We all face those weeks from time to time, and last week was one of them for me. With a move, a holiday, and several looming deadlines, I felt the stress of a mile-long to-do list in my mind, my body, and my spirit. I decided to book a session at True REST later in the week, expecting a float would purge both my stressed energy and my tense shoulders.
I settled into my pod with the manic spirit of a woman who had been spent a week running on too much caffeine and too little time, relieved to take an hour to clear my mind and feel like myself again.
I laid down, closed my eyes…and started reviewing task lists in my mind, reminding myself of errands that still needed to be done and wondering if I had turned off the stove.
This isn’t the first time I faced the challenge of redirecting my type-A thoughts. With a short mindfulness exercise, I eased myself into the deep relaxation that my body needed. Of course, just as we all face periods of high-stress, we all face the task of soothing our psyches back to the status quo afterward. If you find yourself struggling against an anxious mind, here are some techniques to ensure each float leaves you feeling relaxed, refreshed, and ready to face whatever comes next.
Controlled Breathing: Just like counting sheep helps usher in sleep, counting your breaths can ease you into deep relaxation. Performing a simple task like counting defends the brain against intrusive thoughts without cognitive strain. Start small – count each breath in and out. Once you’ve pushed the mental background noise aside, utilize your breath to renew your energy; take long breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. Visualize energy moving through your body with each new breath, while feeling anything negative, stale, or toxic seep out through your feet.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Feeling tense? The salt solution utilized in every Float Pod is designed to support the body from head to toe, but new spa-goers may struggle to release muscle strain and let the water do the work. While progressive muscle relaxation is a commonly recommended technique, it can be particularly useful to alleviate any lingering tension and prime your body for a successful float. Start by clenching all of the muscles in your right foot for a few seconds, then release. Do the same with your left foot. Slowly move up your body, engaging only small muscle groups and switching between your right and left side. You may need to repeat the exercise in areas that commonly hold stress tension, such as your back or shoulders. By the time you’ve completed the exercise, your muscles should feel completely relaxed as your body is supported by the water in the pod.
Mantra Repetition: You don’t have to chant “om” to harness the power of a meditative mantra; in fact, employing a mantra is particularly effective for those that are fraught with anxious thoughts. The first step is to choose a mantra that helps combat your most stressful ruminations. Many start with a traditional meditative word or phrase, while others choose an affirmation or a virtue they hope to develop. Just remember to keep it short, keep it positive, and keep it personal. Once you’ve chosen a mantra, visualize it. As stress starts to creep into your psyche, don’t fight it – instead, recognize and expel anxiety by visualizing negative thoughts as clouds floating past your mantra, drifting further and further away.
Visualization: Many relaxation techniques involve visualization as a facet of the exercise, but what we’re talking about now will engage all of your senses – think of it as going to your “happy place.” If you can’t stop running through the day’s to-do list, take yourself on a little getaway while you float. Close your eyes and picture yourself at your favorite vacation destination. Try to generate a detailed, vivid image. Engage your auditory sense to layer the sounds you hear in your dream locale. Slowly move through the rest of the senses, starting with touch, smell, and finishing with taste. Your mind will naturally leave the task list at home while your brain vacations.