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anxiety self help

REVIEW: The surprising thing I discovered when I tried flotation therapy

Flotation Tank Pod, Floatworks

Have you ever wondered why someone would willingly choose to spend an hour in a flotation tank? I certainly have. So when Chris Plowman, co-founder of Floatworks invited me to try a session, I curiously accepted his gesture. The plan had been to arrive at the Vauxhall-based premises in a relatively relaxed state with half an hour to spare.

But this is me and things are never straightforward.

There were both tube and train delays. And I’d left my London A-Z (yes, you know the old-school style book) at home and was reliant on Google Maps to get me to St George’s Wharf. Of course I ended up walking in completely the wrong direction and, of course, it started to rain. Flabbergasted and soaked through I called Floatworks. Fortunately, the receptionist explained that she received calls like this all the time (the clue is to look out for the Pret when you come out of the station).

Flotation therapy, also known as isolation therapy or R.E.S.T (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy) is having a moment again as people look for alternative and fun ways to de-stress. It dates back to the 1950s and was developed in the US by doctors Jay Shurley and John Lilly at the National Institute of Mental Health. They were interested in understanding how the human brain would respond to an environment devoid of external sensory input.

Put simply, you lie in a pool of salty water for an hour. Most people do it in the dark (I didn’t, but more on that later). According to Chris,  floating is popular with athletes who use it as an alternative sports recovery technique and city executives looking to relieve stress fast. Some women float during pregnancy to alleviate aches and pains, while wellbeing enthusiasts who understand the benefits of rest and deep relaxation are also drawn to these pods.

Flotation Tank Therapy: Helen Gilbert, Relax Ya Self To Health

Each flotation tank contains half a tonne of Epsom salts, which not only aids buoyancy but provides a hit of magnesium via the skin, which is said to be great for relaxing muscles and easing stiffness.

Interestingly, a study published in science journal PLOS One earlier this year described floating as a ‘promising technique for acutely reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression’.

Chris, who is one of the most chilled people I have ever met,  freely admits he became burnt out after spending eight years working as a banker. “I got into banking because I thought that money and power were the things that were going to make me happy and successful and then I quickly realised they wouldn’t,” he says. “I was trapped there for eight years because I didn’t know what else I wanted to do and burned the candle at both ends. My mental health was really bad because I was doing the things that I didn’t believe in and didn’t enjoy.”

He then discovered the benefits of floating after injuring his back at the gym. “I was trying to recover, it was difficult and my physio suggested I give it a try. I floated and it changed my life. I shut my eyes and a lot of my worries, stress and anxiety disappeared.”

Around the same time Chris had started meditating – something he had never before contemplated. “When you grow up you hear about those things and they seem fringe and hippy. I thought I won’t waste my time doing that but when you’ve felt shitty for so long, it’s like okay, maybe it’s time to try something different. After floating I had a good idea of what I needed to do. We [his best friend Ed is a co-founder] set up in April 2016. We want to have as many people floating as possible because we know the profound impact it can have on people’s lives, especially when stress, anxiety and depression are rising so rapidly. Floating is the perfect counterbalance.”

But would it work for me…someone with a butterfly brain who gets bored very easily? This is how I got on.

My Floatworks Flotation Tank Experience

I was led to a plush semi-lit private room complete with an enormous shower and pod. At 8ft 6in long by 5ft 6in inch wide, the white tank was far bigger in ‘real life’ than I had envisaged. I was advised to pop in the earplugs, given Vaseline to smooth over any cuts or scratches I may have (heavily concentrated salt water stings!) and told to shower before making my way into the flotation tank. I was then shown how to open the lid – it was reassuringly easy and swung up and down – which allayed my initial concerns around feeling claustrophobic. Also, if I had any issues I could press a button and someone would be with me in the blink of an eye.

To be on the safe side, I laid out my emergency meds including my epi-pens. As some of you know I have mast cell issues and hot water can be a trigger, however, at 35.5c the water was just below body temperature.*

Flotation Tank Therapy: Relax Ya Self To Health

I glided into the silky pool and giggled like a little girl when I popped up. Ambient music played in the background and I pulled down the lid. I could do this. Five minutes later the music stopped. It felt eerily quiet.

Thoughts consumed my mind and I could feel a slight twinge in my neck. I then realised I’d left the halo – a blue plastic support that goes beneath your head and neck – hanging on the wall.

