How to Manage an MRI

If you’ve ever been so fortunate to visit the hospital for specialized testing, MRI/CAT scan/CT scan etc, you know it is not a good time. Hospitals can evoke extreme anxiety for many people, just by their atmosphere alone. Not to mention the reason for being there in the first place. I’ve had my fair share of MRI’s, I get at least 1 a year to check for MS progression. 

In reflecting on MRI’s of the past, I’ve wondered why some were such an awful experience and some aren’t quite that bad. I discovered some things that made a big difference and I want to share these with you, as they can be applied to various medical situations, or any stressful situation you may encounter.

Time of day

I found during an MRI a while ago that the time of the exam made a huge difference. All of my other MRI’s (and other exams for that matter) have been in the afternoon/evening due to work. After a long and stressful day already, I had to walk into another stressful situation. However, I changed things and had one first thing in the morning recently. Some people (myself included before I went) would say that’s even worse! Now I have to get up early for the stupid stressful test? But yes. You want the answer to be yes. I realized that there is an advantage of a morning MRI. Not only am I not awake yet, my body isn’t either. I am able to relax and get into a calm state much easier than I can at the end of the day. Being calm and relaxed is a huge benefit for any type of testing, or stressful situation, medical or otherwise.

Comfort 

I hear it now, a resounding ‘duh’ from all of you. ‘Of course I’m going to get comfortable’. But this goes beyond just ‘getting comfy’ or as comfy as possible (it’s hard in those small MRI machines). But what I mean is, really adapt your surroundings to you. If you need another pillow, leg rest or blanket, say so. Don’t think you’re being a pain in the ass just because you need another blanket as the tech is walking away. The tech is there to help you, but you need to help yourself first and say something. There is no use being freezing, or obnoxiously hot, when it can be easily remedied. 

This is true in life as well. There are plenty of people in our lives willing to help, but how often do we reach out? Or we know what will help us, or make us feel better, but we struggle to implement those changes. Because change is hard and our brains make it difficult. But don’t be afraid to give up good for great.

Breathing

In my experience, an MRI can go downhill, fast. Either I overheat, something starts to insanely hurt or my mind gets the better of me. In these situations all I have left is my breath. Breath is the foundation for life, movement and focus. In these situations, it is never more evident. Sometimes all I can do about the situation is breathe through it. I can calm my body down and calm it’s reactions down through my breathing. 

My most used technique is called ‘square breathing’. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, out for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, repeat. If I can focus on my breath, usually whatever is bothering me, will calm itself as well. I have found this technique to be useful daily as well. If I encounter a situation that is completely overwhelming and is threatening to ruin my day, taking a moment to focus on my breath lets me gain the calmness and clarity I need to be able to handle it.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Call Bell

This may be another tip that appears more geared toward an MRI/procedure than anything else. However, it has everyday uses as well. When you’re being shuttled into the MRI machine, the last thing the tech gives you is a call bell. This is a ‘get me the eff out’ button. 

Don’t be afraid to use it. 

It’s there for a reason, a good reason. Thankfully, I haven’t had to use it yet. Thinking back on it, there’s several occasions where I probably should have. I’m still learning about this one too. 

That life line that is there for us, waiting and ready for us to take it? Don’t be afraid of it. How many times have we been at the end of our ropes and needed to get the eff out of where we were? Probably plenty. Don’t be afraid to press the call bell and get out.

I recently asked my audience on Insta about what they do to get through an MRI, here are a few answers: 

  • Pray
  • Sleep (I try this, but I twitch too much) 
  • Make sounds/beats with the machine sounds 
  • Breathing 
  • Take meds 

These tips apply to an MRI or life in general. If you’re not comfortable with where you are or what’s happening, take steps to change it. If all you can do is breathe, then breathe away. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to press the call bell and get out.