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Strategies for Enjoying a Spa Day with ADHD

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

Spas are supposed to be full of relaxation, steam rooms, massage treatment and are considered a version of self-care. When you view any spa commercial you can’t miss the happy, calm and relaxed individuals. But I used to hate spa days!!! I know that might be a very unpopular statement, but I liked the massage and I didn’t like anything else in the spa. I was always anxious about forgetting which locker has my stuff or the combination to reopen my locker. I was constantly nervous about how long I should be staying in the steam room and would become quickly restless in the hot tub. I did not understand how people spend hours in the spa and resulted happy and relaxed. The spa and my ADHD distractibility and restlessness contradicted each other and resulted in me attending treatment and leaving without really enjoying the full experience.

The treatments or massage also had its challenges; sometimes the light would be too bright, the music too distracting. The therapist talked too much or didn’t talk enough or the most annoying would be when I would distract myself by not eating before and focusing on how my stomach is grumbling or by having to go use the bathroom even though I literally just went before the treatment.

Then I made this funny list of all the things that bother me in the spa and the things I do like in the spa. I did it as part of an exercise about self-care. I realized that a lot of my self-care is also causing anxiety and I decided that I want to continue to go to the spa and enjoy it so I need to change my mindset and my expectations from myself. So, I resolved to take a different approach to spa treatments. I decided that I’m going to change my attitude and my mindset so I could enjoy the spa. First thing I did was change my expectations. I am not going to be spending hours in the spa - I don’t need to and if it is not relaxing then I shouldn’t. I chose the timeframe of about 40 minutes before the treatment and up to an hour after treatment thinking this would be the ideal window of time for me to enjoy.

I let myself move and didn’t make myself stay still, I spent 15 minutes in the Jacuzzi, then 10 minutes in the steam room, then back into the Jacuzzi for 5 minutes then into the sauna etc. I don’t feel guilty if anyone is looking at me as if I am a yo-yo that cannot decide what it wants to do because I know I have decided that what I want to do is spend a short time in each relaxation mode.

I realize that one of my challenges is that I’m so used to using my phone as a distraction that I no longer know how to sit quietly and wait. I now bring a book or a magazine or both so I can sit and read when I am waiting for my treatment. I can even take the magazine with me into the Jacuzzi or pool or just read while I am sipping some fancy tea.

In order to address the locker related stress - that I may forget the locker combination or the number of my locker - I created a 4 number combination which I repeat and use every time I I’m using a combination locker in the spa or gym. Same code again and again - same combination which I’m not going to share with you, but I remember. When I am assigned a locker I stand in front of it and I repeat the number eight times because I read a study when I was getting my PhD at Northwestern University that repeating a number outload for eight times increases the chance of remembering it. It is not a magic proof solution, but it definitely increases the chance that I will remember it and also reduces some of my anxiety about forgetting my locker number.

I realized that I have a lot more control over the treatment session then I had been taking and I am actively taking back control of my massage treatment. I notify the therapist that I don’t like music with noise of water because I will have to go to the bathroom and that I’m not a big fan of strong smells and I prefer unscented lotion or oil. I also feel free to ask to go to the bathroom in the middle if I need to because this is my treatment and I need to be able to enjoy it. This shift in mindset was the hardest to achieve. I don’t know why but I do know that I am able to ask for my needs, instead of only thinking about them repeatedly.

I don’t go to the spa on a daily basis or weekly or even monthly but when I do I want to enjoy it. I know I’m never going to look as happy and relaxed as those commercials but I do know that these little steps that I now do in advance and this awareness of the obstacles that prevented me enjoying time in the spa increase the chance that I do have a rejuvenating experience. By implementing these strategies and being mindful of my needs and preferences, I can enjoy a spa day with ADHD and reap the benefits of self-care and relaxation.


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