Let’s talk about stress.
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that we all suffer from to some extent. In a constantly-connected world, it’s getting harder and harder to switch off and take a moment to relax when our bodies and minds need it the most.
No matter what triggers a stressful situation – whether it’s an emotional or physical stimulus – it’s the hormone Cortisol that’s responsible for the physiological response we so commonly associated with being stressed.
You’ve probably heard it called the fight-or-flight response, and that’s because your body is preparing to face up to the situation or run from it. The sweaty palms, the increased heart rate, the elevated breathing, that’s all down to our pal Cortisol.
Back in the 1980s, some bright sparks at the Medical College of Ohio devised a string of experiments to look at the specific physiological responses induced by floating.
They found that during and after floating sessions, blood pressure and levels of stress-related hormones like Cortisol dropped. Not only that, but the effects lasted long after the final floatation sessions in the experiment had concluded.
And then in 2005, a meta-analysis further confirmed that an hour in a float tank can be more effective at reducing stress – and the production of Cortisol – than other common methods like relaxation exercises, or even just having a sit-down on the couch.
Later studies have proved that regular floating can even help relieve stress in people with stress-related disorders, like hypertension, headaches, insomnia and arthritis.
What’s most interesting is subjects who suffered from chronic pain particularly benefitted from the weekly floats; their pain levels dropped, their sleep improved and they reported feeling happier and less anxious.
Actress and singer Sophie Millett has become a regular face at Floatworks in Vauxhall, and she certainly sees the stress-relieving benefits of hopping in the tank.
“I was on a yoga holiday in Italy and they have an amazing landscaped place out there called Ischia Poseidon Gardens,” Sophie begins. “For a few Euros you can just go and float in these natural volcanic pools. The guy who developed it did so to combat a chest condition he had that was basically incurable. It’s thermal, and you go from 15 degrees to 40 degrees and it’s massively therapeutic in loads of ways.”
On returning to London, Sophie found herself longing for a similar experience she could fit into the hustle and bustle of London life. “When I came back and I felt so completely and incredibly amazing, and I thought ‘well how can I carry on doing this in London?’”
For Sophie, a regular float is the perfect way to get away from it all in the city. “It’s a massive stress relief from London life,” she continues. “London is horribly hectic and pressurised and stressful and just a hundred million miles an hour, then I find you go into the float tank, and it’s an escape, it’s a bit like being in the womb!”
Sophie can vouch for the physical stress relief of floating, too. She suffers from sciatica, a pain condition that affects the lower part of the body and is caused by a compression of the spinal nerve. “It’s brilliant for injuries, and not just because it’s the best way to get magnesium – a muscle relaxant – into your body. I’m always combatting muscle strains due to sciatica, and I’m training as a Pilates teacher too, so it relieves the muscle stress caused from that.”
For Sophie, the opportunity to float regularly is something she thinks can benefit everyone, and our society as a whole.
“People float regularly at Ischia Poseidon Gardens, they do it all the time. It’s part of their everyday life. I think it’s a shame in London we live such a closed in, tense existence! If we floated every day, we’d be quite a different city. We’d be quite different people. And we’d probably relate to each other in a much more relaxed, harmonious way.”
For more on the stress-reducing benefits of floating, and to understand your own stress better, make sure you’re following Floatworks on Twitter. We love sharing all the latest articles, research and tips for stress management with our customers!
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