For many people, a major part of the discomfort or dread of an MRI comes from claustrophobia or the sense of being trapped. Imagine getting into a piece of machinery that resembles a cave. Imagine being alone and being restricted by a metallic structure. These feelings are understandable and would potentially give anyone an uneasy feeling. Your mind may wander to the most undesirable places and this is why many people suggest using mental relaxation techniques during your MRI.
Don’t forget that at South West MRI, our staff is with you all the way. All of our patients are briefed before, have access to assistance during the scan and will be guided through effective after care, but if you are still looking for a little more Zen, here is a list of four calming exercises to consider.
1. Controlled Breathing
One technique you can use involves controlling your breathing. For example, if you feel your breath starting to speed up or any anxious thoughts beginning to flood your mind, you can try breathing in through your nose and then let the air out of your mouth. When you’re breathing in, you can count to a certain number (count 1 to 10). It may help to hold your breath for a few seconds or more on the end of inhaling, doing the same at the exhale. This works to make the breath deeper and more controlled.
2. Scanning your body mindfully
If you already practice meditation or yoga, one concept you’ll likely be familiar with is the body scan.
The idea is to bring your body into rest by checking in with each body part, making sure each area is free of tension. You can start by breathing deeply to relax yourself. Then, begin focusing on different parts of your body, starting from the top of your head and moving all the way to your feet. Don’t forget each toe! You can check in with your organs and even mentally scan the strands of your hair. Take your time.
Be aware of any sensations, whether they be negative or positive. Maybe you are not feeling anything at all. Just accept whatever is happening. Imagine sending deep breaths into each part of the body that you are focusing on, filling them with oxygen and energy. Before you have an MRI scan you can work with a meditation teacher, or check out some books or videos on these topics.
Throughout the exam you may have distracting thoughts. Don’t get frustrated by these—they’ll come and go. Just keep your awareness gently centered on your breathing.
3. Relaxing Imagery
This is often a fun one for people. You imagine yourself in a relaxing place. It could be entirely based on a real place, such as your cozy den at home, a beach you love, or a relaxing walk you’ve taken through fields and forest; you can also craft an imaginary place. The point is to mentally go to this place, imagining its relaxing sights and smells and sounds. You can also imagine fun, relaxing people surrounding you. During the MRI exam, you have the option of listening to music you like or to wear earplugs. This can also help you go to a pleasant mental place, simply because the sound of the machine is dampened.
Sometimes, the best thing to do is to have a short and simple mantra to focus on. This can be something like, “I am safe” or “I am well,” because in reality, an MRI is a routine and safe procedure. Although you should always mention if you’re feeling discomfort or negative side effects from anything, the fact is that numerous people get MRIs done safely every day. If you don’t want to focus on one specific mantra, you can talk to yourself mentally in a soothing, calm voice. You can give yourself reassurance. You can remind yourself that you’re strong and that you’re in control, which is true, because you chose to get the MRI and you’re doing it for your health. You’re in control of your life, even at that moment when you’re lying inside of the machine. You can also remind yourself that the procedure doesn’t take forever. It has an end and then you’re able to continue with your day.