Leslie Wargo recently completed a 31-day float challenge to raise awareness about float therapy as a treatment for PTSD, anxiety, OCD and other mental health issues. This personal journey gave her deep insight. It wasn’t her first dive into the float pod, however. Over the last 18 months, Leslie has been floating weekly and has seen tremendous growth in her personal life.
Float therapy is the practice of floating in skin-temperature water with a high concentration of Epsom salt, which makes you buoyant. This removes stimuli so you can be still for an hour. Without the distractions of seeing, hearing and touching, your mind and body can rest in a very unique way. Leslie describes float therapy as a way to clear the clutter from your mind.
Floating has become a time for her to meditate, something she’s tried to do at home unsuccessfully because of outside distractions. “It’s my ‘me’ time and my therapy,” Leslie says. “The best therapy is in that float pod every week.”
The day after completing the challenge, she found herself missing the practice – missing herself. “How cool is that?” she says. “For someone who has hated myself for most of my life, it’s a huge thing for me to say, ‘I miss me and I am comfortable with myself.’”
Floating for a solid month allowed Leslie to reach a new level of self-acceptance. The extended timeframe of this challenge led her to explore an area of herself she’d previously shut off. Becoming more comfortable with herself opened her up to start thinking about dating and the possibility of being in a relationship.
Near the end of her float challenge she made a list of 150 things she wants out of a relationship. The ideas just flooded out of her after pondering the issue and reaching a new level of clarity during her float session. “I want to feel adored, cherished, devoted and somebody’s first priority,” Leslie says. “Prior to this, I would have felt guilty and ashamed about saying that. Who am I to think I deserve that?”
After many of the float sessions, she says, she “came out feeling like either I was a goddess, a queen or a warrior. If you take those archetypes, who am I not to ask for these things? I really am in a whole different headspace.”
This clarity in thought is widespread. Leslie has gained the ability to make rapid-fire decisions as opposed to thinking about something for three days. She now says with confidence, “This is what I need to do for me.”
Leslie notes the many physical benefits of daily floating. Her line of work is physically demanding and during the float challenge she noticed she recovered more quickly from back pain and soreness. She slept better and experienced an increase in her focus and energy that enabled her to finish jobs more quickly. On days she thought she would be too tired or sick to fit in a float session, she pushed through, ultimately completing 34 consecutive days of floating. In the end, she found that a float session did much more to help her body recuperate – even more quickly than if she had rested at home.
“She reported to me that she felt more pain-free, physically, than ever before and was able to reach those coveted deep and lucid moments that can happen with frequent floating,” says Tim Fuller, co-owner of Still Life Massage and Float. “Those are hard to put into words; you really have to experience them yourself.”
Tim describes the benefits that people can achieve from floating on a regular basis, even without committing to a month of daily sessions. “Floating can be such a powerful tool in the tool box,” he says. “It gives one a safe place to process thoughts without judgment or consequence, a place to escape and feel the weight of your problems lighten.”
He explains that it literally quiets the mind and stops the constant chatter that helps fuel anxiety. And this is being proven at the LIBR Institute, where pre- and post-float fMRIs are taken of the brain. “They’re finding that the effects of floating are comparable to many of the effects of anti-anxiety and depression medication,” Tim says.
Leslie hopes that one day everyone will be able to enjoy floating as a recognized form of therapy. She can see changes in herself – both internally and externally – that she knows would benefit others. “I think all of us could accomplish so much more with our lives if we shut off that noise around us and got real about who we are and what we want,” she says. “A lot of us want that, but we don’t know how to find it through the commotion and the chaos in our own minds.”
You can read more about Leslie’s 30 day float challenge to raise money for float therapy research.