December can be one of the hardest months for us to stay balanced, both mentally and physically. Between hearing Christmas music everywhere, the desire to find the perfect gifts for everyone in the family, sugary foods at every turn, and near constant exposure to bright lights and sparkly decorations, our nervous system is in overdrive during the holiday season. This leads to a stress response in our body, producing cortisol and epinephrine, which increase heart rate and blood pressure and cause body tension and systemic inflammation.
What can we do about this – besides staying home and becoming the grinch who’s counting down to the moment when all this holiday stuff is over? Here’s one solution: try floating. Sensory deprivation, by floating in an epsom salt bath, has many physical and mental benefits for our body.
During a float session, the body is immersed in 1600 lbs of epsom salt (magnesium sulfate). Most Americans are deficient in magnesium, a necessary mineral for many of our body’s processes. Magnesium supports our liver’s ability to detoxify, enhances digestion, promotes muscle relaxation, and enhances the body’s production of GABA, our natural anti-anxiety hormone. During a 60-90 minute float session, magnesium is absorbed through the skin and then circulated throughout the body.
Magnesium and regular floating can:
Promote endorphins, our natural pain reliever and mood enhancer
Holiday stress contributes to a sense of anxiousness and can lead to overall inflammation and body pain. Floating helps remedy this by inducing the production of endorphins that circulate through our body. As a result, we feel less pain and anxiety. This change often occurs after just one float session, though the benefits are enhanced with consecutive sessions.
Lower blood pressure and inflammation
When the body is stressed, it releases cortisol, ACTH, aldosterone, renin, and epinephrine. Prolonged or chronic stress can lead to systemic inflammation, higher blood pressure, and other cardiovascular issues. Floating reduces all of these stress hormones, inducing a more relaxed state in our body. Floating also increases the circulation of oxygen, minerals, nutrients, immune cells, and anti-inflammatory agents – allowing them to reach the tissues that need them most.
Promote restful sleep and reducing fatigue
Sleep is by and large underrated. Did you know that components of the immune system called glial cells are responsible for cleaning up toxins that build up between our brain cells throughout the day? These glial cells are most active at night during our sleep. And if we are not sleeping, guess what? We can’t clear these toxins, and we begin to experience brain fog and other more serious conditions. In fact, research shows that this toxin clutter may contribute to the development of Alzheimers disease. Floating promotes our body to get the sleep it needs to detoxify our brain as well as the rest of our system.
Reduce jet lag
Finally, holiday travel is quite stressful on our bodies and taxes both our immune and nervous systems. Floating has been shown to reduce jet lag and the aches, pains, and lower extremity swelling that results from sitting on planes, trains, and automobiles.
I encourage you to find an hour a week and float. Disconnect, unplug, and dedicate a few moments to you. Floating will help reset the business of your life and put a little balance back into your life. Your nervous and immune systems, as well as your whole body, will thank you – and so will those around you. You’ll be more rested, present, and mentally and physically prepared to handle the madness of the holiday season.
And if you end up not making it in for a float session this month, or you only do one or two sessions, that’s OK. Try regular floating after the holidays for the ultimate kick-off to the new year.
Other ideas for self care during the holiday season: healthy eating (including daily servings of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats), regular aerobic exercise with loved ones, and maintaining a connection to your community. For example, remind yourself of the original spirit of this time of year by volunteering at or donating winter clothes to a local shelter.
For more information about Dr. Jenna or to schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation, visit her website at www.drjennarayachoti.com.
Jenna Rayachoti, ND
Dr. Jenna M Rayachoti is a licensed naturopathic physician in Seattle, WA who focuses on digestive issues, women’s health, fertility, and chronic pain. She seeks to find the root cause of patient’s’ symptoms using a comprehensive, individualized, and holistic approach.