By Guest Author | Posted - Mar 5th, 2024





Tom Telford Introduces BrainStoke to Help People Cope with Life's Challenges

As the second article in a mental health series curated by Promise2Live, Tom Telford shares the story of the BrainStoke podcast which he co-founded and co-hosts. See our January 16, 2024 profile story about Promise2Live, the first article of this series, authored by Promise2Live founder, Brandy Vega.

Pictured above, Tom Telford (center) on the Jem Trail near Hurricane, UT with the BrainStoke team: Hite Stromberg, Preston and Major Niederhauser, Blair Perkes and Joe Hansen.


By Tom Telford

My wife, Liza and I brought to our marriage ADHD, OCD, scrupulosity (religious OCD), perfectionism and anxiety. A few of which we knew about at the time of “I do.” The rest, surprise!

As newlyweds we went to school full-time, worked full-time, and started a company. Just prior to our first anniversary our apartment was broken into one night while we were in bed. I came face-to-face in a heated argument with the intruder. His face and screaming are still vivid memories of mine to this day. I remember thinking after the incident, “I’m not ready to do this. I don’t have the stuff needed to be an adult in the real-world.” I was crushed emotionally but I also remember thinking, “I will die over this girl, and I will do whatever I need to do in order for us to be together.” Liza was the “why,” the “stoke” that helped me face the struggle.

On the BrainStoke podcast we speak often to our guests about the “good hurt.” The struggle that leads to “stoke.” Those early years of marriage and entrepreneurship were painful. They were also the sandpaper that shaped who and what we are today. Together, we fiercely learned the tools for better coping. Tools that not only served us then but positioned us for the “stoke” we feel today.

After 15+ years of marriage, Liza sought and achieved her dream to become an LMFT (licensed marriage and family therapist). Two years ago we founded and co-own LEVO- A Mind Care Company with three other amazing women. I also co-host BrainStoke podcast. A proactive mental health company that promotes positive coping. Guests share their stories of “struggle and stoke” with listeners and each episode finishes with the tagline, “you’ve had your daily D.O.S.E.” A play-on-words of listeners getting their “fix” (a struggle & stoke story told by guests) but more importantly they learn that D.O.S.E.—dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins—are the happy chemicals the brain needs to help offset life stressors.

 The brain is an amazing organ. It may not be the “sexiest” body part that is portrayed in media, but in honest reflection, most people would say that attraction, dreams, drive, achievement, and every other aspirational part of life begins in the mind. It ALL starts in the mind! So too, does worry, struggle and stress. This is the paradox of the mind. The very place we feel “stoke”; we also feel “struggle.” It’s complex but worth battling for clarity over.

In my late 20’s I was consumed with building a company. My health was a mess. I was experiencing brutal fatigue and joint soreness like I had never experienced before. After multiple attempts with different medical specialists, I was diagnosed with Epstine-Barr virus (EBV) and chronic fatigue. My physician told me to quit my job. I was the owner, so quitting wasn’t an option. It was then that I began consuming everything I could read and listen to. I sought out mentors to help me understand the symptoms I was having. For me, I learned the symptoms were tied to poor stress coping. I had to learn to listen to my mind and body. They had been repeatedly telling me I needed holistic rest (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual). A hard-reset of the fight-or-flight response. A traumatic state I had been living in for years. I healed overtime, armed with new tools.

BrainStoke was founded in January 2023 by Preston Niederhauser, JT Telford and Kevin Day, and myself. Our podcast is produced by JT Telford, creative director, Kevin Day and co-Hosted by Preston Niederhauser and myself, Tom Telford.

Our logo, the “BS warrior” as we call it, symbolizes “5 Ses: (sleep, sun, sweat, sex and stoke).

A reminder and challenge we promote for people to intentionally get 5 Ses daily. The 5 Ses (there are many more Ses than 5 that promote a serotonin response in the brain) are simple to remember and a clear way to prioritize daily coping.

  • Sleep.  If you study the importance of sleep, you will learn that it’s a game-changer for optimal health.  For most of us, the “mind has too many apps open,” and we are exhausted. HARD RESET NOW. The mind heals when we intentionally rest!
  • Sun. The sun is free serotonin. Yes, it can be harmful. Put on sunscreen or cover up but let the sun, shine on your soul (literally) for a short amount of time as often as you can. Winter lacks sunlight. I take a daily vitamin D supplement and I feel the difference. It works!
  • Sweat. I can’t say enough positive things about exercise. I prioritize time to sweat. Yes, I want to look and feel good about myself, but this is as much about mind health as it is the look of my body. I have found that my self-perception of waistline, hair line, teeth shape and color, number of chins and growing ears when I sweat regularly is simply better. I am more kind to me. Dopamine, serotonin and endorphins are dynamic problem-solving chemicals. They not only help calm my brain stressors but accelerate clarity in solution solving and making challenging decisions. When I’m struggling with people and problems, exercise is the key ingredient in my “stuck smoothie.”
  • Sex. Admittedly, the use of “sex” in the 5 Ses is an attention grabber but is shortsighted in what BrainStoke is trying to accomplish by using it. We interview teens and adults on BrainStoke podcast and speak to youth often. In the youth context, we use “squeeze”, meaning “hug”, high-five or smile and say “hello” to someone else. Human connection in many forms is missing in the world today. People are interacting with others constantly, but few are “connecting” in meaningful mind-health ways. The D.O.S.E from sexual response in humans has healing power but so too is connecting with humans in other ways such as having genuine conversation, playing sports, hobby activities together and shared spiritual experiences including acts of service for others.
  • Stoke. At BrainStoke we use “stoke” as both a verb and adjective. Feeling “stoked” is the result of doing activities that promote serotonin in the brain. It is a byproduct of doing not just being even if that doing is intentional rest. But it cannot be rest only, for an extended amount of time. You have to stoke (verb) to get “stoked” (adjective). A key factor in our ability to cope with stressors and their byproducts, like anxiety, is “moving the chemical.” It is a term used by my wife, Liza, to describe how to proactively cope with anxiety.

This year Liza and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage and struggle—not the same as struggling marriage. The struggle to feel this stoked about life. The Promise2Live is a literal promise to stay living. A promise to reach out, seek out and embrace healthy coping tools that stoke.

You’ve had your daily D.O.S.E.! 


TechBuzz welcome's Tom Telford as a guest author of our 2024 Promise2Live-curated mental health series. Telford is the owner of LÉVO - A Mind Care Company, and the co-host and co-founder of BrainStoke. He is also a member of Promise2Live's Advisory Board. Telford is an adjunct faculty member at Weber State University.

The second part of our series on mental health in conjunction with Promise2Live, TechBuzz brings to the attention of our readers several individuals and organizations in Utah whose efforts are making a positive impact on the mental health of Utah families, entrepreneurs, individuals and the community in general.


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