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Getting in the zone with your self injection: Using rituals to create an injection routine

This post is sponsored by HealthBeacon plc.

I’ll always remember what it was like the first time I ever did a self-injection. I was sitting in my gastroenterologist’s office with his nurse, petrified and shaking like a leaf. The sheer thought of inflicting pain on myself and putting a biologic drug into my body was overwhelming and daunting. Everything about my reality felt so foreign. Fast forward more than 13 years and now I feel like a pro when it comes to giving myself the same medication. I’ve found my groove, know what it takes to get in the zone, and have found a routine and ritual, if you will, that allows me to get in the right headspace each time I do my injection.

When I started doing my self-injections, I was a 24-year-old, single morning news anchor, living in Wisconsin. The first year or so of doing my shots made me emotional and filled me with dread. I’ve always done my injections every other Monday. Back then, I would start counting down the days 10 days out. Now, I have to look at my planner to remind myself it’s time to do my medication. With time comes comfort and confidence. It’s not unusual to feel sadness or worry when you are on the journey of doing all you can to manage your health condition and improve your quality of life. 

Since starting my injections back in July 2008, I’ve always done them in the evenings. One of my guilty pleasures has always been watching the Bachelor/Bachelorette, which just happens to be on Monday nights. I worked the morning shift in TV news for seven years. My alarm clock would go off at 2 a.m., five days a week. The last thing I felt like doing was giving myself an injection at that time. I’ve always felt the most comfortable settling into the evening, after dinner, knowing the day is behind me and that the reward of ice cream afterwards is a possibility. 

A play-by-play of my process

  • I take my injection out of the fridge for an hour or so to allow the medication to warm up.*
  • Once it’s been about an hour, I wash my hands and I grab an ice pack, alcohol swab, and my injection and head to my couch. 
  • I rub the alcohol swab clockwise on my thigh and clean off the area the needle will go in. To remember which leg I did two weeks prior, I write “R” or “L” in my planner. You’d be surprised how you forget your previous injection site!
  • I then take my paper towel wrapped ice pack and ice my leg for five minutes.
  • Once that time is up, I pull the caps off my injection that are numbered “1” and “2” and sit upright on the edge of my couch with my leg in a 90-degree position.
  • I stare at a focal point—whether it’s something on the TV or at one of my children for inspiration, take a deep breath out, and I press the button.
  • I count “one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand” …all the way to ten and lift the injection off my leg. On the rare occasion there is a small amount of blood I hold the paper towel from the ice pack over my leg and apply a little pressure.
  • Then I put the used injection into the sharps container in my kitchen and decide what dessert I’m going to treat myself with.
  • I had the opportunity to check in with patients across several disease communities who also self-inject. Here are some of their tips and tricks:

    Michelle: “I try not to think about it too much. I find if I psych myself up, I’ll sit there forever with the syringe in my hand and not be able to get it done. I do best if I get it done between tasks or if I’m rushing to get somewhere—like in between meetings at work or just before a dinner date, a situation where I have no choice but to get it over with.”

    Helen: “I have my husband do my injection for me because I am a needle-phobe. I prefer to use numbing cream to help cope with the pain.”

    Jenny: “I used to have to hype myself up so I would play my favorite song and dance during the intro and most of the first verse. I had it timed to go with the music once I started using the alcohol wipe, etc. I finished with a band-aid by the end of the first chorus. I’m all about using cool band-aids. Right now, I have some shaped like tacos and some like ninjas, it helps me feel better about needing to inject myself!”

    Jaclyn: “I make sure I’m alone in the bathroom or a room there’s no risk of my son or my dog bumping into me.”

    Britney: “I have to count to three or else I can’t put the needle in. Sometimes I count to three a few times, even though I’ve done self-injections for years.”

    Lori: “I start thinking about the exact place I am going to inject and how lucky I am to have this option that wasn’t available when I was diagnosed 41 years ago. I always inject in my leg. I squeeze multiple areas to see where it feels best and hopeful it won’t hurt.

    Jessica: “I always do mine at bedtime. I bring my ice pack and supplies with me and read while I ice my leg. Then, when it’s time, my husband always does it with me so I’m not alone.”

    Sherry: “I typically take my injection out of the fridge then procrastinate a day or two or three before finally deciding it’s time. I use a syringe and can only do a small area on my tummy where I don’t have scars. Hurts too much in my thighs. It’s a quick process once I make the decision and it hurts for less than a minute and then I go on my way.”

    Natalie (Sparacio) Hayden, 38, is a former TV news anchor and reporter living in the Midwest. Her mission in life is to be an advocate for those battling inflammatory bowel disease and to show that a chronic illness doesn’t have to dull your sparkle. Natalie was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in July 2005, two months after graduating from college. After nearly a decade in TV news, she decided to start sharing her patient journey when she left the news desk in 2014. Along with her blog, Lights, Camera, Crohn's: An Unobstructed View, Natalie is involved with the Janssen IBD Patient Engagement Research Council, IBD Social Circle, a Patient Ambassador for Gali Health, a Patient Leader for WEGO Health, and a contributor to Everyday Health, Healthy Women, the IBD Healthline app, Mamas Facing Forward, and IBD Moms. She is also an active volunteer and spokesperson for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, specifically the Mid-America Chapter. Natalie is a mom of three and lives with her husband in St. Louis.

    * Content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not substitute professional medical advice. Always consult and follow the instructions of your healthcare provider and any patient information leaflet for your medicine.

    This post is sponsored by HealthBeacon plc and the author was compensated. The author does not use Smart Sharps Bin. All opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of HealthBeacon plc or Hamilton Beach Brands, Inc.

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