Health

Peloton Instructor Kendall Toole’s 8 Best Tips for Getting Through a Tough Mental Health Day

“A technique I learned when I first went to therapy for OCD is to have a sand timer,” she says. “You can get a one-minute one, but I like the three-minute one because I feel like it’s the perfect amount of time. I turn the timer over and for three minutes, as a means of accepting what I’m going through and facing the emotion and how it’s affecting me, I ruminate and allow myself to feel all the scary thoughts just for as long as the sand collects in the timer. Once the timer runs out, I tell myself, ‘You’ve thought all you can think. You’re done now.’”

Toole grants herself grace if the negative feelings creep in again. “If that intrusive thought or emotion comes up later, I acknowledge it and tell myself, ‘If you need to, you can spend one more minute.’”

Toole travels with her timer and even brings it to the Peloton studio on particularly stressful days. “Or if I don’t have one, I’ll set a timer on my phone and I’ll give myself three minutes.”

3. Taking a self-scan

While breathing techniques have been shown to effectively calm the body’s stress response, sometimes you have to call in reinforcements. “If the breath ain’t cutting it, I close my eyes, get on the floor, sit crisscross or lay down, and scan from my toes all the way to the top of my head and acknowledge the sounds around me,” Toole says, describing a type of meditation known as a body scan, which involves mindfully assessing the sensations you feel. She’s a huge fan of Dan Harris, the host of the Ten Percent Happier podcast, who’s also a big proponent of it.

4. Recognizing that her feelings aren’t facts

All of us have a running monologue in our brains, but sitting alone with repeated, intrusive thoughts can make it difficult to discern which thoughts are rooted in reality and which are false narratives spurring negativity. And teasing out one from the other is a skill Toole has had to develop over time.

“A huge game changer for me was when I realized I didn’t have to believe everything I was thinking and that everything my brain thought wasn’t necessarily truthful,” she says. “That was eye-opening.”

In some cases, getting grounded in the present moment can help create a separation from the constant chatter in your head and help you take a step back to separate reality from fiction. Try Toole’s breathing double-inhale breathing technique, pull out a journal to document your thoughts, take a long walk, or try a slow flow yoga class to get out of your head and into your body.

5. Focusing on what her body can do

Toole has developed a plan of action for combating negative self-talk when body image issues filter in. “Whenever I start to ruminate about different aspects of my figure, I make an effort to hold that piece of my body,” she says. That means if she’s feeling less than positive about her quads, for instance, she’ll hold her legs in front of the mirror, and tell them they’re beautiful, they’re strong, and they do much for her. “I think about all the wonderful things that they provide for me, and it helps me turn a corner,” she says. “I highly recommend that, especially as all this ‘hot girl summer’ bullshit starts—it’s like, listen: Our bodies got us through a pandemic, we’re here. That’s enough. We’re good.”

6. Using music to go back to a mood she wants to revisit

Toole chooses her soundtrack to tune into what she needs at the moment—some days she wants to switch up a low mood, and sometimes she feels it’s more productive to lean into it with emotionally-charged tracks. It’s all about choosing a playlist that takes her to where she wants to be.

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