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What we've learned from the hundreds of Veterans we've served and what we plan to do next
The last time I wrote a long-form blog post, I wasn't dong so well. One of the things that I decided would get me out of my rut was finally putting together that Veterans Float Scholarship I'd been talking about all these years.
Well, we did it. We raised about $7,500 last December to give away in free float session to any Veteran, their spouse, or caregiver that wanted to try. Over three months, we gave away over 125 free float session and I was right, it was one of the most meaningful things I've ever done.
I got to talk to dozens or hundreds of people in the Veteran community and they all basically said the same thing. A lot of Veterans are struggling with PTSD, Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia, and Chronic Pain. Sprinkle in some addiction issues. This wasn't news to me, I've lived it.
I've started to find my way and I've learned some things. One of them is that I have to actively manage my stress levels. Now, I'm not a doctor or anything, so I just lump all those issues into one big category and I call it Stress. What I found through this program was that a lot of other Vets are in the same boat. We all are, in fact, but that's a later blog post.
Like me, floating helped a lot of these people. Like, majorly. You should read some of the testimonials we got. In fact, they're all over our Instagram and Facebook pages if you want to have a look.
Here's one that stuck with me:
As a Veteran, what are some of the challenges you face?
I deal with anxiety and depression on a near daily basis. Prior to discovering Enlyten Lab I was admitted to the E.R. for heart palpitations caused by stress and anxiety.
How did Float Therapy help you overcome those challenges?
My wife introduced me to Enlyten Lab one week after my E.R. visit, as I continued to have anxiety attacks. My first float was indescribably helpful. I have tried talk therapy and medications but nothing has been nearly as effective as floating. I continued to float at Enlyten Lab for 60 minutes once a week for a month. I'm not sure what the science is behind floating but I know that it has changed my life drastically. I thank Matt at Enlyten Lab and everyone who helped make the first veteran scholarship possible and hope more veterans can have the opportunity to experience this amazing therapy.
I was ecstatic and bummed when we ran through the funds we raised. Ecstatic because the program was in higher demand than I ever thought it would be. I was bummed because I wanted to keep doing this. So, we went back to the drawing board.
We looked at what worked and what didn't in the last round and started making plans for the next round. I went out and fundraised, something I absolutely hate doing, but we got some really overwhelming support from a few local benefactors. I'll be thanking them formally and publicly later on. These were people who didn't even know me, who really didn't have strong connections with the Veteran community but they helped anyway. So, kudos to them.
But we're not quite there yet. The total cost of this program is $12,000. So far, we've raised about $6,000. That leaves another $6,000 to be raised and we only have 24 hours to do it. We're partnering with the Learning Center at Red Willow again and participating in Missoula Gives, which runs from May 2nd at 5PM to May 3rd at 8PM.
Our Donor Party will be held Friday, May 3rd at Enlyten Lab. There will be pizza from Biga and beer from Lolo Peak Brewery. Here's a link to the event so you can RSVP. I hope to see you there!
Here are the specifics of the program we're fundraising for:
I tried to talk to as many of the Veterans that came through as I could. I showed a lot of them this breathing technique I've learned and use in the tank. It's just six seconds in through the nose, six seconds out the mouth, no pause at the top or bottom. Almost all of them had great success with it. It helps quiet the mind and relax the body, it really helped them get into it. I probably use it five times a day.
That breathing technique is just a really basic form of meditation. I thought we could do a better job teaching meditation techniques. So, I talked to Kathy at Red Willow, our nonprofit partner, and she suggested we have Larry Whitmore, a retired Air Force dude who teaches meditation at the Vets Center, teach a class. So, all the participants will get weekly meditation classes to use in the tank and in daily life.
Last round, we just had a big bucket of funds that any Veteran, their spouse, or caregiver could use and that was great. But, most people only floated once or twice and we thought we could make a bigger impact if we limited the number of participants and had them float more often.
We stole Dr. Justin Feinstein's protocol, which is 2 floats a week, one hour each, for six weeks. He's a big-deal scientist who has been studying the effects of treating PTSD in Veterans using float tanks. You should watch his speech at the Float Conference. He go some really amazing results. Basically, he showed that floating can reduce anxiety as well as medication.
So, we're planning to select 12 participants to float twice a week for six weeks. I'm still building the website for the program but you can see the first draft here.
Monitoring Stress Levels
I asked my buddy, Bruce Ammons, who's a high level psychologist that works with Vets with PTSD, to help. I told him that we wanted to collect some kind of data on these folks so we could show people the impact this was having. We kicked around ideas for different tests we could do to monitor stress levels but then when we had an idea.
Our plan is to monitor the participants of the test with Whoop Fitness Trackers or Fitbits. What we're looking for is improvement in Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and Slow Wave Sleep (SWS, Deep Sleep) and using those measures as a way to measure stress. I think that collecting some kind of data is what will allow us to fundraise on a larger scale for future programs.
I'd really love you to join in supporting this thing. In my very biased opinion, it's one of the coolest programs out there for Veterans today.
P.S. Please forgive any spelling errors, grammar or foul language. I didn't edit this.