Top 7 Tips for Getting Over Shot Anxiety
Disclaimer: This content is for educational or entertainment purposes only. It does not replace or represent the advice of a medical professional.
If you're a transgender individual, chances are you've considered or at least heard about hormone replacement therapy (or HRT). While HRT is used both by cis and transgender people for a variety of different reasons, HRT is often considered a huge part of the transition process that helps transgender people a great deal when it comes to dealing with gender dysphoria.
Hormones nowadays can be administered in a lot of different ways, like creams, patches, pills, and even implants. Still, one of the most common methods of administering hormones is through self-administered injections.
Despite hormone injections being a regular part of life for many transgender people needle phobia (or trypanophobia) is an extremely common condition. According to a study by McLenon and Rogers, 20-30% of young adults experience some kind of fear of needles. This isn't any different in the trans community, where many trans folx struggle with stress and anxiety before and during shot day.
Feeling stressed out about shot day? Don't worry! It's nothing to be ashamed of, and it can be overcome with some exercises, practice, and experience. In this article, we'll go through our top 7 tips for getting over shot anxiety!
1. Take a hot shower or bath
Before taking your shot, it's important that relax the body and relax the mind. Taking a hot shower or bath before administering your shot can help a great deal with both those things. Not only do they feel good, but they also can help with pain reduction and have other health benefits that can help you cope with the stresses of shot day, like improving breathing and stimulating the release of endorphins, which can help lower stress and soothe your body and mind. Having a hot shower helps to relax and reduce tension in your muscles, which can aid in ensuring shot time goes smoothly.
As an added plus, hot showers can also help open up your pores and flush out any dirt that's built up on your skin, which helps make sure that your skin is clean for shot time!
2. Set the mood
When it comes to doing your injections, it's just as important for you to be mentally prepared as it is to be physically prepared. That being said, preparing the environment around you so it's as relaxing as possible can do wonders!
Take a moment to relax, and focus on self care. Listening to music or a calming podcast in the background, clearing your shot station of clutter, lighting a soothing scented candle, or even having a cup of lavender or chamomile tea prior to shot time can all help. Some people recite self-affirmations, repeat a mantra, practice mindfulness meditation, or use other relaxation techniques before they do their shot. There are many ways to relax, and it ultimately depends on what works best for you! The goal is to make the space as free from distractions, stressors, and other external sources of distress to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible - this includes getting a comfortable place to sit.
It can also help a great deal to establish a personal pre-shot routine to get you into the right headspace for shot time!
3. Focus on the "Why"
When shot time comes around and the shot anxiety hits, it can be really difficult to remember why you're doing this in the first place. After all, you probably aren't doing it just because you thought it'd be fun.
That being said, it can be really helpful to take a moment to focus on your reasons for starting HRT and your future goals. Remembering that HRT is there to help you along your journey can make it easier for you to shift your mind away from the anxiety of the present moment and towards your long-term goals.
Learning to focus on your reasons, over time, can help turn negative thoughts and feelings into feelings of gratitude and calmness. On the flip side, closing your eyes and visualizing your goals and what you hope to achieve with HRT can help you let go of the worries of your shot day and manage stress that comes with shot day better down the line!
This might sound a bit obvious, but being mindful of your breath during shot time can make a huge difference. Taking long, deep breaths when you administer your hormones can help relax your mind and body. It's important that your muscle is as relaxed as possible.
When you clench your muscle, which is fairly common when you have shot anxiety, it can lead to some pain or discomfort as well as some post-injection soreness. Deep breathing can help avoid this. Inhaling usually isn't a problem, since people generally hold their breath in anticipation of pain. The problem is, we forget to exhale. During exhalation, muscle tension in the body tends to reduce, which can help lessen the pain you feel during your shot. Taking the time and being conscious about your body and breathing while you administer your injection can help stop your muscles from tensing, avoiding unnecessary pain.
Here's a short guide to a simple breathing exercise you can try that might help with stress-reduction. Remember, it's just one potential way to relax, and it might be worth it to practice or research other relaxation techniques and breathing techniques that work best for you. (These also have health benefits that can help you even when it's not shot day!)
5. Take breaks, if you have to
Sometimes, when you're sitting with a needle in your hand for an extended period of time, it can be hard to cope and find relaxation, and shot anxiety can get the better of you. One thing that helps is to give yourself a limited amount of time to administer your shot before taking a break.
Still, if that happens and you're feeling overwhelmed, it may be best to step away from it for a while to calm your nerves and do something that can help take your mind off your shot. Remember, it's okay to feel stressed in this kind of situation. You can play a quick game, try meditating, or listen to some music - whatever helps you calm your nerves and clear your mind. We definitely recommend leaving the room during your break since it helps put some distance between you and the source of anxiety (literally and figuratively).
Once you're calmer and feel more relaxed and ready, come back to your kit and try again. Just make sure to wash your hands and sanitize your kit again to make sure everything is clean before you administer your shot!
6. Treat Yourself
One thing that can help with reducing shot anxiety on shot day is to treat yourself after administering your shot. There's no one way to do this, of course. You can make your favorite food, plan an outing with friends, spend time with loved ones at home, or even just sleep - the only important thing is that it's something you look forward to! After all, you definitely deserve to unwind and chill out after taking your shot.
By linking shot day with another reward, not only do you have something to look forward to once you get the job done, but over time you're also training yourself so shot day is also a source of excitement, not just anxiety.
7. Be Patient
If you get anxious on shot day, it's important to be patient with yourself and remember that this isn't uncommon! Facing your fears can be quite stressful. Remember you're not alone, and that with time and practice it will get better. You'll get better at doing your shot, and you'll figure out what works best for you too!
In a similar way to how your transition will take time, coping with shot anxiety is a journey in itself. It's a process of learning, so don't worry if you're struggling with it. Think of it as a way to learn about yourself in a new way, including the best stress management techniques, relaxation exercises, and anxiety relieving skills for you. Dealing with stress is always challenging, so it's important to give yourself time and patience.
If you want to learn more about how testosterone therapy works, check out this blog post that goes into everything you need to know about it! We also have a blog post about the MTF transition timeline!
If you want to learn about how to inject testosterone intramuscularly to help you develop your own injection technique (IM Testosterone injections) check out our blog post here!