I walked into the echoey school gymnasium, jangly with nerves. My breath was shallow. I have been teaching in-person since September, managing student risk, my personal risk, and my family’s risk for so long that part of my brain was constantly occupied with surviving and helping others stay safe. I couldn’t even imagine what it might feel like for that part to rest, even just for a little while. I was certain something would go wrong. They would say, HA! This shot is not for you. But I knew that action is the enemy of anxiety, and I had to stay with it.
I engaged in a strategy to distract myself. Talk to the inspiring human giving me this shot! Her name was Stacy, she has three kids, all still remote learning, and she is worried about them. “This is how we will end this thing,” she said, efficiently prepping me and asking questions about my work, remote and in-person learning, and my family. Before I knew it, the shot was over.
It is okay to be scared, nervous, or worried about getting a shot. It is evolutionarily normal! We are mammals, after all, trained to keep ourselves safe from sharp things. But in this case, the safest move, in the long run, is to sign up, make a plan, get in line and get your shot. If you are worried, nervous, or scared, please first know it is totally okay to have those feelings. Then, think about how you can manage them. Because there ARE several tried and true ways to do that, techniques that have proven helpful (like distraction, for me) during shots or other stressful situations. Luckily, the Meg Foundation has outlined these strategies for us on their new Hack the Vax site.
Pick one of these by going to the site for specific directions, and make your plan:
Pick something to focus on to make yourself feel good. This could be a funny video, a picture of family members you will see (and hug!!) soon, or a favorite song. In my case, it was talking with the brave health care worker who was kindly giving me my shot (Stacy).
This simple yet highly effective tool will help you calm your nervous system right down. I have a few of my favorite types of calming breathing techniques. One simple one is to slow down your breathing intentionally. According to author James Nestor, we breathe too much, especially people with anxiety or a fear-based condition. So, the simple act of inhaling through the nose for 5 seconds, and then exhaling slowly for 5 seconds (or longer if you can), will trigger a relaxation response in the body, which is just what you need.
Pick a treat to reward yourself with after the shot. Something you don’t usually get yourself. Maybe a steaming, large mocha latte? A fresh donut from that new bakery you haven’t tried yet? A manicure? Something that you will look forward to while you are waiting and getting the shot. Get yourself that treat right after! You deserve it. You are protecting yourself and humanity and did a hard thing. That most certainly deserves a treat.
There are several other strategies here at the Meg Foundation, and they have resources for adults AND kids (Got needle-phobic kids? This is the place for you).
Think, plan, and go get your shot while managing your fear, and pass on these techniques because you never know when someone else is feeling nervous. You can make your own plan here and conquer your fears.
Have family members and friends that need your support? Here is how you can help. Create a (Hack the Vax) plan. Think about someone you know who might be scared of needles and getting the shot. Help them make a plan for which tip or technique they will use to manage it, and encourage them to make an appointment, and go face their fear and do a hard thing. You can help others protect themselves, their loved ones, and their community!
My deepest thanks to Stacy for distracting and connecting with me, and helping me protect my family, my students, and their families. I encourage you to move forward with plans for yourself, your child, or your friends and loved ones. You got this, and you are not alone.
This post is made possible with support from the Meg Foundation. All opinions are my own.