It’s been 10 months since the pandemic changed our lives in ways we never thought possible, and in that time, we’ve all learned the new levels of stress and anxiety we can endure. While everyone is working hard to maintain some sense of normalcy or adapt to the new world, it’s taking a toll on us physically and mentally, and we all need and deserve a little self-care right now. We’ve compiled a list of alternative options that you may not have considered to pamper yourself and clear your mind. As with any new treatment, we recommend that you check in with your healthcare provider to find the self-care options that are right for you. We hope you find some peace, comfort and relief during these difficult times.

Float Therapy

When our minds and our bodies feel heavy, it helps to feel weightless for a little while. Float therapy offers exactly that. The idea is to give your nervous system some time off. When your muscles aren’t working to hold you up and you can’t feel the air and water around you or hear anything outside of the tank, your mind and body start to relax in a way that they can’t in normal circumstances.

People use float tanks to achieve different goals, including relief from stress, chronic pain, anxiety or even insomnia. They also use them to enhance their meditation, to focus on a problem they need to solve or for recovery after extreme physical activity.

When you visit a float spa, such as Pure Sweat + Float Studio, you step inside a large tank and close the lid or hatch (don’t worry; some spas offer an open option with a curtain for the more claustrophobic floaters). The tank is filled with water that is warmed to the temperature of your skin and more than 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt. Once inside the tank, you can opt for complete darkness and silence for greater sensory deprivation or for dim lights and soft music for a more meditative experience. The only thing you have to do when you’re in the tank is let go and let the salt water hold you up.

Where: Pure Sweat + Float Studio, puresweatfloatstudio.com

Time: 25, 40 or 60 minutes

Average cost:$40-65

Cryotherapy

You know that jolt of energy you get when you rush out of the house on a freezing cold day and realize you’ve forgotten your coat? Some people believe that sort of shock to your system can be good for you. That’s why polar bear plunges gained popularity and why athletes sit in an ice bath before and after a game. And now, you can get those same benefits from a whole body cryotherapy chamber.

Cryotherapy can be used for a wide range of reasons. Some use it to help recover from or prepare for athletic training and competition (fewer injuries, reduced recovery or increased energy), to help alleviate symptoms from medical conditions (arthritis, inflammation or chronic pain) or even to achieve certain health and beauty goals (tightening skin, increasing metabolism or reducing cellulite).

At a cryotherapy center, such as The CoolSpot Cryotherapy in Cool Springs, you’ll drop down to your undergarments or swimsuit and put on special gloves, socks and booties to protect all of your digits. The hardest step is to convince yourself to get into the chamber, at which point your whole body (aside from your head, which stays out of the chamber) is blasted with air that is between -160 degrees and -254 degrees Fahrenheit for no longer than three minutes. You can tailor your experience to achieve the results you want.

Where: The CoolSpot Cryotherapy, coolspotcryo.com

Time: 3 minutes

Average cost: $60

Alternative Self-Care Therapies for a New Year

CBD

More and more, people are turning to CBD (cannabidiol) products as a holistic and safe approach to deal with their aches, pains and anxiety. And just so there’s no confusion, CBD is derived from hemp, a variety of the cannabis plant, and by law, it must be 0.3 percent or less THC by dry weight. In short, you can’t get high, but you will feel better.

CBD products on the market come in the form of tinctures, capsules, topical creams, gummies and other edibles. LabCanna is one local CBD producer who focuses on delivering high-quality products and maintaining high levels of transparency about their process. In a competitive market, they also stand out because they are a “seed-to-sale” company, which means they grow, refine and finish the product in Middle Tennessee.

There are two options that are simple to use for anyone wanting to try CBD: tinctures and topicals. Tinctures, generally made with a carrier oil, light flavoring and extract, are taken by putting the liquid under your tongue and holding it there for about a minute or so before swallowing. They can be made with an isolate extract — a concentrated amount of one cannabinoid — or full spectrum extract, which includes the complete range of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and fatty acids found in the plant. Topicals, like balms and creams, help reduce scarring and bruises, relieve tired muscles and act as a sleep aid.

Anyone can benefit from using CBD products, but it is important to research the manufacturer, seller and products before trying them. Ask a friend if CBD works for them. They’ll answer “yes.”

Where: LabCanna, labcanna.com

How often: Daily

Average cost: $7-120

Sound Baths

Have you ever heard a sound that made you feel something you didn’t expect? Since before humans started keeping written records, we have used rhythm, harmony and vibrations to tell stories, to express ideas and emotions and to facilitate worship or meditation. Using sound for the sake of therapy (or, as some describe it, healing) is described in different ways: sound therapy, sonic therapy, sound healing, sound immersion meditation and sound baths. Essentially, they all use a variety of tools, such as Tibetan singing bowls, tuning forks, chimes, flutes and small gongs, to alter vibrations in the environment and in the body, which helps people block out other sounds or intrusive thoughts to reach a deeper level of meditation or rest.

