How to overcome a fear of needles?

The first time I had my blood drawn I was in high school. Gray’s Anatomy was my favorite show at the time so in full doctor mode, I wanted to watch my blood draw. I saw the phlebotomist insert the needle and the next thing I knew, three adults were holding me up, carrying me to a bed to lie down. You guessed it, I had passed out. I guess I’m not a fan of needles. Turns out, I’m not alone. Two-thirds of kids fear needles and about 10% of adults do too. So if you’re not a fan of getting blood drawn, read on for my tips, tricks, and methods for an easy blood draw. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I haven’t fainted or had any issues since that incident, so these tricks really work.

Look away

What NOT to do!

Unless you’re a lab student learning how to take blood, there’s no reason to watch what’s happening, so find something else in the room to look at. Some labs even have pictures on the walls or ceiling for this very reason. Keeping your eyes open is better than closing them because it’s more stimulating for your brain. If you close your eyes, your brain has one less source of stimulation so the pinch when they insert the needle may feel like a bigger deal. 

Take deep breaths

Deep breathing stimulates the rest and digest system in your brain, which can help you remain calm and avoid panicking.  Panicking or worrying can make the experience more painful and/or stressful. Research suggests taking 6 deep breaths is enough to quiet your brain. Breathe in through your nose and out your mouth. 

Visualize your favorite place or moment

Your brain doesn’t know the difference between imagining something and it really happening. Think of something that makes you feel happy. Maybe it’s snuggling with your dog, laughing with a friend, or crossing the finish line of your A race. By thinking happy thoughts your blood draw will be over before you know it.

Reframe your thoughts

Instead of focusing on the momentary discomfort, think of all the benefits of getting your blood analyzed.  Consider the information you’ll get and how it can help you train, recover, fuel, and perform better. Think of it as a step towards your goal. It might also help to have a thought you hold in your mind, like a mantra. Some examples are: it’ll be over soon; this is no big deal; I’m fine, etc. 

Start talking

Strike up a conversation with the phlebotomist to keep your mind busy. I’m very honest and open with them and say I’m not a fan of needles, but talking helps. They’re used to people not enjoying getting blood drawn so they’re usually a pro at asking easy questions like how your weekend was or what you like to do for fun. 

Ask to lie down

This tip is for folks who feel light-headed or faint around needles. Almost all labs have at least one bed to lie down for the blood draw. This helps keep blood flowing to your brain, not to mention makes it easier to relax. I always ask to lie down. Why not? Better safe than sorry and the lab techs never seem to mind. I’ve even had them thank me for telling them. 

In conclusion, not many people like getting their blood drawn, but that doesn’t have to stop you from getting important information for your health and performance. With a few simple tips and tricks, you’ll be done in no time.  

Liked reading about how to overcome a fear of needles? Further Readings – Can I Exercise After a Blood Test?

References

McLenon J, Rogers MA. The fear of needles: A systemic review and meta-analysis.(https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30109720/) J Adv Nurs. 2019 Jan;75(1):30-42.

Merck Manuals (Consumer Version). Specific Phobic Disorders. (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/mental-health-disorders/anxiety-and-stress-related-disorders/specific-phobic-disorders
National Institute of Mental Health. Specific Phobia. (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/specific-phobia)

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