Sometimes, you receive amazing book reviews on the internet and don’t realise they are there!
Yesterday, I stumbled upon Deb Wilk’s blog Living Bipolar – Deb has lived with bipolar disorder for many years and very kindly reviewed my book last year. She lives in the USA and is a talented blogger, sharing about her life living with bipolar.
I don’t always know what to expect with reviews, but this was so positive so thank you Deb for reading, enjoying and recommending my book Bring me to Light: Embracing my Bipolar and Social Anxiety. Heres some quotes from the review:
“Every word, paragraph and chapter of Bring Me to Light was utterly mesmerizing. Eleanor Segall’s account of her battle with bipolar 1, panic attacks, and crippling social anxiety is so vibrant that the reader feels as though they are experiencing it right alongside her.
I would love to describe the book in detail, but I am not going to give anything away because this book is an absolute must-read. Anyone who is bipolar or loves someone who is, should read this story. It is a moving narrative that anyone, even those who do not suffer with mental illness, should read. …
She is now an extremely forceful voice in the mental health community, and this accolade is incredibly well deserved. Please read this book. You will find it well worthwhile and, I am certain, as enthralling as I did.” (Deb Wilk, living bipolar blog)
Social anxiety is quite common but it affects people in different ways, situations and circumstances. Some people may find they have anticipatory anxiety before certain events, like interview days, big events like weddings and public speaking. But for those that suffer with everyday social anxiety this can be equally debilitating.
Living with social anxiety can be tough because it literally affects everything we do. From the choices we make, activities we participate in, opportunities that are presented to us and naturally, the way we live our lives. It can also have a huge impact on the direction of our life and how it unfolds.
For many people living with social anxiety, it can range from mild to very extreme. It’s often triggered due to particular circumstances. Big events such as:–
Going on a date
Meeting new friends
New job interview.
It can also be triggered by everyday events. For example:-
Going to the supermarkets or the shops
Speaking with the cash register assistant
Asking for directions
Walking around in public places.
In order to address the many challenges of social anxiety, we need to understand the specific causes.
Social anxiety manifests itself as tension in the body, elevated heart rate, paranoia, awkwardness, inhibition, not being able to express ourselves in certain moments where we want/need to. This is often caused by the beliefs and the ideas that we hold in our mind. When these are triggered, or we are provoked/threatened by the particular circumstance, this is when the anxiety kicks in.
In our everyday existence, we have two types of thinking.
One type of thinking is known as logistical thinking. This is simply our organisational logical thinking such as, today, I need to get the train. Or we may have thought when we go to the shop, I’m going to buy apples today, they are on the list, together with potatoes and rice. It’s very logistical. This kind of thinking holds no real emotion and is more matter of fact.
However, most people living with social anxiety describe themselves as self-conscious and this is an accurate description of the second kind of thinking, known as self-referential thinking.
Self-referential thinking is where we are referring back to ourselves.
For example… we might have the logistical thought, OK, I need to get the train. But then self-referential thinking would come in, making us consider, what happens if I miss the train? What happens if I’m late for work? What happens if the train is delayed? What will people on the train think of me? Should I be getting the train to work rather than driving?
This is where we apply personal meaning to our circumstances and to the logistical tasks of the day. We give it meaning that relates back to our self-image and identity. Within this, self-referential thinking is where a lot of anxiety is created.
Examples of self-referential thinking
Note: everyone is unique and everyone has their own thought patterns, leanings and identity. Here are some examples of self-referential thinking that can provoke anxiety in people:-
What will people think of me?
What if they don’t like me?
I hope I don’t come across as being awkward.
What if I embarrass myself?
Are they looking at me?
What if I make a mistake?
All of these thoughts can be considered seeds. The first domino in the sequence triggers the momentum of catastrophizing self-referential thinking. This can lead to a sense of anxiety, dread, panic or embarrassment.
Struggle with social anxiety
I actually used to really struggle with social anxiety and this would prevent me from speaking in front of groups. It would make me feel very self-conscious and on edge when I was in supermarkets, when I was around people in public places. I’d often worry about what other people were thinking of me or how I was coming across and I really used to beat myself up over this. It made me feel as though I was somehow inferior or there was something wrong with me.
In my quest to beat social anxiety, I tried a lot of things to try and overcome this. Some of the things I found most impactful were part of my own professional therapy training.
During our practice sessions with my colleagues, we would get to work through many of our fears and anxieties. That provided me with a great deal of relief and clarity.
