TLC Elements: Treatment for Depression. Could This Really Work?

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TLC Elements (Therapeutic Lifestyle Change)

Lately, due to a recent family diagnosis, I have been doing some research on depression treatments and stumbled upon a Ted Talk by Dr. Steve Ilardi. He and his clinical research team have developed a program they call, TLC Elements (Therapeutic Lifestyle Change) that has been highly effective for many people suffering with depression.

I listened to his Ted Talk and further researched Dr. Ilardi and the TLC program on the University of Kansas’s website. In the talk, he lays out the reasoning behind depression in the first-world and how our lifestyle has contributed to the increased rates of depression. With each generation seeing a rise in those who are depressed.

So what is this program? It consists of six basic elements of a lifestyle change.

  1. Exercise
    • 30 min of cardio exercise 3 times a week. Ideally, get average heart rate between 120-160 bpm. Depending on age, etc.
  2. Omega-3 fatty acids
    • Omega 3. Recommended supplement brands that have 1000 mg of EPA and 500 mg of DHA per day.
  3. Anti-Ruminating Activites
    • Activities that distract you from ruminating (replaying, continually thinking about negative things)
  4. Sleep Hygiene
    • Create a bedtime routine, turn off lights, screens, etc, get into pj’s, avoid alcohol and caffeine. Ideally, 8 hours is optimal
  5. Light Exposure (Sunlight or other)
    • 30 minutes of sunlight per day or utilize a light box..
  6. Social Connection
    • Find ways to interact with family and friends, in person when possible.

So let’s say you are going for a walk with a friend on a sunny day, chatting about life. Laughing and reminiscing. This activity alone would cover elements 1, 3, 5 and 6. These elements seem simple enough, but as we all know, to do these it takes discipline and consistency. But aren’t we worth the effort?

Benefits

This plan can seemingly not only help to benefit our minds but our bodies as well. I have not yet implemented this into my life, but I plan to. It seems to be a program with very limited negative effects if any. It is simply a lifestyle modification. If you are interested in incorporating these elements into your life and are currently taking an anti-depressant, do not stop. As always, talk with your doctor.

If you would like more information, Dr. Ilardi discusses this in great detail in his book, The 6 Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs.

book entitled, The Depression Cure
by Dr. Stephen Iliadi.

The concept of the TLC Elements make a lot of sense to me and it is definitely worth a try. I plan on journaling my experience and will post updates periodically.

If you have tried this already or if you are considering trying this,
we’d love to hear from you.

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My Daily Self-Care Plan. What Does Yours Look Like?

self-care definition on
image of beach

Disclosure: FindingTheFearlessLife may receive a small commission via affiliate links. See our full disclosure policy here.

To Start

The following are some of the self-care practices I do daily. I hope to inspire and encourage you to create a self-care plan for yourself if you haven’t already. Yours will likely be very different than mine. You are unique and your self-care ideas must be pertinent to you.

As you look at my daily self-care plan I hope you will be inspired to find things you can do each day for yourself. You are worth every bit of effort.

I promise.

As I touched on in a previous post about anxiety, it is important that we think about ourselves as a whole. Body, Mind, and Spirit. And we need to take care of each part of ourselves. I challenge you to start a list for each category. Write down things that make you feel good or relaxed in each area. Find ways to implement them daily. Even a few minutes at a time.

Plan

Let’s dig into my daily routine. I didn’t start out thinking this all through like I recommended you do, I just sort of fell into it. Here is a breakdown of my daily self-care plan.

