Having your blood drawn is a very common procedure that is necessary for diagnosing and treating a wide range of conditions and illnesses. Most people will have their blood drawn many times throughout their lives, and in general, these tend to be nonevents.
But for others, having blood drawn can trigger feelings of extreme fear and anxiety. People with severe needle phobias may even avoid medical testing altogether, which could inhibit their ability to receive accurate diagnoses.
Some people develop a fear of needles in response to a negative experience; perhaps they had a difficult blood draw in the past, or experienced an adverse effect such as fainting. Other people may have been raised by a family member with a fear of needles, and inherited the phobia. Generalized anxiety and low pain tolerance can also trigger a fear of needles.
In any case, there are a few tips you can follow to calm your nerves before having your blood drawn, to ensure a less stressful blood draw experience.
Talk to the Phlebotomist
Although having blood drawn may be a momentous occasion for you, for your phlebotomist (the person taking your blood), it’s just another day at work. More likely than not, they have worked with hundreds—if not thousands—of nervous patients in the past.
Opening up about your concerns can ease your anxiety, as your phlebotomist will likely have some reassuring words to share. If you’re worried about fainting, it may make you feel better knowing that they fully understand the situation, and are prepared to help you if needed. At a minimum, they can engage you in conversation to keep your mind off the needle.
When people are anxious, they have a tendency to tense their bodies and hold their breath. But this reaction may trigger feelings of lightheadedness or dizziness, which will in turn make anxiety symptoms feel more severe.
Taking slow, deep breaths while having your blood drawn may help calm your nerves and relax your body overall. Try inhaling slowly to the count of four, and then exhaling for the same amount of time. Focus on keeping your breathing even and steady the entire time.
Do a Full Body Scan
If you’re nervous about being injected with a needle, there is a good chance you will end up being hyper-focused on that sensation while having your blood drawn. To distract yourself from the needle in your arm, check in with the rest of your body.
For example, how is the tip of your nose feeling? How about your ears, your fingertips, your knees, and the bottom of your feet? By bringing your attention to other parts of your body, you can make the sensation of having your blood drawn less intense.
Bring a Distraction
Having your blood drawn is usually a very quick experience; you’ll likely be in and out in just a few minutes. But if you’re feeling especially anxious or need to have a larger amount of blood collected, it may be helpful to plan for a distraction.
For example, bring your headphones and listen to your favorite playlist, or perhaps just some calming music. You could also watch a funny video clip on your phone, text your friends, or close your eyes and visualize being somewhere happy.
Ultimately, having your blood drawn will likely never become your most enjoyable experience. But with a bit of mental preparation, you can quiet that anxious part of your brain enough to overcome your fear of needles once and for all.