Another thing that really helped me was the concept of self-acceptance. Because it’s often the things that we reject about ourselves that we then project onto other people. So if we don’t like the shape of our body or the way we look, we will assume that perhaps other people won’t like that either. But that is a projection of our mind onto these people.
It’s none of our business what other people think, it matters more about what we think and self-acceptance is a beautiful concept. A practice where we draw in the things that we feel such great resistance to. Then we seek to embrace it, accept it and claim ownership over it. That way we take back our power and finally give ourselves permission to exist as we are, without judgement or criticism.
After all, this is about reclaiming your sovereignty, your identity, your freedom from these thoughts, insecurities and worries. These are the things holding you back from living your best life, enjoying your life and fulfilling your potential.
Comedians have social confidence
Take comedians for example, they often talk about embarrassing moments and they talk about all the taboo topics such as farting and other awkward encounters whilst everyone in the audience cringes with laughter at the shock factor.
But whilst the audience cringes with laughter, the comedian stands there proudly and boldly, proclaiming to the world. They take ownership of their so-called insecurity or embarrassing moments and they do so with confidence. That’s because a confident person is a self-accepting person. They have claimed ownership over their embarrassing moments and taken their power back from them.
Bringing self-awareness into your thoughts
The first stage of transforming your anxiety is bringing self-awareness to your thought process. The question you need to ask yourself is: What is making me feel anxious?
Some people are afraid of judgement, criticism, embarrassment, drawing attention to themselves, being the odd one out, being rejected.
Whatever it is to you will be unique and if you spend time thinking about this, you will begin to get a clearer understanding of what’s really generating all of this anxiety. It can be helpful to use a notepad and pen for this exercise.
Social anxiety is just a symptom of an unconscious behavioural response. The good news is that it can be changed because all behaviours can be changed. This isn’t something that you’re born with. This isn’t something that you’re destined to live with for the rest of your life. It is something that can be resolved and there are many ways to do this.
Taking the right path for you
Some people feel inspired to take the route of exposure and setting themselves social challenges. This is done in the way of, OK, if I’m afraid of talking to people or more afraid of what people think, I’ll set myself a challenge. Every time I go out in a social situation, I’ll ask someone for the time or ask the shop assistant, how are you doing today?
But whilst that’s all very well for a lot of people living with social anxiety, it can be very intense and confronting, even just getting to that stage can be challenging. So for that reason, professional one to one therapy can be really helpful for this.
Some recommendations would be to first find a therapist that you trust, that you feel a genuine connection with them. Always check to see if they have a proven track record for helping people get results, and that they really are an expert in their field.
Once you find that connection, build that trust and learn to enjoy your unique character, your anxiety levels will fall as you take back control.
Social anxiety is an unconscious behavioural response that’s generated by our beliefs and thought processes, all of which can be challenged and changed..
At some point in our lives, the vast majority of humans on this earth will experience a degree of anxiety in certain social settings. How we react, adapt and behave within these settings is dictated by our attitude and perception of the experience.
Yesterday, on 5th November, my book Bring me to Light: Embracing my Bipolar and Social Anxiety (with Trigger Publishing) turned one!
Today, I got this lovely review from a Twitter follower Robin so I thought I would share it here:
‘It is an amazing book, really enjoyed reading it. An honest and open account of life with bipolar, your strength of character shone through. Thank you for being so open and writing it. – Robin Josephs
I wrote my book to help others and dispell the stigma about severe mental illness. Everyone is human and everyone has mental health. Whether you have never suffered or whether you have depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar, OCD, BPD or EUPD, self harm, addictions, PTSD etc- I would love everyone to be more open if they feel able.
I hope my book explains what being in hospital can be like but that you can recover.
You can get your copy on Amazon and in all good book shops now 🙂
Happy bookversary to me! Thank you to YOU for supporting my blog, reading this and helping get my book deal. To everyone who has bought a copy and to my fab editors Stephanie and Katie.
Its Today- 1st March 2020 and Be Ur Own Light is 4 years old! (cue the streamers!)
I still remember starting this blog as an outlet for my fears, thoughts and emotions dealing with my bipolar and anxiety. The blog started as a way to tell my friends and family how I was feeling and has evolved into working with guest bloggers and now brands/ partners on sponsored wellness posts too! Writing the blog and sharing thoughts has been so therapeutic and it has taken me on a journey that I could not have imagined.
