When your threat detection system goes off and your senses
starts tingling as the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, how do you respond?
Do you fight or do you flee?
We are all familiar with the feeling that floods in when we become aware of a threat in our surroundings. Heart rate skyrockets, breathing becomes rapid and shallow, we get that tingling sensation as our blood flows from our core to our limbs to mobilise us for action, ready to escape this threat.
When our sympathetic nervous system is engaged, we are in full-force action mode to handle anything that comes our way. Working opposite to our sympathetic response is the relaxation response known as rest and digest. It helps to keep stress levels in check and takes over when we feel safe and secure. With this parasympathetic activation, our breathing and heart rate slow down and as blood can return to our core, our digestive system becomes more active again and we’re also more likely to be sexually aroused.
There are important functions to both sympathetic and parasympathetic responses in our bodies and we depend on the ability to engage in fight or flight to deal with short-term challenges.
The problem that we face today is that stress has become a constant in our lives. The kids are late for school, then someone cuts you off in traffic, so now you’re running late to get to work and you get grilled by your boss. And this is all before 9 am while downing a 3rd stimulating double shot of espresso!
Our days go by like this constantly and even if we try to stay positive, that threat detection system is used to working subconsciously to protect us.
Even before the booming threat of the pandemic, stress levels were already on the rise, especially in cities where there’s a constant din of noise, motion, and interaction keeping our nervous systems buzzing. Everybody says that they’re stressed and in a constant state of avoiding overwhelm and having to deal with COVID hasn’t helped anyone.
Finding ways to unwind and get our bodies into the relaxation response is one of the best things we can do for our physical and mental health. When the term “relaxation response” was first coined by Herbert Benson, he came up with a protocol for practicing relaxation and eliciting the response.
The original steps for the relaxation response look very similar to a beginner practice of mindfulness and that’s because Dr. Benson is often credited with familiarising his Western audience with meditation through rebranding it as the “Relaxation Effect.”
Meditation is a tricky thing though because despite rebranding it or rephrasing the concept, most people don’t know how to get started with meditation in a meaningful way that feels like something positive.
But that’s where float tanks come in. Most people are curious to try out the float experience and to escape from the world in the nearly complete way that only floating can allow for.
It’s not surprising given the many studies that have found floating in a float tank brings on the relaxation effect as well as the benefits that come with that. And this is in part due to how many people describe floating as a sort of training wheels for meditation. It’s like your mental filing cabinet where your brain is able to turn down the noise and sort out the thoughts that tend to swirl around uncontrollably.
People coming in to float notice in real-time the benefits for reducing stress, improving mood, and also helping to increase focus as you return to the outside world.
The float tank environment is the perfect place to turn off that stress response that is ever-present in our lives today. It’s a safe and comfortable space to engage our relaxation response and let go of everything.
Depending on how you like to float, you can completely tune out from all the stimuli that are normally present and keep our fight or flight response actively engaged.
You get to choose calming music or blissful silence and the comfort of lights if you don’t want to immerse yourself in complete darkness.
The next time that you feel you're fed up and ready to lose it, instead of running away from your problems or getting into an argument, give yourself a time-out to engage your relaxation
response and treat yourself to a float to relax every muscle in your body while your brain gets to have a complete rest as well.