Set your senses on recharge, as we explore the complementary therapy proven to reduce anxiety and stress...
In today’s digital age, where many of us can feel overwhelmed at times, it’s perhaps not surprising that floatation therapy is gaining traction. The idea behind this approach is to strip bare, enter a flotation tank full of warm water and epsom salts to keep you afloat, close the lid, turn off the lights and simply… float.
Taking away all sensory stimulation encourages your brain wave patterns to slow, inducing a deep state of relaxation. Research from the Stress Management Society has shown that regular floatation therapy has a positive impact on mental wellbeing, particularly related to anxiety and stress. Sweden is so supportive of the approach that it now offers it as part of the health service.
Happiful’s own membership service manager, Jo Fergurson, has recently started floatation therapy, and says it’s had a profound effect on her anxiety. “I was completely unprepared for how deeply and positively the experience of floating would affect me.”
As she talks me through the process itself, I tell her I’m claustrophobic, and that this has always been a sticking point for me when it comes to getting in a floatation tank.
“Don’t immediately be put off if you’re concerned about being enclosed in a small space,” she’s quick to reassure. “There’s enough room for me to float in the pod with both arms outstretched without touching the sides. For full sensory restriction you can close the pod lid and switch off the lights, leaving you in complete darkness and silence. But if that sounds a bit daunting, you can always leave an ambient light on, have soothing sounds played, or even keep the pod lid open.”
Attempting to articulate the feeling of complete sensory deprivation, Jo tells me it’s like being suspended in mid-air with your consciousness separated from your body, and only a vague memory of your limbs and muscles.
“I began to experience what I can only describe as being on the edge of dreams – floating images and ideas, drifting past my consciousness, just out of reach.”
Expanding on the effects it’s had on her mental health (Jo lives with depression and anxiety), she tells me that initially, the idea of being alone with nothing but her thoughts was daunting.
“However, while I inevitably ruminated over the same anxieties and stresses I would have normally, the lack of ‘fuel’ from external stimuli – coupled with the complete relaxation of my strained and weary muscles – actually gave me my first respite from them in a long time.”
After floating, Jo says she feels ‘indescribable elation’, and drives home with a huge smile on her face. She explains that a lack of energy tends to wear down her resilience, making it harder for her to break out of negative thought cycles, but floating gives her some of that energy back.
“It resets my stress meter by taking me away from triggering stimuli – traffic, people, social media – just long enough to connect with myself again.”
Reconnecting with yourself is a powerful way to tune in with your emotions, helping you build emotional resilience and better manage mental health dips. If you like the sound of floatation therapy, use Floatation Locations to find a tank near you.
Here are a few things to keep in mind before your float:
- Lay off of caffeine and heavy meals before your session, as these can make it harder for you to switch off mentally and physically.
- Avoid shaving or waxing just before your float, as the epsom salts in the water may irritate your skin.
- Avoid going in just after applying fake tan or hair dye, as this can contaminate the tank.
When you’re in the tank, try to keep still, letting the water gently support your weight. To find out what environment suits you best, you may want to keep the lid of the tank open with the lights on or go for the full sensory deprivation experience with a closed lid and lights off. The most important thing is that you feel relaxed and isolated from the stresses of everyday life.
This idea of distancing yourself from the outside world to ease anxiety isn’t new, but I think we can all agree it can be one of the hardest things. Having a dedicated time and space to do so can be incredibly supportive either alongside talking therapy or in its own right.
However, if the idea of floatation therapy doesn’t float your boat, there are other options you can explore. Here are some we recommend:
There are lots of different meditation styles you can try, from mindfulness to transcendental. Usually, the aim is to focus your attention on one thing, such as your breath or a mantra, to help you gently pull out of a thinking mindset and into a being mindset.
While meditation is a practice you can do alone or with the help of an app, if you find it difficult to keep the habit up, you may want to try a meditation class. This extra accountability and in-person connection can really enhance the process.
Reiki is a form of energy healing where a practitioner who is attuned to Reiki energy uses their hands to help rebalance your energy. Often their hands don’t actually touch you (and if they do, it’s very gentle) and the experience is said to be incredibly calming.
“I felt as though my head was expanding, or perhaps more accurately, I suddenly couldn’t tell where my head stopped and Jenny’s hands began. It was unlike anything I had experienced before, and yet at no point did it feel alarming or uncomfortable. It was a kind of tingling, mixed with a sensation of heat, but all of it pleasant.”
Read more about Happiful writer Kat Wheeler’s experience of Reiki.
The idea behind crystal healing is that crystals can help unblock, balance and direct energy where it’s needed, gently supporting the body to heal. In a crystal healing session, your therapist will lay appropriate crystals on and around your body as you lie down, encouraging you to be quiet, still and relaxed. Take this time to breathe deeply and focus on the present moment.
Not only do you get the opportunity to mentally switch off when you’re getting a massage, but you also get the physical benefits of the treatment. Massage helps to release physical tension which can be common side-effects of stress and anxiety. For an even more relaxing experience, try an aromatherapy massage.
Dedicating time to yourself in any form is a wonderful way to practice self-care. Simply by booking yourself in for an appointment you are telling yourself that you are worthy and deserving of rest and relaxation. If you’re living with anxiety, put self-care at the top of your priority list and open yourself up to different approaches that could support you.