Ease Blood Test Anxiety With These 9 Soothing Tips

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Ease Blood Test Anxiety With These 9 Soothing Tips Title Pin. The title is displayed in the center of the vertical photo. In the background someone has their arm ready for a blood test. The doctor is disinfecting their arm in preparation

Hey Sweet Friends:

Hands up if blood tests give you anxiety!

You are not alone! Blood tests can be scary AF.

Whether you’re nervous about the build up, the needle, potentially fainting or having to wait for answers, your feelings are so valid.

You deserve tons of options to sooth, calm and relieve some of that anxiety.

I just so happen to have lots of experience with blood tests and a few awesome tips. So let’s dive in…

Survey Says Blood Tests Are Scary

A photo of Sara's arm just after a blood test. You can see the gauze and tape at her elbow flexor. In the background you can see the dashboard of her car and the view of trees outside the windshield.

It’s spooky season and we’re talking about something scary! Blood tests. If the idea alone fills you with dread, you truly aren’t alone.

In fact, 57% of my Instagram friends are right there with you (join the Insta party right here). And 100% of those surveyed asked for blood test anxiety help!

2 Images from a Survey in Sara's Instagram Stories. One shows Sara's Arm with some gauze at the elbow flexor, just after a blood test. Above the text shares that Sara was afraid of blood tests but has to have them often because of her autoimmunity. The survey question says "Do Blood Tests Freak You Out Too?" 57% said yes. The second image shows Sara waiting in the waiting room for her blood work. She asks if readers want blood test anxiety tips. 100% surveyed said yes.

Blood tests used to TERRIFY me too. But of course I was diagnosed with autoimmunity and need to get them regularly for the rest of time…

I wouldn’t ever call them my favourite thing. But blood tests and I have developed a mutual respect for one another. And there are a few things that have really helped me get there.

Here are a some tips and tricks to help you out next time you have to roll up your sleeve. 

1. Share Your Anxiety

A young woman hugs her mom. Her head is on her mom's shoulders and her eyes are closed

It’s ok to communicate how you’re feeling! In fact, according to Dr. Kate Mason, Chartered Clinical Psychologist:

“Being open and honest about that – with others and yourself – can help you to feel better.”

As you wait for your appointment, talk about your blood test anxiety with your support system. Lean on a few shoulders. And try to discover the root of your anxiety.

Being afraid of blood tests is very common, but reasons why may differ.

I, for one, have had quite a few bad experiences (mostly prior to my diagnosis). I went to the hospital and it often involved many failed attempts to draw blood, a lot of discomfort and some sad looking arms once I walked out the door. In short, I’m generally afraid of pain.

But for others the fear is of fainting. Or the general nerves that built up as you wait your turn. And even of the potential results (I feel this one too).

Understanding why you’re afraid can help you ask for the right kind of support and prepare in the best way for you.

Related: 5 Health Benefits of Crying That Will Totally Surprise You

2. Tell Your Nurse/Phlebotomist

Skillful nurse preparing to do a blood test for man in clinic

Don’t hesitate to talk with your phlebotomist/nurse about your blood test anxiety too. Trust me, you are not the first, nor will you be the last, person to be afraid of a blood test. They understand! Knowing your fears gives them the opportunity to be more reassuring and supportive. And they may have some tips, tricks or methods that could help. 

Be sure to share what works best for you too!

You’ve had the chance to reflect on the reason(s) behind your fears. And You know yourself, your body and your needs (especially if you’ve had blood work before). Don’t be afraid to voice your needs.

For example, I prefer they take blood from my left arm. I need a warning, because I like to take a deep, relaxing breath in before she pokes me. And I want to be looking away. I’ve had hundreds (I assume) of blood test at this point but I haven’t watched a single one.

These are little things that help me. And communicating that before they take my blood helps both of us. Think of it like you’re working together to make this easier on you.

You may have other distractions that work best for you, and they are all valid.

It’s ok to ask to scroll on your phone, listen to music (we’ll talk more on that in a second), or have a friend with you to talk to and hold your other hand.

If you’re afraid of fainting or have fainted in the past, telling them will make a huge difference. Your nurse/phlebotomist will likely make adjustments, like putting you in a more reclined position. And they’ll know to check in on how you’re feeling and keep an eye on you. Plus, feeling understood and cared for can help to ease some of that anxiety. (source)

In short, voice your fears and needs. I know it can feel awkward, but it’s so, so worth it.

3. Bring a Support Person

A close up of 2 people holding hands

Invite a friend! Having someone come in with you, talk to you and distract you while you wait and while the test happens is invaluable. It’s a beautiful way to feel supported, loved and safe during a particularly scary and vulnerable experience.

Know that it’s ok to ask for the type of support you need. Communicate with your friend how you’re feeling and what they can do to help support you before your appointment.

