All of Your Questions

“There are plenty of opportunities to talk to your doctor and nurses,” Dr. Robert Lieberson explains. “However, in the heat of the moment, you are very likely to forget all the questions plaguing you the night before. Write all your questions down and take the list to your doctor. I promise we’ve seen this before, and we won’t think it’s silly. We want to ease your mind as much as possible and answer whatever questions we can.”

Find a Calm Mindset

It may be easier said than done, but Dr. Robert Lieberson says it’s important to work on calming your mind. “Don’t think about the worst-case scenarios or let yourself stress about the ‘what if’s,” he explains. “Practice deep breathing, meditation, grounding practices—whatever helps you calm down. Some patients choose music, crafting, or art. Find something to help you still all the voices in your mind because they will only increase your stress level.”

Pack a Surgery Bag with Comfort Items

Slippers, reading materials, toiletries, favorite snacks—there are several things that can make a stay more pleasant after a spinal procedure. Even if you aren’t staying overnight, having a few things on hand can really help you feel relaxed while you wait for the green light.

Don’t forget the more practical items too, like socks, underwear, a charger, Chapstick, shampoo, conditioner and a change of clothing. He says these kinds of simple items from home can help you ease into the healing process.

Follow Healthy Lifestyle Practices

Eating nutritious foods, reducing sugar intake, and quitting smoking are all examples of crucial lifestyle changes that could improve your health and speed your healing. “Don’t wait to get healthier,” Dr. Robert Lieberson says. “The sooner you start practicing habits that make you feel good, the better you will feel during and after your surgical procedure.”

Get Familiar with Post-Op Care

Think through what kind of support you might need for the healing process. Most of the time, back surgery isn’t going to offer immediate relief but will require some time for a complete recovery. Some procedures are likely to be more effective or have shorter downtimes than others. Too fast of a recovery approach or reckless behavior could endanger the results by causing complications.

Get to know the procedure so you know what to expect in terms of care and outcomes, suggests Dr. Liberson. Ask questions about what post-operative care will include and how long you should expect to manage pain symptoms or ease back into life.