In November 2019, I published my first book ‘Bring me to Light‘ with Trigger Publishing which is the book of my life story with bipolar disorder, anxiety and my life in general (travelling, going to drama school, starting a career as a writer). The blog has also grown so much this year and is currently nominated in the Mental Health Blog Awards for Blogger of the Year, thank you to our nominee!
Additionally, Vuelio awarded us as a Top 10 UK Mental Health Blog for the second year running and interviewed me (Eleanor) about working as a blogger! Thanks also to Feedspot.com and My Therapy App for listing us in their mental health blog lists too for social anxiety and bipolar!
This year, I have written about World Bipolar Day for the Centre of Mental Health, about my search for EMDR therapy on the NHS, living with depression in winter, about writing my book and new life changes (getting married) and 2020 new year round up with hopes for the future. We also promoted mental health campaigns such as Shout UK text line (founded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry and Meghan), Christmas 4 CAMHS, Time to Talk Day and Mental Health Awareness Week. Additionally, I spoke in Essex with my Dad about our joint story with bipolar for the Jami Mental Health Awareness Shabbat and we also spoke at Limmud Conference in Birmingham!
This winter I did some interviews for the book which can be seen on the Book tab above and also received some lovely reviews. It was amazing to appear in Happiful Magazine’s bonus wellness Mag this January (edited by campaigner Natasha Devon) and to write for Glamour and Bipolar UK. I also enjoyed being interviewed for the Jewish News and Jewish Chronicle! Hopefully at some point I will do podcasts about it too and more interviews.
From March 2019-2020, the blog has attracted wonderful and talented guest bloggers wanting to spread their messages about mental health and wellness.
We have also worked with the following brands on sponsored and gifted posts and hope to work with many more this next year : YuLife, Nutra Tea, Essential Olie, Loveitcoverit on mental health apps, I-sopod floatation tanks, Core Wellness Maryland, Wellbeing Escapes Holidays.
My guest bloggers have written about their recovery and living with mental illnesses, as well as advice on how to improve your mental health. There a posts for whether you are going through a divorce, a bereavement, are stressed or have anxiety. We also had posts with people’s first hand experiences of mental illness including a brave post about being a sibling of someone with mental illness and one of living with an eating disorder. Furthermore, Be Ur Own Light has also covered World Mental Health Day and Time to Talk Day this year, featuring personal mental health stories as a way to raise awareness and fight misconceptions.
We have also covered new books coming out, a mental health fashion brand and a song about social anxiety, as well as posts about different therapies to help you.
Thank you to my amazing guest bloggers (non sponsored) March 2019-2020 for your fantastic content:
Ashley Smith- How Massage Therapy helps Anxiety Disorders
Emily Bartels- 5 tips for a mental health emergency plan
Dale Vernor- Understanding PTSD by Gender
Tan at Booknerd Tan- How audio books and walking has helped anxiety
Emma Sturgis- Loving yourself, tips for a body positive life
EM Training Solutions- How to maintain mental health at work
David Morin- On social anxiety and talking to others
Lyle Murphy- How equine therapy can help those with mental health issues
Charlie Waller Memorial Trust- Best of Musicals event
A Time to Change Hypnotherapy- Hypnotherapy for self esteem
Nu View Treatment Center- The connection between anxiety and substance abuse
Shout UK- Royal family launches mental health text line
Mental Health Foundation – Mental Health Awareness Week May 2019 Body Image
Emerson Blake- Coping with the stress of becoming a single parent
The Worsley Centre- A guide to therapies and finding the right one for you
Byron Donovan at Grey Matter – How I recovered from depression to form a fashion brand
Luci Larkin at Wooley and Co Law- How to reduce stress and maintain mental health during a divorce
Nat Juchems- How to keep your loved ones memory alive after bereavement
Emily Ilett- on her book ‘The Girl who Lost her Shadow’
Mark Simmonds- an interview about his book ‘Breakdown and Repair’ with Trigger Publishing
Curtis Dean- 5 facts about music for stress relief
Robert Tropp- How quitting illegal drugs helps anxiety in the long term
Aaron James- the difference between psychotherapy and counselling
Dr Justine Curry- 4 ways to help a friend with bipolar disorder
Christmas 4 CAMHS campaign for children in childrens mental health wards
Ani O- 4 ways to ease the fear of doctors appointments
Katherine Myers- Ways that spending time outdoors can improve your mental health
Anita- 5 ways to lift you out the slump of seasonal depression
Chloe Walker- taking care of your child’s mental health
CBT Toronto- how to deal with social anxiety and depression
Katy- a true story with anorexia and OCD
Vanessa Hill- Life changing habits to bring into the new year
Rachel Leycroft- Expressing social anxiety through songwriting
Shira- Living with a sibling with mental illness: the meaning of normal
Capillus- 10 signs you may have an anxiety disorder
Brooke Chaplan- When therapy isn’t enough
Jami Mental Health Awareness Shabbat 2020
Mike Segall- Time to Talk Day- 9 years undiagnosed, my story with bipolar disorder
Jasveer Atwal- Living with PCOS and managing mental health
Leigh Adley at Set Your Mind Free- How CBT helps children with anxiety
Lizzie Weakley- How to heal and move forward when you have an eating disorder
Sofie- Living with an eating disorder
Thank you so much to all of you and I am excited to see what 2020-21 brings for the blog!
