Floating for mental health

floating-for-my-mental-health

I went floating for the first time Thursday night. Float therapy is sensory deprivation therapy and is used to help the body completely let go of stress while at the same time increase mental clarity and physical health.

After my Denver This Is My Brave Producer Lauren posted about how she had floated, I was thrilled to find out a place called OmFloat had opened in my town.

All I knew going into it as that it was like a bath tub with a lid, and the water was full of salt so you float effortlessly. Meditation is the goal while you’re floating in this pod. I’ve been trying to meditate off and on for the past few years, and this seemed like the ideal way to be completely isolated, in a way forcing myself to be still and quiet and unplugged. I signed up for a membership right away, my monthly appointment for selfcare.

I hoped on the driver over that I’d enjoy it because I was now locked into a 12-month contract. On the way home I was wishing how I could float weekly instead of monthly.

The owners Brooks and Amy are friendly and warm. They’ve been floating since 2003, so I knew I was with knowledgable folks; they weren’t in it because it’s a fad. Brooks took myself and the three others who were there to float at 7pm back to one of the rooms for an intro and some tips. Then we each made our way to our own private float room.

The room was about ten feet by twelve feet if I had to guess. Soft meditation music began playing the moment I closed and locked my door. The pod takes up most of the space in the room, with a wooden bench running alongside it. The floors are covered with the webbed flooring that you see in pool locker rooms, so the water drains through. I undressed, put in the play-doh-like wax ear plugs, and showered before opening the door to the pod.

I was surprised that there was no light on inside the pod, since I was expecting there to be a soft light that would fade off when the music faded after the first fifteen minutes, but there was no such light. The music was perfect and so soothing though, that I was able to step into the skin-temperature water, close the door to the pod, and lay back into a float. In the first moments of floating it’s a little scary. It felt like I was floating in outer space somewhere. Except for the first few minutes I’d float over to the side and my arm would bump the side of the pod. Once I found the center and was able to stay there, that’s when the fun started.

The feeling of weightlessness in a dark space is difficult to describe. The music helped me to relax. I found I had to tell myself, you are safe, several times to stay calm and relaxed. After fifteen minutes the music faded to silence and all I could hear was my own breath. Brooks had mentioned in his intro talk that we’d be able to hear our breath and our heartbeats, and to focus on them as we meditated. My heartbeat was like a whisper, so I tried to focus on the rhythm of my breathing. My breath was intensified by the earplugs which kept the saltwater out of my ears.

I floated with my arms up above my head for half the time, but when I felt a cramp form in my left arm which didn’t go away after focusing on it for awhile, I knew I had to shift position. I gently moved my arms to my side and began to settle back into the state of mindfulness I was in before the move. The rest of my time in the pod flew by because the next thing I knew my entire body was slowly brought back to reality from complete relaxation by the sounds of soft chimes. Soft lights came on within the pod and I opened my eyes and sat up.

I took my time getting out of the pod and showering. My body felt so light. It was as if all my stress was detangled and unwound.

I definitely need more practice at releasing my thoughts as they pop up while I’m meditating, but I hear you get better at that with practice. I can’t wait to float again.

If you’re local to the Ashburn, Virginia area and want to try OmFloat for $49 for your first float, email me at: jennifer(at)thisismybrave.org for a certificate. If I refer three people I will earn a free float. :)

Happy Floating!

The Key to Avoiding Mommy-Meltdown

 Self-care: The Key to Avoiding the Mommy-Meltdown

This is the third post of a 12-week series on How I Learned to Manage My Bipolar Illness by Cultivating a Healthy Lifestyle.

If your winter has been as rough as ours has been so far this winter, then your kids are likely on their third snow day in a row and you may be in the middle of a mommy-meltdown. (Now it hasn’t been nearly as bad as Boston, thank heavens. That poor city deserves a break!) If you’re like me, you’ve already begun to wave the white flag. We had built forts, baked banana bread, watched movies, the kids went sledding with their Daddy (no way was I going out in the frigid temps!), wrote stories, read books, and played about thirty rounds of Pictionary.

I was frazzled. Cabin fever coupled with whiny kids wreaks havoc on my mood.

Then I realized. It had been days since I took time to myself. I don’t know why I sometimes forget to do this simple thing, but I do. I get caught up in the rush and frenzy of the days, all the while putting the kids needs before mine, and before I know it the clock says 11pm and I’m crawling into bed, exhausted and a little bitter for the absence of downtime.

Self-care is easy when we remember

One of my favorite ways to relax is by taking a nice warm bubble bath while reading a book. Another is to give myself a manicure. Or snuggling up on the couch with my husband and watching something on Netflix. The key for me is to carve out the time to let myself enjoy the luxury of doing something I love.

Lack of me-time = stress

I only realized I was an introvert a few years ago. I do love meeting new people and going to conferences and networking events, but I always need time to unwind by myself after outings like these or I get stressed out. Even a fun family trip can cause me to get agitated at the end because I haven’t had enough time to just be alone. But I’ve learned it’s important that I recognized this need so I can plan to adjust my schedule to include downtime.

Something to look forward to

I love when I’m able to schedule self-care, like lunch with friends or a yoga class or date night with my husband. Because then I have it on my calendar and I know I won’t accidentally forget. It’s something to look forward to, and that makes it even more enjoyable. The third snow day in a row doesn’t seem so unbearable anymore when I have a much-anticipated event on my mind.

Self-care is important for anyone, not only those of us who live with mental illness. But ever since I began making self-care an integral part of my treatment plan, I’ve noticed a positive change in the stability of my moods. These days I make sure to take time for myself each day – even if it’s only fifteen minutes – because the solo time allows me to avoid the mommy-meltdown.

Do you remember to make time for self-care?