“I’ve been floating every single day since I moved to Seattle for treatment for my breast cancer.”
– Deborah Schindele
Floating: Imagine feeling so buoyant it’s as if the world has become frictionless. Floating in absolute silence and darkness, in water that holds us up but is otherwise unnoticeable – carving out a rare slice of time uninterrupted by cell phones, traffic, the demands of our work or families, just deep peace and rest.
For a whole lot of us, our need for tranquility might be enough to get us in the floating pool or pod.
For nurse practitioner Deborah Schindele, floating may be a literal lifesaver.
Floating, self-care, and cancer treatment
Deborah was already a dedicated floater before her breast cancer diagnosis, but after hearing what she was facing, she immediately signed up for an “unlimited float” program at LifeFloat in Seattle.
“I told them, ‘hey, I’m going through this challenging experience, and I honestly think this is going to help save my life. My dream is to float every single day. How can I do that?’ And they had a program that made it possible.”
“It gets me out of the house and gives me the opportunity to reconnect with myself in a very deep way, every single day. I can deeply, deeply relax and have a wonderful, comfortable and comforting experience,” says Deborah. “Stress reduction is essential to health and well-being, and I think part of the reason I got cancer is because I’ve been under crazy amounts of stress for years. Floating has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself and my health to really decrease my stress level.”
Floating also helped Deborah with the depression and anxiety that come with cancer diagnosis and treatment. Normally so high-energy she’s been dubbed the “Energizer Bunny,” Deborah’s fatigue from cancer and chemo meant not being able to live her life as she was used to, and that added to the depression.
Time in the tank, she says, helps alleviate the negative psychological effects as well as the physical. “For me, floating became one of those pieces of self-care, and it was so effective, it become non-negotiable for me. People ask me if I have pain in my body from the chemo, and I can say, ‘No, I have no pain – I feel fine!’ I give float experiences as gifts because it’s so positive. I wish everybody could do it; I think the world would be a better place.”
So, what is “floating” exactly?
According to James Kilgallon, Wellness Expert at LifeFloat, flotation therapy (formerly “sensory deprivation”) is an opportunity for your mind and body to connect, making you more aware – and more in control – of your body’s responses to stimuli.
Floaters enter a pod or float room that has been designed to “isolate the body and mind from external stimulation by controlling gravity, temperature, sight, and sound,” James says. The very high concentration of Epsom salt in the water allows you to float without having to spend any energy or even think about it. This means your body and muscles can relax fully because you’re not fighting gravity – the salty water is doing that work for you.
The temperature of the water and the air around you are maintained at the same temperature as your body, so you lose sensation and awareness of your body in space.
The rooms are sound- and light-proof, removing distracting sensory data and giving your brain a chance to rest as well as your body. Sound and lights are controlled by you, so if you get uncomfortable, you can turn on either or both until you’re ready again.
What are the health benefits of floating?
Even if you’re generally healthy, there are a number of benefits to floating, James says. And for women managing midlife and menopause symptoms, some of the benefits can be game-changers.
- Greater mind/body awareness. Floating is an opportunity to pay close attention to how thoughts resonate in the body. Free from other distractions, you can feel how negative thoughts cause a rush of adrenaline and cortisol and how mindful breathing and self-talk can soothe your sympathetic nervous system. Ultimately, according to James, you can learn to better control this mind/body conversation.
- Body slips into “rest and digest” stage. Your brain moves from a state of alertness to one of meditation. Not only can this help decrease stress hormones, blood pressure, and anxiety, and improve digestion and immunity, it also moves your brain to its more creative state.
- Pain relief. Midlife is a pain. Literally. Joints are stiffer, muscles tighter. Some say that in floating, your body absorbs magnesium sulfate which relieves aches and pains, meaning grandma may have been right about soaking in Epsom salts. Floating may also help your spine to realign from the normal wear and tear of everyday stress, poor posture, and gravity.
- Reduced blood pressure, stress hormones. In menopause, the cortisol-dampening effect of estrogen can be lost, allowing stress hormones to increase. Floating can help alleviate that issue: As stress floats away, blood pressure lowers, giving floaters the opportunity to face life’s stresses with a more positive attitude and fewer stress hormones rushing out at every challenge. And the stress relief can last hours or days, according to floaters.
- Better sleep. Many floaters report an increased ability to fall and stay asleep, often for several days following a float. Woot! Count me in!
Whatever you’re going through – menopause, illness, or just a stressful phase of life – you can fight it … or you can float through it. OK, floating may not solve everything, but it can radically improve your attitude by improving sleep, pain, emotional stability, and creativity, and that can make getting through the rough patches a whole lot easier.
If you give floating a try at LifeFloat or a float provider near you, we’d love to hear about it. Tell us about your experience in the comments below, on the genneve Facebook page, or in Midlife & Menopause Solutions, our closed Facebook group.