5 Ways to Reduce Anxiety During an MRI

5 ways to reduce anxiety in an mri

MRIs, or magnetic resonance imaging tests, are essential medical exams that use radio waves and magnets to scan various body parts. Then, doctors use the images to diagnose diseases or conditions. To complete an MRI, patients have to lie still in an enclosed, tube-shaped machine for extended periods.

Many patients find it challenging to pass the time during an MRI. Claustrophobia and other anxious thoughts can make lying without moving stressful and uncomfortable. Finding creative ways to spend your time can help you feel more relaxed during the MRI.

Read on for ideas about how to pass time in an MRI to reduce anxiety.

How long does an MRI take?

Deciding how to spend the time during an MRI often depends on the test’s length. If you have an estimation of how long the MRI will take, you can prepare for potential anxious feelings more effectively.

MRI lengths depend on these factors:

  • The size of the body part being scanned
  • How many images the technician takes
  • The use of sedation for the procedure
  • The type of MRI procedure

The average MRI takes between 30 and 60 minutes, but it varies by body part. Here are common MRI time estimates for specific areas of the body:

  • Breast MRI: These tests assist with a breast cancer diagnosis. Patients lie face down for this type of MRI, which typically takes about 45 minutes.
  • Brain MRI: A brain MRI can detect conditions such as brain tumors. These MRIs can take 30 minutes to an hour to complete.
  • Knee MRI: This is another common MRI exam, often used for patients with leg injuries or consistent knee pain. A knee MRI usually takes between 30 and 45 minutes.

For a more precise estimate for your specific MRI, ask a healthcare professional for a time estimate. Having a specific time can help you get a better idea of the upcoming procedure. This knowledge could help you feel less anxious.

what to do in an mri to relieve anxiety

5 ideas for what to do during an MRI to relieve anxiety

One of the best ways to combat anxious thoughts during an MRI is planning ways to pass the time. Keeping yourself distracted helps the test progress faster and keeps you from feeling overly anxious.

Here are some ideas for what to do during your MRI:

1. Listen to music

If you’ve ever had an MRI before, you know the machine can be very noisy. As it scans your body, the machine produces a variety of sounds, like loud clicks and hums. The noises can seem overwhelming and add to your discomfort.

One way to block out these noises and feel calmer is by listening to music. MRI technologists often play music through a stereo or headphones provided by the diagnostic imaging center, so you can hear it during the exam.

If you can listen to music during the exam, allow it to distract you. Focus on the melodies, backing instruments or lyrics instead of the ongoing MRI. You could try closing your eyes and getting lost in the music entirely.

If music isn’t available for your exam, most MRI technologists can supply you with earplugs. Some patients prefer earplugs to block out the machine’s noises, while others don’t like total silence. Consider what audio environment would make you most comfortable during the test and plan accordingly.

2. Focus on breathing or meditation

Another calming activity you can try during an MRI is meditation. This practice is frequently used for anxiety reduction, allowing you to concentrate on a specific sensation, emotion or mantra. Other meditation types focus on mindfulness, which is the state of being open and aware of the present moment. People practice meditation in many positions, but it frequently involves closing your eyes and staying still.

You can use your time during the MRI exam to practice meditation. Try closing your eyes and focusing on your breath or a particular calming thought. The practice can alleviate stressful feelings and bring you to a calm mindset during the test.

Because meditation skills take time to develop, you might want to practice them before your exam date. If you already have a meditation technique, you can use the same one during the MRI to bring a sense of comfort.

3. Try counting

If music and meditation don’t suit you, try counting. You can count from the number one until you don’t feel like counting anymore and see how far you can get. As an alternative, try challenging yourself with counting strategies like:

  • Reciting multiplication tables
  • Counting backward from higher numbers
  • Counting by larger increments, like 15

Focusing on the numbers distracts you from the MRI and nervous feelings. Similar to when people count sheep to fall asleep, it gives you a different activity to concentrate on and relaxes your brain.

4. Plan for future events

Another strategy for lowering anxiety during an MRI is planning. Try passing the time by making plans. Whether you have a few upcoming events or want to envision some dream scenarios, you can create detailed plans during the exam.

You could make plans for events like:

  • Birthday parties
  • Dinner parties
  • Ideal vacations
  • Financial goals

Think about the people you would invite, the food you would eat and other details for these occasions. You could even start drafting invitations for people.

On a smaller scale, you could plan for what you’ll do after you finish the MRI. For instance, you might want to walk your dog, treat yourself to a nice meal or do other similar activities. Thinking about following plans can also help the test pass more quickly.

5. Let your mind wander

If you find yourself anxious or bored in the MRI machine, close your eyes, try to relax and just let your mind wander. Whether you create elaborate daydreams or think about current events in your life, you can use the time to slow down and process things. Observe your thoughts, focus on your breath and do your best to let the time pass.

Remember that MRI tests are helpful for your health, so try to think of the test as a positive step for your health rather than something to fear. Some people even express gratitude for having a set opportunity to rest their minds. Reframing your mindset about MRIs could help you feel less anxious.

request an mri

Request an MRI with Health Images today

MRIs are crucial tools for diagnosing and assisting patients. As you ponder how to pass time during an MRI, consider where your next appointment is located. The facility you choose for your MRI also has a big influence on your experience.

If you need to schedule an upcoming MRI, consider Health Images — we’re committed to creating a high-quality, comfortable scanning experience for all patients. Our friendly technologists and comfortable environment help your MRI scan pass smoothly. The latest imaging technology delivers your results quickly and precisely.

Explore our available locations to find an option near you and request an appointment today.