Morning

  • Before showering, while still lying in bed, I reach for my phone and earbuds and check my email for my daily Meditation from Encountering Peace. It is as biblical/scriptural based guided meditation. (They also have an iTunes podcast.)
  • I shower with my favorite shower gel from Bath & Body Works Aroma Therapy Line. I like the Stress Relief (it has eucalyptus and spearmint). It’s calming yet perks me up for the day.
  • I then use the companion body lotion.
bath and body works aroma therapy lotion stress relief
  • Next, I use essential oils. My favorite brand is DoTerra. If you don’t know much about the oils, I highly suggest doing some research on them ( I may do a post at a later date). I usually use the Balance Blend in the morning to help me stay calm and peaceful.
  • I spend a few minutes doing my deep breathing practice via my Pacifica App. I love this app because it does so much. (They have a premium option which I am considering, but I currently use the free version which is still pretty good!) They have breathing and mediation practices of all kinds as well as mood check-ins and so much more.
  • Make my breakfast and decaf Green Tea with locally produced honey. (I sip this on my way to work and throughout the morning. Then I sip water the rest of the day.) Water is important!
  • Listen to my favorite music on the way to work.
  • While at work, when I have a break, I try to read or listen to a quick devotional (Our Daily Bread or InTouch.org).
  • By lunch time…some times earlier if needed, I will once again practice my breathing routine. Either with the app or just from memory.

Mid-Day

  • Eat a mindful lunch. Trying to be focused on what I am eating and enjoy each bite. Then actually stop eating when I am full.
  • Listen to favorite music on the ride home from work.
  • On certain days, 2 to 3 times per week, I try to get to the gym. I mostly just walk the treadmill. But I love it. I work up a sweat and get to zone out for a little while.

Late-day

  • After dinner is done and I’ve settled in for the night, I burn a candle that I love to help me wind down and feel peaceful. My new favorite candle is from Chesapeake Bay. It’s their Mind & Body Collection. I have been using the Peace and Tranquility Candle. It burns a very long time and the scent permeates a large area. The house smells great!
jar candle with wooden top, chesapeake bay mind and body
peace and tranquility
  • If I don’t burn the candle I will use a diffuser with essential oils instead.
  • I then pull out my yoga mat and do a short wind-down routine via Youtube and Yoga with Adriene. She is great and offers a variety of yoga routines for all levels and needs. I am new to yoga and often chose the simplistic, relaxation ones.
  • Next it is time to get pj’s on, wash face, use my current favorite nighttime moisturizer (maybe do a mask once a week).
  • I then apply my favorite before- bed lotion to arms, legs and feet. It is Aveeno Stress Relief (with lavender, chamomile and ylang ylang). Smells so good and helps me to get a restful sleep.
aveeno stress relief lotion with lavender calms and restores
  • After that, I find a bedtime snack ( a must have for me) and I plop on the couch ( or snuggle up in bed ) and catch up on my DVR’d shows.
  • Then hopefully a solid 7.5 – 8 hours of sleep.

Summation

While this routine isn’t always followed to the “T”, I try most days to implement all of it. Keep in mind, I do have a life with family and household responsibilities. So I do give myself some slack when I don’t do it all.

As you can see, I incorporate time spent listening to scripture or devotions. I also pray in between which I didn’t mention as it is interwoven throughout my day. If that is not something you are into, no problem. But find something that feeds your spirit in other ways.

I’d love to see what your daily self-care plan looks like. If you don’t have a formal one, I encourage you to actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write it out. Seeing it written out may help you to acknowledge the things you already do that are good for yourself and reveal areas that need more attention.

Once you have the daily plan in place, think about a weekly or monthly one as well. Maybe that includes a lunch with a friend, a weekend trip or a massage. The sky is the limit.


Be good to yourself. Your Body, Mind, and Spirit will thank you for it.

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Some People Just Don’t Understand (Your Mental Health Struggles)

man sitting with knees up resting closed hands on forehead

They Don’t Understand

Have you every had a conversation with someone who doesn’t even begin to understand mental health issues? I was recently talking with a close relative about a mutual relative who suffers from depression periodically. She says that there are only 3 things to consider: “We either live in the past, the present or the future. When we focus on anything other than the present, it can cause anxiety or depression and one just has to stay in the present and they’ll be fine.” Sounds simple, right?

While there is some validity to that point, but she just doesn’t understand that mental health struggles are not simply a will of the mind. Often times, there are physical or emotional issues causing them. A hormone imbalance, chemical imbalance or a history of trauma. Her statement basically dismissed the reality of the struggle. Ugh. She is not someone who is open to understanding things she doesn’t know about, so I chose not to engage further in the conversation. For my own mental health!

