meditation + thermea (and the thermal experience with asthma and adhd)

Meditation is one of those sort of weird things that seems to be a recurring theme in my life. (It might be better if it were just a theme rather than a recurring one, because that clearly means I get out of the habit of it.) The thing is, meditation and ADHD really aren’t the best of friends. Ditto relaxation exercises (“What Meditation Isn’t”: a relaxation exercise. By the way.). Once in adapted physical activity (3+ years prior to my own ADHD diagnosis) the group presenting on ADHD added progressive muscle relaxation (the sometimes-guided cyclic tightening and releasing of muscle groups) as their cool-down, which I thought was brilliant, and I might be able to get behind. Sort of like meditation in which I could move slightly and focus on a thing instead of nothing. Except I fell off the train. Following that by a few years, in September after I listened to Ryan and Rachel discuss the Headspace app, I got into it again—I legitimately installed Headspace on my phone in the Sheraton lounge (ye-eah, ePatients discussing meditation instead of drinking!) and then when I finally limped up to my room (I had this weird pain in the left side of my abdomen for like three days, and it got really brutal that evening for whatever reason. Also I didn’t die so all good. So, thus the limping kind of lateral-left folded over!), I collapsed into bed with my earphones in after taking a shower. (Greatist reviews Headspace here, by the way.)

Guided meditation is the first kind of anything I found that actually worked with my ADHD brain. The “clear your mind” kind of meditation does not work for me, because it’s all “nothing is still something and I should really check what time my bus is it possible to really think of nothing is still something” in there. And after a several-month hiatus from Headspace, I started using it again a couple weeks ago. Except then I realized that soon enough, my free Headspace sessions would be all not new to me anymore, and I was not okay with paying money (even though Headspace is really, really good, I don’t want to pay a monthly subscription just now). So I started exploring other apps, and came across Smiling Mind, which I’ve been using for most of the week. I like it so much that one day I actually did three meditation sessions. Maybe that’s because it’s made for young people (while there is an adult category, the age brackets actually start at 7-11 years old, which is awesome). Plus it tracks your time (or is supposed to) and other nerdy things that I like.

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(I’m not sure why I have 0 meditating minutes though. Because I totally have minutes! And I’ve done more than 3 meditations but I didn’t fill out the post-meditation quiz a time or two because I fell asleep and it doesn’t really want you to do that, I think.)

Plus it totally tells you if your brain is all over the place that is okay and just to try to bring your attention back to your breathing or your body or whatever (not actually whatever. That is what is being avoided). Because ADHD brain cannot really be reliably stopped from going all over the place! It makes it really easy to adhere to trying to become more mindful through meditation, though. So, I’ve been pretty adherent.

And then I went to Thermea.

I can honestly say that I probably enjoyed/benefitted more from Thermea because of practicing meditation (that sounds so weird) most days or everyday in the week or so prior to visiting, so that was a happy coincidence that my aunt decided we should go on her week between jobs—my grandma came as well. Thermea is this Nordic inspired spa involving “releasing toxins” via rapid/therapeutic changes in body temperature. (I still don’t really buy the whole “toxins” argument, but it WAS relaxing and I thoroughly enjoyed it (I can’t wait to go back, but at about $50/visit, I won’t be going more than once a season—but I do plan to visit every season!). I included meditation during some of the heat portions of the cycle in the saunas (one essential oils dry sauna, and two humid saunas, one with orange and the other with eucalyptus), focusing on awareness of different parts of my body rather than breathing, because while my asthma was totally okay at Thermea (who pre-medicates for the spa?! This girl.) the humid saunas were the one thing that might have become the exception to that—part of the need for meditation in here was actually so I could ignore the feeling of humidity on my lungs a bit more—by “my asthma was totally okay” this includes “my lungs were tolerable in the saunas”. Humidity can kind of be suffocating sometimes, but it was for the most part tolerable, at least for the first 10 minutes of the 15. Interestingly, the Thermea websites warns against the water parts for people with respiratory problems, but not the saunas—seems backwards to me.I liked the eucalyptus sauna way more than the orange. Also used an exfoliating scrub for the first time in my life, and I kind of understand why people use these things now.

On the first round after the eucalyptus sauna, we attempted the coldest pool (10*C, the Polarber), and couldn’t get past our ankles, and resigned to the 21*C pool for a quick (laborious) float. 21*C may be shorts weather, but it’s still 16* colder than body temperature. From there, we went to the 39*C Geser pool for the relax phase—much better! The cycle continued much like that, except we found two areas with lounging chairs set up that we hung out on in our robes (the robes at thermea have hoods, people. Best invention ever.) all silently (mostly). Did another sauna, finally braved the Polarber waterfall (which was actually awesome the second time, it just reminded me of the ice bucket challenge, and subsequent times even better). Then we were informed of an essential oils thing going on in the dry sauna (during which at one point the dude threw cold water at us. That was actually awesome, honestly). After a few cycles around, we did the exfoliant thing, and then found the room of seating made of heated tiles. The upper row had headphones, so I headed up there to crank up the soundtrack of the room a bit (I was apparently getting to the point I was not able to get back in the meditation mindset, so I spent the time trying to figure out if the song was an endless loop, or if it ended. I listened for probably about 8-10 minutes and did not hear any discernible end… At least my focus was somewhere rather than 400 places, no? I’ll take it as a win.)

After that, I dumped a bucket of cold water on myself and “completed the cycle” with a hot shower back in the change room. In total, we spent about three hours at Thermea, and even before I left I knew I’d be back.

Of course… The second I unlocked my locker with the cool wristband, I heard my Pebble vibrating away.

Return to reality. The retreat was amazing.