Aside from simply aiding in meditation, sound baths are known for relieving stress and anxiety and improving focus and concentration. Similar to the different types of white, brown or pink noise, the frequencies of the bowls can achieve different results.

When you arrive for an appointment at a sound bath studio, such as Float Horizen — the float spa and massage center in East Nashville — you begin by stretching out in a lounge chair, with the option of a blanket for those who feel most comfortable while partially covered. A session includes a full hour of sounds from a practitioner or guide. The instruments used can vary to include flutes and electronic equipment for a more otherworldly and atmospheric sound bath or Tibetan singing bowls that are tapped softly with mallets or gently rubbed around the rim for a more traditional session. All you have to do at that point is relax and allow yourself to be guided into a deeper meditation.

Where: Float Horizen, floathorizen.com

Time: 60 minutes

Average cost: $75

Infrared Saunas

Sweating profusely can be terribly inconvenient when you’re not ready for it, but when you’ve planned to sweat, it can be quite beneficial to your physical and mental health. And what better way to receive those benefits than resting in a relaxed, comfortable environment? While stone and water saunas have been the preferred method of sweating for thousands of years, infrared saunas are a more targeted and comfortable alternative. These saunas use infrared light to raise the body’s core temperature, rather than heating the air like traditional water and stone saunas do. This is believed to produce a more controlled sweat.

Infrared therapy is most often used for relieving pain, relaxing muscles, improving circulation, lowering inflammation,  detoxing and relieving stress. There are even some who claim it helps with lowering blood pressure, losing weight and fighting aging.

When you visit an infrared studio, such as Pure Sweat Sauna Studio in 12South, sessions are 40 minutes long but can be customized based on your needs. You can choose the wavelength of light to receive different benefits, request a specific temperature and even choose what you do in the sauna, such as turning on the colored lights of your choice while listening to music, meditating or watching Netflix on the cabin’s tablet. 

Where: Pure Sweat Sauna Studio, puresweatsaunastudio.com

Time: 45 minutes

Average cost: $45

Salt Caves

There’s a reason doctors used to prescribe time at the beach for respiratory illnesses. Salty air works wonders when you’re stuffy and congested, and it’s beneficial to your skin, as well. It’s antibacterial and can act as an anti-inflammatory. And that’s great for people who live near the ocean, but for a landlocked city like Nashville, it’s not so easy to come by. That’s why a visit to a salt cave, like Salt and Soles in Edgehill, can be an excellent form of self-care.

The caves are essentially rooms with walls made from or covered in pink Himalayan salt, with a thick bed of salt on the ground and comfortable chairs along the walls. A lightly purring machine called a halogenerator crushes salt into an aerosol that disperses throughout the room with a fan. The particles aren’t large enough to see as a mist or a vapor, but you can taste the salt in the air, similar to what you experience on a beach.

A visit to a salt cave can help relieve congestion, inflammation, sinuses, allergies and infections and can benefit those with skin conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema or acne. It’s also incredibly relaxing, which helps with stress, anxiety and fatigue. There are even those who use salt caves as a hangover cure or as part of a detox.

The salt cave at Salt and Soles is lined with 15,000 pounds of hand-carved bricks of pink Himalayan salt, with nearly six inches of salt crystals on the floor. When you arrive, you take off your shoes, leave your electronics behind, slip on some clean booties, take your seat in a zero-gravity chair and allow the dim, warm lights of salt lamps and the meditative music playing at a whisper throughout the room to carry you away. At that point, you just relax and breathe until the session is over. Daily sessions last 45 minutes, and some people visit a couple times a week.

Where: Salt and Soles, saltandsoles.com

Time: 45 minutes

Average cost: $35

Meditation Apps

Meditation isn’t anything new. People have been practicing meditation for millennia with a great variety of goals: to relieve stress, anxiety, pain, grief, anger, fear or nerves; to achieve inner peace, compassion, calm or enlightenment; to work out answers to problems that need solved; to slow down and focus the mind on tasks ahead at work, school or home; to prepare for a difficult decision or conversation; to fall asleep faster; or to rest your eyes for a moment. In its most basic form, meditation is simply sitting still for a moment and breathing, allowing you to ground yourself in the moment.

But where do you begin? If you’ve never practiced meditation before or have tried but found it difficult, then a meditation app, like Headspace, is a great place to start. You can work your way through three-minute beginners courses that teach you how to think about meditation or jump right into meditations from as little as one minute to as long as two hours. The app even has guided meditations for specific needs, such as panicking, feeling flustered or needing to get your focus back if you’re feeling distracted when working from home.

Where: Headspace, headspace.com

Time: 1-120 minutes

Average cost: $13/month or $70/year