Practising at home

When it comes to anxiety about having an MRI scan, some people choose the option of avoiding thinking about it at all. Not thinking about it can of course bring relief.

The problem with this is that while not thinking about the anxiety-provoking thing brings relief in the short term, it does not help one to overcome the anxiety in the long term. Ultimately, when one has to face what causes the anxiety (e.g. having an MRI scan), one can be poorly prepared to cope.

One approach to overcoming anxiety is to slowly expose oneself to the thing that one is anxious about. This can be done very slowly and in small steps. The human brain gets “bored” if it is repeatedly exposed to the same thing over and over again. This can apply to even things that are anxiety-provoking.

In the case of MRI scans, if one gets enough exposure to it over time, one’s brain will get “used” to the idea and this will reduce one’s anxiety about it. It would have been ideal if you could have an MRI scanner at home to practice on. However, I suppose you do not have one lying around at home!

Do not worry, as luckily, there is a cheaper and more practical option of gradually getting used to the MRI scan. What I am suggesting is to use the power of your imagination. It is your negative imagination that is making you nervous about the MRI scan, you can turn that into a positive imagination to help you instead. Let me explain.

For a “happy” MRI scan, on the day you will need to lie still, hear all those sounds, and keep your mind occupied so that it does not have room to negatively think of the MRI scanner.

These can be practised at home. In the next section, I have provided videos with a sampling of MRI sounds to help you practice. The idea is that you can listen to the MRI sounds in your home while lying flat, motionless, and eyes closed. 

In my opinion, when preparing for an MRI scan, the crucial thing is to practice managing your mind, using techniques from the previous section or techniques that you may have come up with yourself. Just reading about how to manage your mind is much less useful than practising such methods. The human mind is not that easy to manage, but over time, with practice, you will be more and more successful in doing so. 

Your home will provide a relatively stress-free space to practice keeping your mind busy. Initially, you will find your mind jumping all over the place and you may encounter waves of stress. But that is exactly the idea of practice, as over time, the waves of stress will lessen.

It is crucial that you progress at a gentle pace so that you do not get overwhelmed. For this purpose, I have made MRI sound videos of varying lengths. You can start with a short video and gradually increase the time. 

During your practice session, keep your mind busy using methods you learnt in the “managing your mind” section or perhaps your own methods. As you do this, you may find your chosen method not working well, then practice switching to another method. As you gain experience, you will find yourself able to use the methods more effectively and also find it easier to switch between them. Try as much as possible to continue your practice session till the chosen video ends. As I mentioned before, do not increase the length of the practice videos too quickly.

At this point, I must warn you that this way of preparing for your MRI scan may not be suitable for everyone. Some of us may have complex mental health issues and it is entirely possible that practising this way will not suit your mind. I am not a mental health professional, so I cannot advise you on this. However, if you have a therapist, do tell him or her about this website. Perhaps you can practice using the information on this website along with the guidance of your therapist.

Like lots of things, the more you practice, the easier something becomes. The practice videos are in the next section.

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