I lifted up the hatch, stepped out to retrieve it but by my eyes were in agony from the salt water dripping down my face.  In my haste, I’d forgotten that there was a bottle of water inside the pod to assist with such emergencies. After five minutes or so they calmed down. Take two! As it was my first flotation experience I opted to leave the alternating rose and aquamarine lights switched on instead of lying in inky darkness.

My chattering mind was in overdrive trying to work out why I couldn’t really feel anything – the water is the same temperature as the air so everything seems to blend into one and it almost feels as though you’re suspended in nothingness. I focussed on deep breathing instead. The sensation that eventually followed was just wonderful. Cocooned within a wall of brilliant white light, I felt calm and at peace.

Flotation Tank, Floatworks, London

 

Now, I’ve written before about this peculiar altered state I seem to enter when I meditate – it can happen in just 45 seconds, and, truth be told, I sometimes stop when this occurs because I wonder where the heck it’s going to take me. I appreciate this sounds a little out there but it’s as though I’m disconnected from my body – stay with me – yet in a really deep state of relaxation.

And sure enough, it happened in the pod. Except I also had another profound experience – similar to when I tried tapping therapy, also known as EFT, for the first time. Imagine a candle flickering in your tummy or the excited feeling you’d have as a child the night Father Christmas was due to pay a visit. It was that.

When the music began playing to signal the end of the session I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe I’d spent almost an hour doing absolutely nothing but breathing and floating. I’d been in a dream-like, surreal state but not asleep. Afterwards, I headed upstairs to the Hollywood dressing room which had the works – hairdryers, hair straighteners, cotton buds – before retreating to the relaxation area complete with herbal tea and books.

My Floatworks Flotation Tank verdict

I know it sounds rather new-agey but I had such a profound experience in that pod. Every cell in my body seemed to be singing with joy and for the first time in the three years since my health fell apart, I felt completely and utterly safe. Whole, even. I walked out in such a blissful state. It was as though everything was stripped back and a metamorphosis had taken place. Chris says people often need three sessions to see if it’s for them. I know after just one that I’ll be back. And next time I’ll turn the light off!

Single floats start from £50 while a 3x float package costs £105.
For more information visit Floatworks.

Relax Ya Self To Health was invited to try a flotation experience in exchange for a review. As always, this post is based on my honest opinion and I would never recommend anything I do not believe in. Please note I am not a medical expert. This review is based on my own personal experience. If you have a medical condition or health concerns always seek medical advice from your doctor or registered healthcare specialist before undergoing new treatments. 

Looking for more ways to relax?

You might like to check out the following posts:

Chilston Park Hotel Wellness Retreat 
Gazelli House Hypnotherapy Mind Massage
What Really Happens in a Group Meditation Session

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Thanks for reading x

Wellness

Katie Piper talks anxiety, babies and self-care

Katie Piper What's In My Head

Katie Piper is blooming in every way. The 33-year-old, who is expecting her second child this Christmas and recently launched a maternity collection, has just announced her debut ‘What’s in My Head’ 2018 theatre tour.

Next February marks ten years since the former model had acid thrown over her. In that time Katie, who is married to Richard Sutton and has a three-year-old daughter Belle, has overcome personal battles with anxiety, endured endless plastic surgery, and become a TV presenter, speaker, charity campaigner and author of three best-selling books.

Inspirational Katie believes that in an era of glossy magazines, Instagram filters and app dating, remaining in touch with reality has never been harder. Now she plans to open her own diaries, photo albums, and personal memories in an intimate and revealing talk about her life. The theatre tour, which opens in Andover on 13 March 2018, will reveal how she handled the crippling clutches of anxiety and explain that no matter how big or small challenges might seem, there is always a confident way forward.

“Help people with their anxiety and depression battles”

“I am constantly inundated with letters and people asking me, ‘how can I get through this?’ she says. “So I thought, if I can take a show in to the theatres and go out on the road, it would be great to help people. I’ll be sharing parts of my journey, but it’s not just about me re-telling my story word for word. Hopefully it will be uplifting and help people how have their own battles with anxiety and depression and whatever they are going through.”

Katie very kindly made time in her busy schedule to talk to Relax Ya Self To Health about babies, holidays, exciting new projects and, of course, how she loves to unwind.