Be Ur Own Light continues to be read globally and I love receiving your messages about the blogs and finding new writers too.
Heres to a 2020 of positive mental health, of fighting the stigma against mental illness and creating a positive and supportive community here.
Happy 4th birthday Be Ur Own Light! ❤ May this be an enlightening year of growth for us.
As we know, children are also vulnerable to anxiety. Unfortunately, many parents believe that this type of mental health problem will only be temporary in nature. For example, they may think that their child’s shyness will disappear as they grow older. However, if this shyness is increasingly interfering with the child’s life as well as their family’s, then obtaining help is of paramount importance. If left untreated, a child’s severe anxiety will in all likelihood deteriorate as they will choose to avoid situations that make them anxious.
People suffering from anxiety, including children, are often treated with medication, particularly antidepressants. However, there are alternatives available, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help children deal with stress.
Two decades of research has shown that CBT has been successful in reducing the symptoms of severe anxiety. This therapy also provides children with the tools to identify situations that trigger their anxiety. It also helps them manage the symptoms themselves.
What is CBT?
Cognitive behavioural therapy is used to help people manage their way of thinking and feeling. For example, it can help change distorted thoughts and dysfunctional behavior in order to alter an individual’s emotions. For children, therapists will often focus on getting them to unlearn their undesirable behaviour.
Exposure and response prevention
This is the technique most therapists use for children with anxiety. It is a basic idea whereby a child is exposed to the situations that make them anxious. However, this exposure is structured and incremental and takes place in a safe environment. The goal is to make them accustomed to the triggers so their anxiety response is reduced.
Exposure therapy has little in common with traditional talking therapy. CBT sessions generally involve talking to the patient to explore the root causes of their anxiety, and they then use this knowledge to alter their behaviour. Once they modify or change their response, the fear also disappears.
Exposure therapy is used for various types of anxiety, such as:
It is helpful to go to a cognitive behavioral therapist as they will enable a child and their parents to think of the anxiety as an entity that is separate from their identity. The child may consider his or her anxiety to be a bully. To treat the anxiety as a person, the patient may give this bully a name, such as ‘Bossy’. Once the anxiety has been given a form, the CBT therapist can then teach the child how to control this ‘bully’.
Children are also taught to recognize that anxiety can negatively affect their lives. By letting their fears control them, they miss important events such as:
Sleeping in their own bed
Visiting their friends’ homes or going to a restaurant
Sharing meals with family or friends
It is also essential that the therapist gains the child’s trust so they can encourage them to face their fears.
Steps involved in exposure therapy
The CBT therapist will firstly identify the triggers. The child will then confront a “pyramid of fears”, namely a sequence of incremental challenges. Every test that the child successfully accomplishes will help build their tolerance to the anxiety.
Before taking the challenges, the child will be asked to consider the degree of difficulty when encountering an uncomfortable situation. For example, a child who is afraid of touching dirt will be asked how difficult it would be (on a scale of 1–10) to write the word ‘dirt’. If they say ‘3’, then saying ‘I will touch dirt today’ could be a ‘5’, seeing a cartoon where a character picks up dirt may merit a ‘7’ and seeing an actual person touch dirt may go up to a ‘9’ on their difficulty scale.
By letting the child rate the scale of difficulty for their various fears, they can distinguish between the easy and extreme levels.
The first exposure trigger should come in its mildest form until the child’s anxiousness subsides. Fear is similar to any sensation; it decreases over time and the child will soon gain some control as the anxiety they feel goes away.
