I tend to flock to the snack aisles, but every once in a while I find myself drawn to the magazine racks at the grocery store. Something about the bright covers will call my name and, before I know it, I have loaded my arms with two or three magazines on top of the box of cereal I came in to get and did not need.
Most of the time, I end up buying magazines that offer fun recipes on the cover (I'm looking at you "Southern Living", "Our State", and "Food Network Magazine"), but I will occasionally stray out of this theme and find something a little more impactful.
While I rarely purchase this type of magazine, I was particularly interested in TIME magazine's special edition titled "Mental Health, a New Understanding". Not only did the cover have an intriguing image that hinted at the various shades of happiness and sadness that comes with any and every mental disorder, but a tagline that advertised tips for taking care of a loved one that suffers from a mental illness.
Although I don't know anyone that struggles with a severe, diagnosed mental disorder, I picked up a copy and bought it, telling myself "you never know what you may learn for the future".
I couldn't have been more right in making this assumption.
As I read this edition on the last two-hour stretch of my return flight from Scotland, I found myself increasingly curious about new treatments that have been developed for those that suffer from depression, anxiety, and PTSD. After weeding through some of the more pedantic scientific articles, I lingered on an article that talked about something I had never heard of: float therapy.
I know, it sounds weird...and I can't say that it's going to sound any less weird from here on out.
During float therapy, individuals remove all of their clothing and submerse themselves in a pool of warm water that contains dissolved minerals. The lights are often dimmed or turned off entirely as the patient floats around in the tub, clearing their mind of as many thoughts as possible and focusing solely on relaxing.
Yeah, floating naked in a tub in the dark. As I said, it sounds really weird.
But it works—at least it did for me.
During the last few weeks of my shortened summer break, I was in over my head in stress. Spending six weeks in New York City taking classes after a full semester was a lot. Add the stress of trying to make time for family, friends, a boyfriend, work, extracurriculars, and planning my future after graduation and you have an award-winning recipe for stress. To make matters worse, my personal experiences with high stress have also invited a host of anxious thoughts and tensions.
As move-in drew nearer, I found myself thinking more and more about how I would manage all of this stress once I was back in the melee of college life. Looking at my schedule, I knew I would not have much free space to dedicate to "me time". It was now or never.
The first thing my mind went to was the membership to the local massage spa that my mom will allow me to borrow when I come home. It would be a nice treat to myself, but I was not entirely sure that a sharp press into my back would be enough to cure this new level of anxiety and stress.
Then my mom mentioned my brother's periodic visits to the cryotherapy place in town, specifically that they had started offering float therapy. That was enough of a coincidence to sell me. I asked if I could sign up for an appointment before I left.
If I can only say one thing about float therapy, it would be that I wish I had decided to try it sooner.
Once you allow your mind to pass the strange sense of floating in a (very slippery) tub of warm water in a place that is not your own bathtub, float therapy is one of the most freeing experiences I've ever had. The darkness allowed me to focus on my thoughts and slowly let go of each of the worries as I realized they were not worth holding on to any longer. The weightless sensation of such an elevated buoyancy (due to the high concentration of dissolved minerals) allowed me to focus on each area of my body, apologize to each aspect of my being that I had been neglecting, that I had been tearing apart because its as not "perfect".
Floating in that tank allowed me to reconnect with myself in a way that I had never thought possible. I left feeling freed from the anxieties of the future and reconnected with an appreciation for my body. As weird as it sounds, I cannot recommend float therapy enough to anyone that wants to stop fighting the things they cannot change. Take it from me, even just a one-hour float will force you to spend time with your most raw thoughts and the things you discover may change the way you look at everything by the time you step out of that tub.