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 something to be thankful for. Hospitals can envoke extreme anxiety for many people, just by their atmosphere alone, not to mention the actual reason for being there. I recently had my latest round of yearly MRI’s to check the progress of MS. I go in for 2 rounds of MRI’s, the first is about an hour long and the second about two hours. Needless to say, these leave me with plenty of time to stare at my plain white tube and think. During this round I was thinking about the current MRI and past MRI’s, why some were such an awful experience and some aren’t quite that bad. I figured out some things that made a big difference, either one way or the other and I want to share these with you, as they can be applied to any medical situation, or any stressful situation you may encounter.
1. The time of day.
I found during my last MRI, that the time of day 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 hugely stressful situation. This last time though, it was first thing in the morning. 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 put myself 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. Having an outlet for stress, is essential to your wellbeing.
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 hard 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. That is true in life as well. There are plenty of people in our lives willing to help, but 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! But don’t be afraid to give up good for great.
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 breath 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 in life also. If I encounter a situation that is completely overwhelming and is threatening to ruin my day, breathing through it calms me enough to be able to handle it.
4. Don’t be afraid to press 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. But 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. Dont’ be afraid to press the call bell.
These tips adapt to life situations too. If you’re not comfortable, 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 the eff out.