Depending on the severity of the child’s anxiety, a CBT session can take place several times a week, lasting several hours. The exposure often takes place in the CBT office, and then once the child feels comfortable, in an outside environment. For example, children with social anxiety may go outside wearing a funny hat. If they are afraid of germs, the exposure may involve:
Riding a bus or train
Shaking hands with strangers
Eating food without washing their hands
Once they have undergone several vulnerable situations and are feeling more confident, they can try some of the exposure sessions on their own. Parents have a vital role to play in this process. They should encourage their child to tolerate their anxious feelings rather than shielding them.
Duration of CBT sessions
It can take 8 to 12 sessions for a child to handle mild to moderate levels of anxiety. In addition, medication can help them reduce their stress while enabling them to engage in the CBT sessions.
CBT is a good way of helping children deal with their anxiety. CBT utilises various methods to overcome anxiety, and the exposure and response prevention techniques are particularly suitable for children. The child will confront their fears in increments until they can handle the stress on their own.
However, both the child and their parents need to understand that exposure therapy can be difficult. Nevertheless, once their fears diminish, the family can participate in activities that they previously found difficult.
This blog was written by Leigh Adley, Hypnotherapist/Psychotherapist at Set Your Mind Free, based in the UK.
Rachel experienced severe social anxiety in many forms for the majority of her life. Like many others, she felt it was crucial to hide this at all costs, despite the paralysing pain it often caused. Her therapeutic form of expression was always through songwriting, & she wrote “Alive” at 19-years-old while in college.
It was a time when she went to extremes to uphold an image of fearless confidence, regardless of the toll it took on her well-being. Rachel didn’t realize how many others suffered from similar experiences until a number of years later. With this realisation, she started a project called #lovethroughlyrics where she shares her songs in hopes of reminding others that they are not alone in their struggles.
“Alive” is a metaphorical view of the wish to escape social anxiety. In the song, Rachel relates social anxiety to the feeling of being weighted down and asks to give up aspects of herself that are not being represented with authenticity. Ultimately, she asks to give enough away to free herself & escape the burdensome fear of others’ judgments. “Falling into the horizon” represents the weights of our insecurities being lifted; it’s a moment that lights our souls alive, reminding us that our authentic selves are timeless. They have always been within us, but are often masked by our fears and our desire to be accepted.
Rachel hopes to encourage others to reconnect with their true selves again, no matter how many years they have been hidden. Her greatest wish is to evoke compassion toward ourselves & one another by giving mental health a voice through music.
Millions of people around the world suffer from social anxiety, social phobia, and depression. Unfortunately, due to the stigma that is still associated with mental illness around the world, many people try to hide their problems and suffer in silence. Left untreated, social anxiety, social phobia, and depression can lead to isolation, physical health problems, and even suicide.
Fortunately, there are many treatment modalities available,. This can help sufferers obtain the support and relief that they need and deserve. Here, we will focus on some simple yet effective ways that you, or someone that you love, can alleviate social anxiety, social phobia, and depressive symptoms with tact, integrity, and verve.
Risks of Having Social Anxiety Disorder and Depression
Certain individuals may be genetically predisposed to social anxiety disorders or clinical depression, as well as seasonal affective disorder, chronic stress, anger, and generalized anxiety disorder. However, other non-genetic factors may influence whether or not a person develops a social anxiety disorder or depression in their lifetime.
For instance, if you are currently dealing with substance abuse issues, such as excess consumption of alcohol or narcotics, then you may be at an increased risk of developing a social anxiety disorder or chronic depression. Unfortunately, many people will turn to drugs and alcohol in an attempt to numb their pain. This puts their bodies at risk of developing a tolerance or resistance to such illicit substances; which can lead those individuals down a path of destruction.
If you are having trouble communicating with others, whether at home or work or are having trouble being productive in your day-to-day life, then you may be suffering from a cognitive impairment or mental health disorder. If you notice that you are not responding to the treatment that your doctor or mental health care professional has prescribed, whether it be cognitive behavioural therapy, psychotherapy, or medication.
If so, please speak to your doctor, as they may need to adjust your treatment or try a new treatment method. Suicidal ideation is also a serious red flag, and if you have suddenly developed severe thoughts of harming yourself, please seek immediate medical attention.
What Prevents Social Anxiety Disorder Patients From Accessing Mental Health Care?
Many people who suffer from social anxiety ,blame themselves for their issues. As such, they may refuse to seek outside help to address and rectify their health problems. Furthermore, many people who suffer from SAD are actually unaware that such a condition exists, or may not know who to turn to in order to receive the necessary treatment.
