Spa-ing with claustrophobia

Sep 22 2021

3 min read

Claustrophobia hero shot 3

Spas are the most relaxing spaces on the planet - designed to alleviate physical and emotional stress and increase wellbeing – but what if you’re claustrophobic?

According to the NHS website, claustrophobia is an irrational fear of enclosed spaces – changing rooms, steam rooms, treatment rooms, say - and it can affect 7 percent of us.

Some believe it’s the result of a repressed childhood trauma; others feel it’s a deep-seated survival response to make sure we avoid being cornered or trapped. Whatever the cause, claustrophobia can mean missing out on the spa experience.

The Claustrophobic Spa Spy

Full disclosure: this Spa Spy used to suffer hugely from the condition - think panic attacks on the tube (not easy when you live in London), in lifts and even in taxis. Rather than deal with it, I would walk or bike across town - or avoid going out altogether.

Bored of my increasingly limiting life, I eventually signed up for hypnotherapy. And it worked – mostly. At least the panic attacks stopped.

When I became a Spa Spy, I knew I had landed a dream job but didn’t want to admit that I was afraid of small massage rooms and cosy steam rooms. I practiced a lot of mindfulness and saw a brilliant therapist – Beata Aleksandrowicz - who helped me feel safe.

I also practiced breathing exercises and mindfulness meditation. Yoga classes also helped me get into the zone and feel more in control of my body.

Now very little bothers me – not even being whipped with branches in a sauna by a Russian bathhouse (okay, so that was a little strange).

I even got myself to relax in a floatation tank – after two tries, that is.

6 tips for spa-ing with claustrophobia

1. Call ahead:

Is the spa in the basement? Will you have to go in an elevator or revolving door? How big are the changing rooms and are there options to change in the main areas rather than in cubicles (often, yes)? Does the pool have open doors leading outside? Etc.

We love: Pennyhill Park. It’s gigantic inside and out; the changing rooms are palatial. Even the showers are the size of a Chelsea bedsit; the treatment rooms large enough for a party.

2. Book a yoga or mindfulness retreat

Spas are so much more than a series of small rooms and conventional treatments nowadays. Book a treat where the focus is on your wellbeing. Learn the tools to calm your anxiety while at the spa, with experts to guide you.

We love: Mindfulness and yoga breaks at Ragdale Hall. There’s nothing claustrophobic about this gigantic, roomy spa with its stunning new Roof Top Pool.

3. Try Forest Bathing

Being amongst trees and out in nature can be the best healing experience - who needs a sweaty steam room after all?

We love: Aqua Sana Sherwood Forest. The panoramic tree top sauna should be big enough for claustrophobes. Or try glamping at Swinton Country Club, also with an outdoor pool.

4. Spa with a sea view

Nothing says wide open space like the sea; if you can throw in an outdoor infinity pool, cliff-top hot tub and maybe an outdoor treatment, the sky’s your only limit.

We love: The Source Spa at Saunton Sands has an infinity hot tub that puts you right in the landscape. There’s a glamorous outdoor pool, too.

5. Try a Float

It seems counterintuitive, yet a floatation pod is said to be good for claustrophobia. The pod is large enough to float around inside, the lid can stay open and you can get out when you like.

We love: The Floatation Pod at Whatley Manor.

6. Push your limits

Try equine therapy. It’s outdoors, yes, but you try being in a ring with a giant, half-wild animal... Oddly  it’s said to reduce stress and build resilience, as well as help us connect with our true, wild nature – a sure way to break through your own limiting self-beliefs.

We love: Equine therapy at Lucknam Park. The spa is all glass, bringing the outside in, and the pools spill out into the beautiful gardens. The changing rooms are large, too.

22nd September 2021

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