With that being said, I am happy for her that she has never had to deal with the heavy weight of either depression or anxiety. In the past couple of years, talking with others who haven’t suffered, I have found that many of them just don’t understand. I don’t blame them, as it is something that is hard to fully comprehend or let alone truly explain to others.

What To Do? Where To Turn?

Don’t get angry with those who don’t “get” what you are going through. In the same way you may not “get” the struggles of someone going through cancer treatments or diabetic issues, others may not understand your trials.
Because of the disconnect at times, I think it is important that those of us who deal with depression or anxiety find someone who can relate or at the very least, empathize. There is nothing more difficult than to be dealing with a mental health issue and feel like no one understands or cares about what you are going through. What can you do?

  • Find a therapist to talk to.
  • Friends or family who are sympathetic.
  • Seek out websites, blogs, social media. There is a huge community of those dealing with mental health challenges and it is amazing the support you can find there.

The bottom line is we ALL have stuff we are going through. Most of us have no idea what the other person is dealing with. Find support where you can and choose to be kind to one another.

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Mind Games: Anxiety and Panic Attacks…How to Deal With Them

Mind Games

As some of you may know, I have suffered from anxiety attacks. I also have family members that suffer with them. Let me tell you, they suck. Anxiety and Panic in general is no fun.  It is nothing but a thief. It steals joy and peace and no one should have to deal with them.

But the reality is that many of us do. They manifest themselves differently for most of us. And we all have individual things that trigger them. For some, the attacks are mild  for some extremely debilitating. They have your mind (and body) feeling things that make you think you are dying or are going crazy. They can be all consuming. Even after one is over, the fear of when the next one will come is always looming.

Hope

There is hope, however. There are numerous ways to help prevent, tame or stop them. Various things we can do to help. Some may work for me and not for you. And vice versa. Unfortunately there is not a one-stop shop fix-it remedy. How I wish there were!  We literally have to try a variety of methods or treatments to find what works best for each of us. It is a journey, but hold on. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

How to Deal with Them

I don’t know all the stats for anxiety levels today as compared to say, just 25 years ago. But from what I can tell just in my own little neck of the woods, I know numerous people who deal with anxiety and many who also suffer from attacks. Think about it. While we have everything at our fingertips with all this amazing technology and convenience, we have become screen addicts, socially isolated, less active and more worried. The state of the world is reported instantaneously. The media thrives on chaos and we are witnesses to it daily.  The stresses of jobs, families, bills, health, school, social life…all of it can wear us down.

If you are someone who struggles with anxiety/panic I encourage you to think about yourself as a whole. Not just as your thoughts. But your physical body, your mind and your soul. We are humans and need to learn to take care of ALL parts of ourselves. Some of us just focus on one aspect. I am guilty of that myself.

What if we could really develop a plan to take care of our whole-selves what would that look like? Let’s start with The Body.  Are you someone who spends a lot of time and thought caring for your body? Do you eat healthy, exercise, see your doctor regularly? Or do you eat whatever you can get your hands on and sit in a chair the majority of the day? (I am guilty!)  If so, that needs to change.

I have learned over the last few years how the foods we eat and the exercises we do can have a huge impact on our mental wellness.

A few foods I know for sure are to be avoided for anxiety are:

  • Caffeine (opt for decaf instead)
  • Artificial Sweeteners
  • Foods High in Sugar
  • Sodas (reg or diet)
  • Energy Drinks
  • Alcohol

A few foods to help relieve anxiety (and depression) are :

  • Foods high in Omega-3 (salmon, spinach, canola oil) You can also take a Omega-3 supplement.
  • Almonds, Walnuts
  • Eggs ( also high in Vitamin D)
  • Dark Chocolate (for the anti-oxidants)
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Green Tea (preferably decaf)
  • Yogurt (probiotics)
  • Fresh fruits and veggies (almost all of them provide benefits for various vitamins that counter act anxiety and depression)

While these lists are not exhaustive, it is a starting point.  Anything with high sugar, artificial sweeteners or caffeine are definitely things to avoid to help keep your anxiety at a minimum.