Related: How To Reduce Stress – 6 Fantastic Tips From Psychiatrists

4. If You Can, Go to a Private Blood Test Clinic

A phlebotomist/nurse looking over blood test samples

Like I mentioned earlier, prior to my Graves Disease diagnosis, any time I went to the hospital for blood work I had a bad experience. They always struggled to get blood and had to try multiple times. I always assumed I had small veins and this was simply how it was going to be. This is where my blood test anxiety came from.

Once I was diagnosed with Graves and told that I’d need blood tests regularly forever, I was terrified. And (thankfully) I told my doctor.

I’m so thankful I mentioned it, because she recommended I try a private blood clinic in town.

The only thing they do, all day, every day, is blood work. They are total pros! (Communicating your fears works!)

And they’ve never had to try more than once! I started my blood test journey humming the Imperial March (Darth Vaders Theme) from Star Wars on my way to every appointment, (half) joking to my husband that I was walking into my doom. Now I walk in, alone, no need to hum a dreary tune.

Did I try the hospital again since? Yes… twice! And they still struggle to get any blood from me. I’m not quite sure why. But I intend to stick to the Blood Test Clinic as much as possible. And I recommend it to everyone who shares my experiences and discomfort.

If there’s an accessible option, I highly recommend going to a place where they are 100% solely focused on blood work. If you can’t, deep breaths! We have lots of other options on this list to help you get through.

5. Dress Comfortably

woman, wearing beige jersey pajamas, standing neat big window in dark room in the morning.

This isn’t a fashion show honey! If you’re anxious already, uncomfortable clothes are not your friend. Wear whatever feels best. And heck yes, I have shown up in my pajamas. And I’ll do it again any time I feel the need to. They don’t care about what you wear.

Once you’re done you can go home and relax, no need for an outfit change. Since you’re already in your cozy clothes, you get to say hello to naptime!

My only blood test fashion tip – Whatever you wear, make sure you can easily get your arm out.

6. Stay Warm

A woman crouches in the grass and looks at the camera. She's wearing a grey sweater with a yellow shawl on top

While we’re on the topic of fashion, be sure to stay warm. According to Nuffield Health, when you’re cold your veins shrink, making it harder for your nurse/phlebotomist to find your veins. And that can draw out the process (and your anxiety). (source)

Dress in warm layers. This is so important, so I’m saying it again – be sure to choose an outfit that will make it easy to pull out 1 arm when the time comes. You can also go for a brisk walk before your appointment to get your blood pumping.

7. Listen to Music

A woman listens to music on her headphones. Her eyes are closed and she's leaning against the wall. She also holds a glass of tea. and her laptop sits on her lap

Turn on some relaxing tunes! But make sure you have 1 ear bud in and the sound isn’t too loud. You’ll still need to hear when they call you for your test. And being able to communicate with your phlebotomist/nurse is pretty important too.

Don’t hesitate to let them know that you’re nervous and music helps you relax (re-read the Share Your Anxiety Section if you need to – it’s ok to be afraid).

There’s a reason music can feel so soothing. According to the smart peeps at Harvard, music has the ability to:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Slow the heart rate
  • Reduce levels of stress hormones and inflammatory cytokines
  • Relieve stress
  • Reduce symptoms of depression and pain
  • Enhance your mood
  • Lead to feelings of relaxation

Music is a magical thing. If it soothes you, take it with you.

Related: How To Rock Your Self-Care Routine With Meditation Music

8. Stay Hydrated

A woman in leggings and a sports bra gets ready to drink water from a water bottle

You might have to fast before your blood test; be sure to call the clinic and check in.

If you can eat, fill that beautiful tum. If you can’t, be sure to hydrate (but stick to water, as it’s the only drink allowed when you’re fasting for blood work.)

Dehydration can make it more difficult for them to draw your blood. And it just feels icky! You’re already feeling anxious and we don’t need any more icky feelings, thanks! So hydrate, hydrate, hydrate (even if it’s only water). (source)

Pro tip – if you’re fasting, book your blood test for as early as possible so you only miss 1 meal. And fast for the minimum amount of time. Being hungry and unable to eat isn’t fun!

If you aren’t sure if you’re supposed to fast, call the clinic to confirm. Having to reschedule is always a bummer.

Related: How To Drink More Water (When You Super Hate Water)

9. Create a Soothing Routine

A young woman relaxing on the sofa at home

When you’re anxious, the waiting can be the absolute worst. So tap into whatever makes you feel calm. From now until the day of your test, add relaxing, de-stressing and calming activities to your routine. If you can, double down the night before and the morning of. Self-soothing is a powerful thing.

Whatever helps you feel better is valid and worthy of your time. 

Aftercare is absolutely important too. So don’t stop self-soothing just because it’s over. Whether you’re nervous about the results or just drained from all that stress, it’s ok if you need to rest and relax! Being stressed takes a lot out of you.

Be patient. Be kind. Take care.