In fact, it can be argued that many doctors, and most of the general public, are unaware of SAD or how to best tackle the matter. As such, there may be very little help available to those who suffer from the disorder; whether it be medical, moral, or emotional.
Does Social Phobia Run in Families?
There have been studies conducted indicating that a person’s risk of developing a social phobia disorder may be elevated if someone in their family has or had the same issue. Moreover, the correlation vs causation interplay between psychiatric and serotonin disorders is also something that many medical experts in the field are aware of.
That is, while most agree that there is a marked connection between SAD, depression, and serotonin, medical experts are uncertain about which comes first in terms of driving said correlation between the disorders.
How to Deal With Social Anxiety Disorder
SAD can often be overcome by getting moral support from friends and family. The key is to interact with loved ones in a respectful and supportive environment so that the person can overcome their problem. Also, it should be noted that many people who suffer from chronic depression do not actually understand why they feel the way they do.
In other words, many of the feelings or behaviours that they exhibit are automatic and deeply ingrained into their thought process and psyche. It is the responsibility of their loved ones to care and support them by sympathizing with their condition and helping them process their emotions in a safe and healthy manner.
In addition, many studies have found that patients with SAD who undergo cognitive behaviour therapy report a significant improvement in their anxious or depressive symptoms. In some cases, patients may be treated with a combination of cognitive behaviour therapy and medications. This could include Busperione, Remeron, Paxil, Celexa, Trintalex, or other medicines that are commonly used to help those who suffer from anxiety or depressive disorders.
Also, if your symptoms are relatively minor, then there are techniques that you can implement yourself to obtain near-immediate relief. For instance, if you find yourself in a situation that elevates your stress and anxiety levels, then you can practice deep-breathing exercises before the situation escalates.
If you suffer from social anxiety, then you should try to slowly cultivate your social connections. Doing so can not only help you eventually overcome your social anxiety but may also help alleviate feelings of depression that often result from social isolation. This is known as exposure therapy and can be helpful.
There are other ways to help deal with anxiety and depression. For instance, studies have found that listening to music that you enjoy releases hormones that help promote relaxation. Exercise has many mental as well as physical health benefits. The release of oxytocin and endorphins can help counteract the release of cortisol and other harmful hormones that can exacerbate anxiety and depression. A healthy and balanced diet can help rectify certain hormonal balances and nutritional deficiencies that can cause lethargy, depression, irritability, and anxiety in some people.
Most importantly get help from a GP doctor or therapist if things are getting too much. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help.
This guest post is by CBT Toronto, based in Canada.
If you would like to learn more about social anxiety treatments in Toronto or would like to obtain social anxiety treatments in Toronto, then please visit our website or give us a call at 416-817-8925. We specialize in PTSD, OCD, BDD, depression, couples therapy, and anxiety disorders.
Floatation, also known as Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST) and sensory deprivation, is the act of relaxing in a floatation tank – a lightless, soundless tank filled with highly concentrated Epsom saltwater heated to skin temperature.
In a floatation tank, you are deprived of all external environmental stimuli – you are completely isolated from sound, sight, smell and touch. You lie in a large soundless, lightless egg-shaped pod filled with around 10 inches of water and 850lbs of Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate), which causes you to float without effort or discomfort, creating a sense of weightlessness as your body feels free from gravity. The water is heated to the same temperature as your skin, so you lose where the body ends and the water begins.
History of Floatation Tanks
The floatation tank was originally invented in the 1950s by John C Lilly, a neuroscientist who liked to experiment with states of consciousness. However, he did not conduct any scientific research and mainly wrote about his experiences of taking hallucinogens whilst in the tank.
In the 1970s, commercial float tanks were created and were starting to be studied for health benefits.
Today, commercial floatation tanks are gaining in popularity and many float centres and spas offering float therapy are popping up across the country. This is in part due to an increase in scientific evidence to the psychological and physiological benefits of floating.
What to Expect During a Float Session
During your floatation session, you will remove all clothing or change into your swim gear then shower to ensure you are clean before entering the pod. You will then enter the pod, close the lid, and press a button to turn off the light. Some pods allow you to adjust the height of the roof if you feel claustrophobic. Once in the pod, try to find a way to lie comfortably – this can take some getting used to. Music may play for the first couple of minutes to help you relax and then will fade out to complete silence. You will then float for an hour before getting out and getting dressed.
