In the past twelve months I’ve endured four head-first-into-the-giant-tube MRIs. They aren’t fun when you have anxiety about small spaces, must lay perfectly still AND you have that dang head cage over you.
So, I’m sharing what I do to make the scans much easier to handle. Maybe a few of these ideas will work for you too!
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1. Aromatherapy: Bring Along a Favorite Scent
For my last three scans, I’ve packed a small bottle of essential oil-based sprays to use during my appointment. The first time I used pure lavender from a local lavender farm. For the second two scans, I opted for Dr. Teal’s Sleep Spray made with melatonin, lavender and chamomile to help me relax.
The MRI tech sprayed the scent around the room for me after I was positioned in the MRI tube and again when she paused the scan to administer the contrast/dye. Taking deep breaths of relaxing scents reduces my anxiety about having an MRI.
You could also experiment with other relaxing fragrances such as vanilla or rose. Pick what you like best — and go for it! Just make sure the spray doesn’t contain any metallic content or you won’t be able to use it in the MRI room.
2. Music: Crank Up Some Bold Tunes
Many MRI rooms offer to play music through headphones for patients. I always accept this comforting option to divert my attention away from what’s going on.
I personally choose some powerful rock music to mask the clanking sounds of the machine. You might initially think you want some soothing, tranquil music, but trust me, something more upbeat will pair better with the non-stop beeps and rattles of the loud scans.
3. Guided Visualization: Take Yourself Somewhere Fun
I like to envision that I’m at a huge outdoor music festival in the open air with lots of space around me. I learned in a yoga class once that our brain doesn’t know the difference between actually being somewhere wonderful or imagining an idyllic scene. Both give us positive benefits, including relaxation!
Other things you could imagine in your head during an MRI are a nice long walk outside on a nature trail, sitting on a cozy open-air patio under a tree or being in in a hammock outside.
4. Eye Covering: There are Multiple Options
Some people prefer to simply close their eyes and slide into the MRI machine. I find that I can’t keep my eyes closed for the 45 minutes or so that I need to be in the tube for each scan.
A few offices I’ve been to have offered mirrored glasses that allow you to keep your eyes open and see what is on the wall outside the tube. The slight wiggle of the glasses from my breathing makes me feel nauseous, so these don’t work for me.
I prefer to wear an eye mask (like you use for sleeping) or to simply fold a dry washcloth and drape it over my eyes. It’s lightweight and non-restrictive.
5. Anxiety Prevention: Relax As Much As Possible
Finally, I lean into my yoga skills and practice lots of pranayama, or specific breathing patterns. I like to do a four-count box breath to gently diffuse my anxious nervous system.
I also ask my neurologist to prescribe a dose of Ativan, an anti-anxiety medication, for me to take just before my scans. This helps to take the edge off of getting into the tube. I’m not a fan of small spaces!
How do you like to make your time in the MRI machine more cozy? I’m all ears! Please share your ideas in the comments below.
Until next time,
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