Nervous about your upcoming blood test?

A woman looks nervously into the distance while drinking tea, she is worried about an upcoming blood test

Fear of needles and blood tests is relatively common, so don’t feel bad if you’re nervous about an upcoming test.

The good news is that your phlebotomist is experienced not only in drawing blood, but also in how to make the process run as smoothly as possible for you. They are there to guide you through each step and keep you comfortable and safe during your appointment. You can also prepare yourself in advance by reading up on trusted, effective ways to calm your nerves, and choose some strategies that you think will work best for you. Below are some great tips we have collected to help you relax before and during your blood test.

Listen to calming music before the test.

Bring your headphones and listen to whatever music helps you feel calm and relaxed while you wait for your blood test. Music can have a profound effect on your emotions and mood, and therefore your physical body. Listening to relaxing music can help lower your heart rate and levels of stress hormones in your body. It can also be a great distraction if you don’t want to think about the details of the upcoming test while you wait.

Practice deep breathing.

When we’re nervous, our breathing can become constricted and shallow. Try taking long, deep breaths starting from your stomach help create a sense of calm. Though it’s relatively simple to do, deep breathing is actually one of the most effective methods to lower stress in the body. By increasing the flow of oxygen to your brain, your parasympathetic nervous system becomes stimulated, helping to lower tension and anxiety and increase tranquillity.

Ask about anything you’re not sure about.

Fixating on any unanswered questions such as when and how you’ll receive test results, how long the test will take, or any other unresolved issues on your mind will only add to your stress and cause you to become more overwhelmed. The staff at your laboratory are there to answer any questions you might have, so don’t hesitate to ask if there is any information you need to help calm your nerves.

Communicate your preferences to your phlebotomist.

Even though many people are nervous to have blood drawn, everyone has individual preferences about what situation will be most comfortable for them. Whether you prefer to never see the needle, or to watch exactly what’s happening and have it explained to you step-by-step, be candid with your phlebotomist about what works best for you. They will ensure that the test goes smoothly while creating a comfortable situation for you.

Chat with your phlebotomist as a distraction.

Speaking of, your phlebotomist is not just an expert in the medical aspects of administering your blood test. They can also provide a welcome distraction and take your mind off what is happening. Ask them about their favourite TV show, or tell them about yours! If you let them know you’d appreciate the distraction during the test, they will be happy to oblige. You’ll both have a more pleasant experience.

Bring a trusted family member or friend with you for support.

Depending on the location of your test, a support person may be able to come right into the test with you. If not, they may be able to wait with you beforehand and comfort you afterwards. Either way, leaning on a trusted person can help you relax before the test, and help keep your trip home more comfortable.

Remind yourself that you are safe.

Being afraid of needles is common because it is rooted in an instinctual fear of having our skin punctured. Even though you are in a safe environment and in no danger, your body is still reacting as though it is being threatened. It can be helpful to remember that your nerves are just having a very natural reaction. In reality, you are very safe and well-cared for.

Picture yourself after you’ve successfully completed the test.

While your blood test is happening, focus on what you’ll be doing as soon as the test is complete. This could be getting up from the chair, leaving through the waiting room, going back to your car. You could think about heading home, and maybe greeting your dog and preparing a lunch. Picture all the different things you’ll be up to after the test. The test will be done before you know it!

Remember: collection itself usually only takes about one minute.

The blood draw appointment usually takes 5-10 minutes. But, the good news is the actual time it takes to draw blood is only about one minute. If you’re really nervous about the actual drawing of blood, don’t worry! Try to keep in mind that it will all be done in about 60 seconds.

Count backwards.

Forcing your mind to complete a task that requires intense focus can be a great distraction during your blood draw. Counting backwards from a certain number (try 60) will force your attention away from the procedure. If you find counting backwards easy, make it harder — count backwards in threes. This can trick your brain into focusing on something other than the blood test.

Hydrate well.

Unless your test requires that you don’t drink water beforehand, make sure that you hydrate well leading up to your test. By doing this, you’ll make your veins plumper and easier for the phlebotomist to locate. This will also help make your total appointment time shorter.

Dress warmly.

Making sure you’re comfortably warm before and during the test will help make the process faster and smoother. If you’re cold, your veins can actually constrict and make it more difficult and time consuming to draw your blood. If you are warm, your blood flows more freely. This makes it easier for your phlebotomist to locate and draw blood from a vein.

Congratulate yourself once the test is complete.

Facing your fears and persevering through a stressful situation is much easier said than done. Once your test is done and you got through the experience, congratulate yourself and acknowledge your accomplishment!


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