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Simple Steps to Overcome the Overwhelm of Needle Anxiety

I become extremely emotional. Unfortunately, not the tender, loving, laughter-filled emotions. Have you ever felt dizzy or on the verge of fainting as jitters begin to overwhelm you? Does your heart race uncontrollably while everyone else is calmly going about their daily routines? I’ve felt this way for as long as I can remember. Very often the cause of these stressful reactions stems from needle anxiety during routine medical care. Personally speaking, I’m not limited to my own experiences with needles. Knowing that I’d be taking my children for routine blood work, vaccines, or other procedures would leave me in a compromised position as the parent there to provide support and comfort at a time when I needed as much, if not more, encouragement to successfully navigate the moment. Primarily, I silently managed to get through the event without ever sharing with anyone the intense reaction I was feeling out of embarrassment. How had I not matured to accept needles as both normal and necessary aspects of health care?

I’m doing better these days, now that I know that I’m not alone. According to research from Meg Foundation, “25% of adults have a fear of needles.” Help is available to hack the vax. If I can do this, you can do this. Needles need not be traumatic if you go to the Hack the Vax site. Try these simple steps to overcome the overwhelm of needle anxiety.

This post is made possible with support from the Meg Foundation. All opinions are my own.

Simple Steps to Overcome the Overwhelm of Needle Anxiety

Appealing to our distinct sense of civic duty, the global call-to-action for eligible citizens to become vaccinated against COVID was a significant milestone to recover from the devastation we endured with the pandemic. Demonstrating resilience, we made appointments, socially distanced in long lines, and endured the prick of vaccinations without hesitation. 

While I was thrilled to have been given great advice to help me find a location for my vaccine, I became increasingly uneasy approaching my scheduled appointment. Needle anxiety is terminology to describe generalized anxiety or sensitivity to needle sticks, including fainting or dizziness, quite often the result of a response to past traumatic experiences. Even as an adult, I continued to learn new methods to help manage my symptoms.

Knowing now that action is the enemy of anxiety, I’ve relied on effective resources for children and adults from Meg Foundation to help #HackTheVax. Ever since I discovered this useful information helping to raise awareness of needle anxiety while reducing the stigma associated with needle fears, I’ve become less tormented by the mere sight of a needle.

Speak Up - With increased awareness, many trained medical professionals will ask you if you have a history of dizziness or fainting when receiving a shot. Asking this simple question helps us feeling any level of needle anxiety to feel validated. Whether asked or not, take the opportunity to express your feelings.

Block - When my children were anxious about having to receive a needle, the medical staff often will prepare to numb the area to help block out the pain from the injection. It’s important to research the most effective options available prior to your visit to best prepare. They’re on the Hack the Vax site.

Distract - Finding anything other than the situation at hand may help you feel more at ease. When I recently sat blinking away tears before my COVID vaccine, I was encouraged to use my phone as a way to distract myself from the needle I was about to receive. While distracted, decide whether you prefer a heads up before the needle is administered or if it would be best to not know.

Breathe - Here’s where I struggle. During moments of high levels of stress, the basics seem difficult to manage. Have you ever found yourself holding in your breath as you prepare for a needle? Remind yourself to continue to deeply breathe through the moment.

Connect - Having faced the tremendous uncertainty of coronavirus and all of the pivots and adjustments to our lives, we’ve become able to connect in new ways. Call, text, FaceTime, even Zoom are all ways that we can connect with those that can help to ease the tension and make the best of an uncomfortable situation.

Touch - The power of touch is so effective in providing a calming effect. Bring along a support system to hold your hand, rub your arm, or hug you after you’ve braved through the experience. I’ve even had medical staff stand-in to help me out with a hand to hold. It really helps!

Filter - Observing all of the activity happening all around you may become overwhelming to handle as you prepare yourself for a needle. Ask if there is a more private area away from the normal flow of activity. 

Reward - Stickers, lollipops, a cold drink of water, or even a breath of fresh air. Self-care is especially important when we are facing challenges. Little actions can matter so greatly. Always remember that action is the enemy of anxiety. We’re all courageously doing our part to stop the spread of coronavirus. That’s historic! Celebrate all of the actions you’ve taken to protect yourself, family, friends, and everyone else.

Feeling Faint? Continue to take it easy! Moving past your feelings of needle anxiety is a tremendous accomplishment. Pay attention to how your body reacts immediately afterward, as well as for a period of time. I was advised, actually instructed, to sit down and sip water for the first 15 minutes following my vaccination. I definitely needed the time to regain my composure. Take your time. Always act with your safety and well-being in mind. Reach out for help, if necessary.

I’m far from fearless, however, preparing to think, plan, and go get your shot without fear is empowering. Empower someone else by sharing these techniques, because you may be able to help them also overcome the overwhelm of needle anxiety. The sooner we’re all vaccinated, the safer we’ll be as a community.

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