Whilst in the floatation tank, all external stimuli is eliminated. You can’t see anything or feel anything. You feel weightless and free from the strains of gravity. Everything is silent, still, and peaceful in the darkness. You have shut off the world. You’ve lost all sense of time. You feel calm as you start to enter a liminal, half-sleep state. Your heart rate slows and your conscious mind switches off. Your brain reaches its Alpha State – you are lucid, not thinking. You then reach the Theta State, a deep state of relaxation reached just before drifting to sleep or waking up. Your overactive mind slows down and your racing, stressful, anxious thoughts dissipate.
Floatation eases anxiety by activating the parasympathetic nervous system and decreasing the sympathetic nervous system, which slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure and cortisol, and lets you enter relaxation mode.
How Floatation Can Help Ease Anxiety
There are many studies that demonstrate how floatation can help with anxiety.
Feinstein is a clinical neuropsychologist studying the impact of floatation on anxiety with the Float Clinic and Research Center at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In Feinstein’s study, he scanned the brains of healthy people using an MRI. He then split the subjects into two groups – half spent 90 minutes floating and half spent 90 minutes relaxing in a reclining chair in a dark room. After the third session, he scanned all the subject’s brains again and compared the images. He found that floaters had lower anxiety and greater serenity as opposed to those in the chair.
He also found that the amygdala was shutting of post-float – the amygdala is the part of the brain that controls emotion and fight or flight survival instincts. He then compared the brain imaging of those who had floated with those who had taken an anti-anxiety drug, Ativan, and found the same dampening of the amygdala. Hence, floating has the same impact on the brain as anti-anxiety drugs. Feinstein is gathering more data but wants floatation to become a treatment for anxiety.
In 2018, Feinstein conducted a study on the impact of floating for patients suffering from anxiety and depression. 50 patients with anxiety-related disorders underwent a 1-hour session in a float tank. He found that floating can significantly provide short-term relief from stress and anxiety symptoms across a range of conditions including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Floating also enhanced mental wellness and serenity.
A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Stress Management aimed to investigate the long-term effects of the flotation-REST 4 months after treatment. Patients with stress-related pain underwent 12 float sessions and found that floating reduced pain, stress, anxiety, and depression and improved sleep and optimism. These positive effects were maintained 4 months after treatment.
A 2016 study by Kjellgren and Jonsson from the Department of Psychology at Karlstad University in Sweden assessed floatation as a treatment for generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). 46 people took part, with 24 in treatment and 22 as control. Undergoing 12 sessions over a 4 month period, the study found that floatation reduced symptoms of GAD including depression, insomnia, and fatigue and 37% reached full remission from GAD symptoms post-treatment.
A 2014 study by Kjellgren investigated the beneficial effects of sensory isolation and floatation tank treatment as a preventive healthcare intervention. Healthy volunteers took part in 12 float sessions over 7 weeks. The study found that stress, depression, anxiety, and pain decreased and optimism and sleep quality increased.
These studies demonstrate the positive impact floatation can have on treating anxiety and how REST helps reduce the body’s stress response. More research is needed, particularly into long-term effects, but floatation could play a major role in helping soothe anxiety in the future. Try out a floatation tank today to see if it helps calm your anxiety – many feel more stress-free from just one session.
This sponsored post was written by i-sopod, a revolutionary float pod manufacturer and market-leading supplier to float centres in the UK, USA, Europe and Australia .
I have sat down many times in the past few weeks to try and compose this blog and I havn’t felt able, the weight of it felt too much to put down on ‘paper’. The past month has been a lot more challenging for me, I have had an increase in my anxiety, particularly the social anxiety, fear of judgement and the world in general.
This has meant I have had to cancel media appearances and my book launch for friends and family and I sadly missed an old friend’s beautiful wedding and another old friend’s hen weekend 😦 (as well as missing going to the theatre to see Waitress with a wonderful friend). I have been having panic attacks again about socialising when feeling so vulnerable. This has been really, really hard because I hate letting anyone down, I have just been feeling ill at times and having to cope with the heightened anxiety and its ‘fun’ accompaniment (insomnia, racing thoughts, negative thoughts and chest pain).
My book got published and while that was amazing and a lifelong dream, it also felt exposing as I revealed a lot about my life that many wouldn’t know. So I felt like hiding away because it felt scary (social anxiety again).
