Hmm…stress. Good ol’ stress. Stress is biological, personal, and social. It lives in our bodies, minds, and environments, and it affects us on all cylinders!
Whether we believe our stress is a result of what we carry within us, how the world we live in affects us, or a combination of both – our personal experiences of stress will always come down to the biochemicals we experience when our sympathetic nervous system is activated, also known as “Fight, Flight, Freeze” mode.
Have you heard of Fight-Flight-Freeze? When we enter this mode, our bodies enact a cascade of events in hopes that we will mobilize ourselves towards self-protection. It looks like this: when we register a potential “threat,” our body releases cortisol (side note: high levels of cortisol are correlated to stress-related problems, including hypertension, depression, insomnia, IBS, headaches, chronic low back pain, and poor memory), which increases our blood sugar and decreases metabolism. At the same time, our adrenals release adrenaline and norepinephrine into our blood stream, which increases our heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure. Our muscles become tense, body temp rises, oxygen consumption increases, and our pelvis becomes stiff and rigid – we are having an “adrenaline rush.” All of this is a survival mechanism that evolved to help mammals deal with danger. It evolved to help us fight, flee, freeze (aka play dead) and then race off to our safe havens where we huddle, find relief, and safely allow the stress hormones to exit our bodies.
In today’s world, we experience this stress response – not in reaction to a lion barreling towards our young – but in reaction to things that are not necessarily “threats” to our survival. Perceived threats are more subtle, but since they threaten our sense of security we react as though a lion is 10 seconds away from transforming us into a delicious snack!
Today, we experience Fight-Flight-Freeze when we speak publicly, cope with a stressful business situation, feel surrounded by people who are “different” from ourselves, manage conflict in our marriage, narrowly miss a car accident, navigate a social and political climate that is polarized and that we feel does not protect our needs, and cope with raising our children in a society that feels increasingly out of control. The list goes on: meeting the demands of your various life roles, unemployment, fears of street crime, living with unresolved trauma, or even seemingly positive stressors like getting a promotion or going on vacation! And, with the onset of social media – it has become so much more difficult to escape these “dangers.”
All of these triggers (and more!) cause our nervous systems to swing into “d-a-n-g-e-r” mode. And then, we’re off to the races. Our bodies are left feeling high-strung and exhausted. Some people feel experience a “perpetual state of nonspecific arousal” almost all the time.So, what does all of this have to do with floating?
Well, for FLOAT STL, the question becomes: stress has become so familiar that it is considered more “normal” than relaxation, how can we begin to reverse this? How do we counteract the normalcy of stress? One way to help ourselves is to learn to activate the Relaxation Response. Another way, is to understand what causes stress, and to find rejuvenating practices that circumvent it.
Take a look at what Huchinson shares in The Book of Floating. He writes:
“George Mandler, professor of psychology at the University of California, and director of the Center for Human Information Processing, characterizes the essence of stress as interruption, which he describes as “a discrepancy between one’s expectations and the actual evidence from the world,” and a “deviation from the expected.” When such an interruption happens, he says, “whenever an action cannot be brought to completion, whenever a plan is not quite brought to its end,” whenever we interact with reality and find that something is different, our sympathetic system is aroused, and we experience stress.
“But in the tank, …There are no actions to be brought to completion, no plans to be brought to their ends. In an unchanging environment, we do not discover that something is different; inside the tank the world is always the way it was. In a state of deep relaxation, in the constant absence of light, sound, gravity, movement, and temperature variations, there are (speaking in ideal terms) no interruptions, no deviations from expectations, no discrepancies between the way things are and the way we intend them to be. There is nothing to cause the sympathetic system to become aroused, and as a result, no stress.”
We decided to share this long-ish quote because it offers a very simply way to view stress, and a simple view of stress can help us come up with simple solutions. If stress (being thrown into “Fight, Flight, Freeze”) is a reaction to interruption – or, a reaction to a discrepancy between what we expect and what we get – then we can learn to cultivate experiences that lack interruption! Sure, as we mentioned earlier, managing stress is about learning to activate our Relaxation Response, but it can also be about avoiding things that cause stress and approaching things that do not cause stress.
We may live in a world that advises us to avoid the mundane, but we must also give ourselves permission to sink into experiences that are deeply predictable so we can cultivate feelings of safety.
This is where floating comes in. When you walk through our doors, you can always expect a warm welcome. Your private floating space is your predictable safe haven, where you mind will know that nothing can get to you. Frequent floaters know the feeling – you come in, kick off your shoes, check in with a familiar face, and walk down our softly lit hallway towards your private 90-minute paradise. You know what to expect and as a result, your body can relax, completely.
Sure, floating is a “new” experience for many of the people who walk through our doors. But, to all of those new floaters out there: we wish to assure you that we do everything in our power to make it as clear, consistent, and deeply comfortable as possible!