"You're looking a bit haggard."
Four years of seemingly endless graduate school had done this to me. A tired, apparently haggard shell, which no one seemed to recognize. I kept receiving uninvited opinions, all converging on a similar conclusion. I looked tired and needed to do something about it.
I'm in the healthcare field, and should know how conquer the self-care game. Clients think I wake up in lotus pose, or drink herbal tea instead of indulging in the delights of wine and cheese. They couldn't be more wrong. Give me cheese or suffer the consequences!
I was in a self-care crisis.
Once you look in the mirror and realize a resemblance to the character Powder in the wonderfully creepy movie titled, 'Powder', you know something is wrong.
My brain was fried from years of studying, writing, memorizing and quietly crying into bags of popcorn and glasses of Canadian whiskey. So, in my usual fashion, I waited approximately 5 years to take action and found a self-care technique that would shut me away from the shining, glimmering, in-your-face world.
I needed a break from my computer, phone and Netflix subscription. I was in an endless TV-hole of British crime dramas, and was beginning to think that, I too, would end up lifeless somewhere on a British beach, with a couple of ragtag detectives ready to solve my case. However, it would be very anti-climactic.
"She suffered from a bad case of self-neglect and too many pork rinds. Nothing could save her."
Failures In Meditation
We all have heard how important and wonderful meditation can be, with images of monks, sages, and generally calm people sitting cross-legged with a Mona Lisa smirk while on top of their own private mountain. However, I was finding myself nowhere near a mountain or with any smirks on my face. Instead, I was in my bedroom trying not to look at my dog licking himself while attempting breathing techniques that made me light-headed.
No one really tells you how difficult it is to be still and alone with your thoughts. It's an endless rotating cascade of chores, lists, and questions inside your chaotic and over-worked mind. "Did I do the laundry, pay the bills?" "How long would it take me to learn the dance from Robyn's new music video?" "What is that beanie on top of James Taylor's head?"
The questions and mind games are never-ending, and you must live with them and let go. I get instantly distracted, realize my air plants need their daily misting, and call it quits.
I quickly understood I needed a more shut-off environment.
Sensory Deprivation Tanks To The Rescue
The tanks look like storage units, which should be holding your most valuable kitsch gnomes and self-help books. However, instead of memorabilia, they're filled with 10 inches of water and 800 pounds of dissolved Epsom salts. You basically get to float in your own personal Dead Sea, floating in the water alone and without interruption.
My first hour long experience was spent squatting in the shallow water while opening and closing the door making sure I had full power and ability to get myself out if needed.
The fear of claustrophobia set in, and I was deathly terrified of panicking while completely closed inside a space which resembles a coffin. Pitch black, no sounds and left to my own devices, I wasn't sure if I could trust myself. However, my fears were far different from the reality.
Fast forward 8 sessions, I can't wait to get inside the tank, ready to drift away to another world. Sometimes I fall asleep, sometimes I day-dream, and sometimes I practice my synchronized swimming techniques. My mind and body finally get the rest they so desperately needed, I no longer resemble Powder, and I begin to understand why so many people smirk while they meditate.
If you've been feeling desperate for self-care solutions, unable to quiet your mind or ignore the outside world, maybe it's time to soak it all in and float. It might just be the kick-start you need in the new year.