Additionally, I started therapy 7 weeks ago to give me tools to a) understand but b) deal with the underlying anxiety about life and while it is helping (I am doing a type of trauma therapy called EMDR), I think it might be bringing issues I have buried to the surface from past trauma. This could be why I am getting triggered in social situations at present. I have a fear of negative judgement and also of crowds. I am working on this in therapy as I have been through a lot so far in my 31 years on this planet!
This time of year is also not helping me at all- the nights drawing in and the gloomy mornings. I struggle with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and I start feeling lower this time of year. I am well medicated so my depression is mild in comparison to what it gets like when my medication doesn’t work but it is the anxiety I need to work on and expose myself to feared situations slowly.
To my friends, thank you for your kindness and for trying to support me (and coax me out) through this difficult patch again- you know who you are. If anyone wants to come round for a Disney night with chocolate- please do!
Despite the negatives, there have been some successes in the past few weeks- seeing family, going to the cinema with Rob to see Last Christmas, going to the garden centre with my sister and bro in law, attending my therapy sessions, promoting the book online, job applying (exhausting but I’ve been doing it), speaking to friends regularly and trying to socialise even if I don’t always make it. I am working on that.
Oh and I have been volunteering for Christmas4CAMHS charity- that provide presents for ill children on mental health wards. I have been helping them gain awareness and raise funds via social media. This has been one of the most rewarding things I have managed to do in the past 2 weeks. Thank you Ro for letting me be involved and giving me some purpose to help others.
Social anxiety and depression are hard things to live with, but I know it will pass again in time and to reach for support if I need it. I am already on anti depressants and anti anxiety meds (as well as the therapy), so will have to wait and see what helps. I have an SAD lamp so need to use it when I wake in the mornings. Perhaps I should push myself to go for walks, although I am currently enjoying being a doormouse. If anyone else is struggling, please reach out- we are stronger together.
This blog has been a long time coming. I have been so busy promoting my book on social media and in the press that I havn’t actually sat here and told you WHY I decided to write this book. So, here goes.
Firstly, can I just express so much gratitude to this here WordPress blog because without it, I would not have got commissioned at Metro.co.uk (thank you Yvette) or for other places online. This blog gave me the confidence to write and to expand my writing’s reach and for that I will be forever grateful.
In 2013/ early 2014, I sat on the couch, crying and living with a suicidal depression. My bipolar was unstable and all over the place- I felt so low and like there was no way out. However, as I sat and cried- a friend of mine’s face peered up from the newspaper. He was looking for the man that saved him from suicide and was launching a campaign called Find Mike to find him. That man was Jonny Benjamin (who now has an MBE). I had known Jonny for many years as a teenager through friends, but he became my inspiration and my hope that I too could do good things despite having mental illness. He very kindly has provided an endorsement too for my book- thank you Jonny!
With the help of my psychiatrist, I recovered temporarily from the depression but then spun very fast into mania and psychosis (possible due to a large dose of anti depressant). I was sectioned and in hospital for 4 months as an inpatient and a further 4 as an outpatient.
Throughout this time, I could not think about writing because my mind wasn’t stable enough. But as I pieced my life back together, started taking a new mood stabiliser to help control the bipolar episodes and started to recover slowly, I found the power of blogging about my social anxiety due to trauma of the bipolar, to be so helpful. I found that others would share their stories and would reach out to me about their mental health too.
Although life is not perfect and I am still living with an anxiety disorder, I have found a way to write and speak about mental illness. I was diagnosed with bipolar at 16 and there was a lot of shame for me about it back then in 2004. These days, I tell my story for other scared 16 year olds newly diagnosed but also to break down barriers and stigma against mental illness. To explain you can have bipolar or be sectioned or have psychosis but you can recover and you don’t need to spend life in hospital forever. To explain that while this cruel illness runs in families, that with the right healthcare, staying more stable is possible.
I started writing my book with Trigger Publishing because they believed in my story when I sent them my proposal. They are part of the mental health charity the Shaw Mind Foundation and royalties go towards the charity as well as some to me.
I hope that when you read my story, you won’t see it as a despairing ramble- but rather a story of hope, of life, of light triumphing over the darkness- but the darkness making the good times shine brighter. I also bring my bipolar to light, I share it with the world- as scary as this is, so that others can also tell theirs.
I wrote this book too provide a place to talk, start conversation and help heal myself through writing it but sharing that feeling of hope with others too. The book cannot change things that are so needed like urgent mental health funding of the NHS so we have parity of esteem. Yet, i hope it is a starting point about how important mental health treatment is for people to move forward in their lives.