For as long as I can remember, getting shots, having my blood drawn, and even getting numbed at the dentist have freaked me out. The mere knowledge that I’m going to be pricked by a needle is enough to cause me anxiety—my heart races, my hands sweat, and my knees shake. When I was younger, I’d do everything I could to avoid getting shots, but that’s not really possible, nor good for my health.
For those of you who struggle with needles like I do, here are some ways to get through it.
Before Going In
Picture this, it’s wintertime and you’ve scheduled your flu shot. Normally, your anxiety would skyrocket and it’ll stay up there until after your shot—whether it’s in a day or a week. It sucks, right? Here are some ways to reduce that anxiety.
First things first, don’t let it consume your thoughts. It’s easy to think about your shot over and over, but all that will do is make your anxiety worse. One thing you can do, especially if your appointment is well in the future, is put a reminder on your phone and let yourself forget about it.
Another thing to do is practice some self-care the day of. Maybe go on a jog, practice some yoga (this is especially good as it helps relax your muscles), do a face mask, anything that’ll help ease your mind and your body.
Be sure to wear a t-shirt, as well. It gives the nurse easier access to your arm and it saves you the hassle of having to undress and then redress with a sore arm.
While Getting Your Shot
This is the hardest part, in my experience. What causes me the most anxiety is the possibility of pain. As soon as I see the needle, my heart starts pounding and, sometimes, I even start sweating. It’s a very uncomfortable few minutes, but I’ve learned a few tricks to make it more bearable.
The first is telling the nurse. Let her know that needles make you nervous (you don’t have to tell them any more than that) and more often than not, they’ll have their own techniques to help ease your anxiety.
If that doesn’t work, you can start talking, about the weather, school, or a movie you’ve recently watched. Most of the time, the nurse will be the one to initiate conversation. But if not, don’t be afraid to ramble. It’ll keep your mind distracted.
Another trick is focusing on another body part, preferably on the other side of your body. You can wiggle your toes, stretch out your legs and try to balance them above ground, clench your opposite arm’s fist, anything that’ll drive your brain’s attention elsewhere. You can also achieve this by asking the nurse to squeeze your arm hard before inserting the needle.
After You Leave
You did it! The worst is over. But that doesn’t make your anxiety go away. So, take a moment, stay a little longer, take a few deep breaths and wait until your heartbeat stops racing and your head stops spinning. Essentially, let your mind and body recover from the stress before you walk out.
Once you walk out, reward yourself. You made it through something scary, buy yourself an iced coffee or go out with friends, or even take a nap. You deserve it.
While you may not know where your fear of needles comes from (I certainly don’t), your feelings are just as real and valid as any other fear or phobia. Don’t treat them as if they weren’t. Acknowledge them but don’t let them consume you.