Final Thoughts

Sara holds her arm out in front of her bookshelf. You can see the bandage on her inner elbow flexor. Beside the bandage the text says "All Done" with a smiling emoji

Blood tests are scary! And you are absolutely not alone in your anxiety. But know that it will absolutely be ok. And you have lots of tools at your disposal to help yourself through this. I’m holding you tight in my heart!

Do you have blood test anxiety? What helps you feel better when you need to get blood work done? Share with us in the comments below. I can’t wait to hear your tips and tricks!

Health and love,

Sara from mshealthesteem.com's signature

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Sara | Ms. Health-Esteem

Sara Flanagan is a wellness writer and the creator of www.mshealthesteem.com, where she shares her story of being diagnosed with Graves Disease, a chronic autoimmune disease, and empowering herself to do everything she can to thrive in spite of her diagnosis. She writes articles on self-love, acceptance, wellness and nutrition. Join the Health-Esteem Family today and share in the journey.

19 Comments

  1. Reply

    Stephanie

    October 4, 2021

    I used to have anxiety about having blood draws. The last few years I’ve had to do it at least every 3 months for my thyroid issues so it’s made me much less nervous about it. Drinking enough water in the morning made a big difference for me.

  2. Reply

    Heather

    October 4, 2021

    I have found over the years that the best thing for me to do is not look at the needle and keep talking to the person that is taking the blood.

  3. Reply

    AscendingButterfly

    October 5, 2021

    I have get regular tests as well and know I have collapsible veins so I usually warn the tech to get a ‘butterfly needle’ and have asked to switch to someone else if they refuse. I already know where my ‘good vein’ is and guide them there first. I also do not like them to search and slide the needle to find the vein, I find that more painful than them pulling it out and starting again. I hate when someone thinks they know my body better than I do. Thankfully when know your veins and your preferences well enough you can better advocate for yourself.

  4. Reply

    Rose Ann Sales

    October 5, 2021

    I don’t have an anxiety for blood test but I really enjoyed reading this.. Great article!

  5. Reply

    JP

    October 5, 2021

    Never had problems with blood test or needles but I really can’t look as the needle gets near.

  6. Reply

    Talya Stone

    October 5, 2021

    Great tips! I have to have regular blood tests and have more blood tests in my life than I care to count. I can totally empathise with the anxiety experienced by those who are not used to them. I find looking away and taking deep breathes really helps!

  7. Reply

    Beth Pierce

    October 5, 2021

    Blood test is not for everyone. we can get anxiety attacks too. In my case, sharing my anxiety helped me a lot

  8. Reply

    Elizabeth O

    October 5, 2021

    I like the idea of bringing a support person. I’ve had blood tests before too and it can be scary which bring anxiety. I think bringing a close friend or family is great!

  9. Reply

    Heather Klein Wolf

    October 5, 2021

    I was traumatized by needles as a child. These tips work for any age.

  10. Reply

    Matt Taylor

    October 5, 2021

    These are all great tips for reducing blood test anxiety. When I was little, I hated blood test. I don’t mind them now. Especially if you have someone that really knows how to take blood. The last few times, I barely even felt the needle.

  11. Reply

    Fransic verso

    October 5, 2021

    Sometimes we get shy telling others. I’ve experienced before when I have anxiety from noodles. It lasted a while until I was able to tell the nurse about it. I think the support person might help with that

  12. Reply

    Kelly Bolen

    October 5, 2021

    Luckily I have never had an issue with having blood drawn. Although it might be because I have had to get drawn a lot! But I always make sure I am hydrated!

  13. Reply

    Milton Coyne

    October 5, 2021

    As a guy with diabetes.. Blood test has become a regular thing to me.. But during my early days.. Yes it was truly a traumatizing experience.. I used to bring my mom with me to ease the anxiety.. A support really helps a lot

  14. Reply

    Blair Villanueva

    October 5, 2021

    I used to get anxiety during my blood test, however, I realized that it will only gives me more issues if I will keep on being in that state. So I toughen-up, putting a big smile on my face. Nowadays, blood tests is not an issue anymore. Even vaccinations!

  15. Reply

    Elise Ho

    October 6, 2021

    I do not think that the test is scary. However sometimes waiting for the results can be scary

  16. Reply

    bye:myself

    October 6, 2021

    Did you write this specifically for me? I hate everything needles…

  17. Reply

    Ntensibe Edgar

    October 7, 2021

    Aaahhhh…I am certainly not alone amongst the people who use music to escape away from this anxiety when being pricked and tested in the lab. Some times, I laugh and joke with the lab technicians themselves and that helps me ease off, too!

  18. Reply

    Maryann Auger | Instagram: @maryannauger

    October 9, 2021

    Blood tests are definitely not the best. I’m 100% going to apply those tips next time I have to go get one!

  19. Reply

    Mom

    October 28, 2021

    Hi baby – this is excellent – and you have come a long, long way from hiding under the stretcher in the blood clinic at the hospital. I love you so much. Keep doing good things! Mom

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