YOU’LL SOON BE A MUM OF TWO. HOW EXCITED ARE YOU ALL?

We’re all REALLY excited. It’s so lovely as Belle is at an age where she understands what’s going on and tells everyone ‘I’m going to be a big sister’ all the time. It’s very sweet, although she’s likely to be a bit jealous. I know she’s going to love being an older sister too, as she’s always got her toy baby and pram with her and has been telling everyone that she is pregnant too throughout my pregnancy!

HOW HAS PREGNANCY AFFECTED YOUR HEALTH THIS TIME ROUND?

I had quite a lot of morning sickness at the beginning and am getting tired more easily now I’m in my third trimester, but I’m definitely more laid back now it’s the second time around as I know what to expect. It is harder looking after an active child now as well though.

WHAT HEALTH LESSONS DID YOU LEARN WHEN YOU WERE PREGNANT WITH BELLE?

With my last pregnancy, I worked right up until Belle was born and I plan to do the same this time around, but I will always listen to my body and the health of both myself and the baby absolutely takes priority. This time around I feel like I know what to expect a bit more, so I feel more prepared which is nice.

 

Daisy Printed Belted Midi Swing Dress, Katie Piper Maternity Collection

HOW WELL DO YOU COPE WITH STRESS?

Exercise is my ultimate stress buster. I love working out and going for a run – that always makes me feel better.

HOW DO YOU MAKE TIME TO RELAX WITH A TODDLER AND HECTIC WORK SCHEDULE?

I’m really organised and am always on it with the diary and calendar! I do find it quite hard to relax as I’m always so busy but I would usually do some exercise or I love to go on long walks and bike rides with my husband and daughter. For me it’s all about balance, so I always make sure I’ve got plenty of time with my family. I am really lucky to have an amazing husband and family around me, but if I didn’t, I would make sure I made time for myself to recharge, even if it was just ten minutes in the evening relaxing in a bubble bath!

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO LISTEN TO YOUR BODY AND INVEST IN YOURSELF AS A PERSON?

Self-care is so important. For me, if my body is telling me I need to slow down, I will. So have the confidence to invest in yourself and take care of both your physical and mental wellbeing.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY?

Positive, ambitious and caring.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MOTTO?

Confidence is the secret

ARE YOU TAKING THINGS EASY ON THE WORK FRONT DUE TO THE IMMINENT ARRIVAL?

I haven’t slowed down just yet. The baby is due at Christmas time so that’s going to be a busy time. Work-wise, I’ve just announced my debut theatre tour and I’m extremely excited about that. It will be wonderful to get a chance to connect with my fans on a more intimate level! I have also recently launched my maternity collection with Want That Trend.Com  which has been amazing, as during my previous pregnancy I really struggled to find affordable maternity wear that I genuinely liked. So this time around I wanted to provide a maternity collection that gave all pregnant women the chance to feel good about themselves no matter what the occasion – be that a party, picking up the kids from school, or even on Christmas Day.

Katie Piper Blue Bardot Twist dress

ULTIMATE HOLIDAY DESTINATION?

I’ve just got back from Dubai. That was amazing and it is certainly up there but my favourite place and one I’ve been lucky enough to visit is Mauritius. It was total paradise – lovely weather and people. I’d love to go again!

ACTION PACKED CITY BREAK, FAMILY TRIP WITH OTHER PARENTS AND KIDS OR A CHILLED BEACH VIBE?

That’s a difficult one because I like the sound of all of the above. I recently went to Barcelona with a friend and our daughters and had so much fun. I love cosmopolitan cities. But at the same time, I love the beach and tropical islands and it’s always lovely to get away for some much needed relaxation – not that you have much time to relax with a three-year-old to run after!

ULTIMATE PAMPERING WEEKEND?

It would have to be a spa break with some girlfriends, staying overnight so we can all relax in big, fluffy dressing gowns and have a good old catch up after a pamper session.

 

Katie Piper What's In My Head

 

If you liked our interview with Katie, be sure to check out  celebrity interviews with rugby legend Jonny Wilkinson, and  TV personality Gail Porter here.

Tickets for Katie Piper’s ‘What’s in My Head’ theatre tour are available from www.katiepiperandyou.co.uk
Katie’s maternity collection can be found here: www.wantthattrend.com/katie-piper-maternity

Celebrity interviews