photo: Johanna Ferreira, Vivala

I've done everything imaginable to reduce my stress levels this year. Strangely enough, I haven't actually felt stressed. This year has been very good to me. I got an awesome job doing EXACTLY what I love. I'm currently hunting for an apartment with my best friend (and soon-to-be-roomie). And I've been single and dating for the first time in eight years — and loving it! But my body doesn't seem to be getting the message, and that's evident in my IBS, my new adult acne problems, and these dry, chicken skin–looking patches that have developed all over my legs.

My gastrologist calls it "good stress," and recently put me on Xanax to calm my nerves and ultimately, my tummy. I've literally tried everything to combat this so-called “good stress” —practicing yoga, changing my diet, visiting my derm, getting back on birth control (in case this was a hormonal thing), meditating, and even getting weekly acupuncture sessions. Nothing has worked, so I decided to try something a little bit out of the box. I was going to float in a pitch-black pod filled with 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt for an hour and see what happens.

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Floating, also known as sensory deprivation, is the latest in wellness trends and apparently comes with a ton of physical, mental, and even beauty benefits. So I went over to Brooklyn's Lift/Next Level Floats and gave it a shot.

"A majority of our clients come either for stress reduction, pain management, meditation, or just looking to disconnect," says Gina Antioco, who co-owns the center with David Leventhal.

"Stress can lead to things like adult acne, eczema, even psoriasis, and our clients have found that our floats help with that," she adds. "The Epsom salts help reduce swelling and inflammation but you're also in an anti-gravity environment that gives your body an opportunity to decompress."

Antioco walked me through the entire process. I had the option of either floating in an egg-shaped tank that looks like something out of a sci-movie or walking into a large room with a seven-foot-tall ceiling that you pretty much just float in. I chose the egg-shaped tank, because I figured I'd either go all out or go home.

I loved how in control I felt over the entire experience. I was able to choose whether or not I floated with a night light or in complete darkness, with or without meditation music, and even whether or not I wanted to bring down the pod cover. The water was also a lot more shallow than I had anticipated. So I got in there, turned on the meditation music, closed the cover, grabbed a neck pillow, and started floating. Within five minutes, I felt so comfortable, I was able to confidently shut off the lights.

The remaining 55 minutes were probably the best 55 minutes of my life. I went into this incredible Zen state, which I've never even been able to get to with meditation. I literally almost forgot where I was or what I was even doing.

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After an hour of floating bliss, the lights came on, the meditation music was turned off, and this iPhone Siri-sounding voice woke me up to inform me that my session was over. I literally felt like an astronaut returning to Earth. Oh, and it gets better. My body felt as soft as a baby, probably from all that Epsom salt. And my skin looked so clear and bright, you'd think I just had a vitamin C facial.
photo: Johanna Ferreira, Vivala

I got dressed and found myself chatting on a comfy couch with Orange Is the New Black actress Jessica Pimentel, who's apparently a regular at this place. Pimentel, who lives in the Carroll Gardens area, started floating to help relieve the pain of a sprained ankle and injuries from a previous car accident. She's been coming ever since.

"I got so hooked, I started coming every day when I first started," she told me. "It helped with everything from my physical injuries and also mental relaxation. This season of OITNB has been really intense and our hours are crazy. So being able to just shut everything out for 60 minutes or more has just been great."
photo: Johanna Ferreira, Vivala

After a week of sporting an amazing glow, soft skin, and a calm tummy, I went back for a second session and it was even better than the first. I haven't looked or felt this good in months. I think I’ve officially found my stress-reduction fix.