In 2008 a psychologist and an immunologist reported on an array of experiments to the American Psychological Association. They were interested in the effect of stress on the body, and their findings were eye-opening to say the least. For example, assuming that people who care for chronically ill spouses or parents are laboring under a great deal of stress, they gave a group of these caregivers flu shots. They gave the same shots to a group who were not caregivers and measured the resulting antibodies in the blood of each group. The result: the bodies of only 38% of the caregivers produced adequate antibodies in response to the vaccine. Among the control group, 66% produced adequate levels.
The researchers performed study after study among caregivers, all showing similar results. But caregivers weren’t the only group they studied. They also studied the ability of dental students to recover from minor mouth wounds, both right before exams and during summer vacation. The summer wounds healed two to eight days faster than the ones inflicted just before exams.
Most people know stress can give you headaches, but who knew it could compromise your immune system? Human beings probably need a certain amount of stress to function optimally. But the studies cited above tell me that it is shockingly easy to exceed that level. The immune system, however, is probably just the proverbial canary in the coalmine. The truth is, stress can have a direct effect on your health. Stress leads to anxiety, either generalized or in one of its specialized forms — PTSD, panic, social anxiety, and agoraphobia, to name a few. These disorders can interfere with your life in important ways.
How can you minimize the stress in your life? One thing you can do is avoid stressful situations. But that can be very difficult, as most of the caregivers cited above would tell you. The next best thing would be to shed the stress whenever possible. Learn to meditate, find ways to relax, go on nature walks — all of these can help in reducing stress. But minute for minute, there may be no more powerful stress reducer than spending time in sensory deprivation floatation — what the researchers call Floatation REST (for restricted environmental stimulation therapy).
A February 2018 study of stress-related disorders involved 50 anxious subjects and 30 non-anxious ones. The researchers measured anxiety levels (using well accepted self-report inventories) in each group 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after a floatation REST session. The result was “a single one-hour session of Floatation-REST was capable of inducing a strong reduction in state anxiety and a substantial improvement in mood in a group of 50 anxious and depressed participants spanning a range of different anxiety and stress-related disorders (including PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, and Social Anxiety Disorder).” The calming effects were felt by members of both the anxious and the non-anxious groups, but “the effects were found to be more robust in the anxious sample and approaching non-anxious levels during the post-float period. Further analysis revealed that the most severely anxious participants reported the largest effects.”
If you’re coping with stress in your life (and who isn’t?), you can’t make better use of an hour than to relax in a float pod session at Peak Recovery & Health Center. Why not book one today?
Image: “On Balance” by David Goehring, who writes, “The unwritten rule is that I can’t post a photo of me looking happy without posting a photo of me looking angsty. This fits the bill nicely. :)” Creative Commons license.