As far as exercise, any physical activity that gets the blood pumping releases serotonin and dopamine in our brains and that can help to regulate moods.  YOGA is a well known stress relieving exercise that incorporates mind and body. It can help to ease your stress and help you to feel better all over. It includes helping you focus on the present and to be mindful of your physical body.

The Mind

We touched on the mind a bit while mentioning yoga, so let’s go there.  You may think, What can I do about my mind? I can’t control it?  While we can’t always control where our mind may drift to, we can redirect it and we can do our best to avoid filling it with garbage. Sometimes all the garbage we see and hear that has filled up our memory banks can trigger our minds to literally play tricks on us. Causing us to become anxious, when our rational self knows there is no actual threat. Our fight or flight response going into affect at the wrong time is basically what anxiety or panic attacks are.

While we can’t always avoid negative things from happening to us, we do have control (for the most part) over what we allow into your minds, via our eyes or ears.  Remember this phrase, Guard Your Mind. This is a mantra of mine. I have to repeat it to myself sometimes. We often think very nonchalantly about the things we watch on TV, see online, read on social media, listen to or watch on YouTube.

I imagine we all have varying degrees of what we would consider good or bad for our minds but think about the things you have seen or read lately. Distressing news reports about a kidnapping, hearing about a murder or a car crash. Seeing a click bait ad on Facebook about some horrible event. While we can’t simply ignore all the atrocities going on in the world, we shouldn’t be fueling our mind with those over and over again. Sometimes we actually do need to take a break from it all. Simply for our own mental well-being.  That is part of self-care.

So what do we do as part of the self-care for our mind? Feed your mind with positive things. Uplifting or funny videos, music, movies, books, blogs, etc.  Look to various places to seek out the good in the world.  Surround yourself with people who are uplifting. Avoid (if possible) people who are negative, pessimistic or who simply complain all the time. And don’t be a complainer your self. Practice positive self-talk. Chose to see the good in even the most challenging situations.

Don’t forget seeking help from medical professionals, family doctor, therapist, counselors, etc.  Maybe medication will help, maybe therapy or both. They often times can be utilized together for a great treatment option. This is all part of caring for your mind. I know often times we can be afraid of seeking medical/therapy treatments, not knowing what to expect or worrying about the stigma that it sometimes holds. But be brave and do what is best for you and your well being.

The Soul

I often wonder if this isn’t the most important part of the equation.  Our soul is truly the essence of who we are.  This entails our emotions, our connections with others and with God.  We can feed our soul by doing things that are enjoyable and calming to us.

  • Spend time talking with a friend and sharing. Open up your heart.
  • Pray. Connect or Reconnect with God. I don’t know what that will look like for you. Perhaps it means being in nature. Seeing a sunset and actually stopping to enjoy it’s beauty.
  • Grow a garden and enjoy the wonder of nurturing growing plants.
  • Going to church. Read your bible.
  • Find a charity in the community where you can help out. Giving to others is an amazing way to not only help people but it has a huge impact on your own sense of well-being.
  • Find ways to be a blessing to others. Seek out things you can actively do to make someone’s day better. Whoever that might be…a family member, a friend, a stranger.
  • Give yourself permission to be you. Act silly, sing off tune at the top of your lungs, have a dance party in your living room (alone or with a friend), try out a new recipe.
  • If you feel adventurous, travel to a new place. Doesn’t’ have to be far from home, but somewhere you haven’t been before and take it all in. Really be in the moment and look around.
  • Find 5 things each day to be thankful for. Keep a list daily and reread before bed.
  • Be kind to you. Forgive yourself when you mess up or don’t live up to your own expectations.

There will be days that are great. There will be days that are awful. When things aren’t going well emotionally remind yourself that you have gotten through this before and you will again. Make a promise to yourself that you will care for yourself as a whole. Body, Mind and Soul.

I pray for peace for you today!

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Peace, Where Are You?

Where is My Peace?

Listening to the news or scrolling through my social media feed can often times be a drain on me emotionally. To constantly hear and see the barrage of negativity. The evil, the disastrous, the tragic.  Seeing and hearing these images over and over again invariably have a less that positive affect on me.  I am only human. I feel empathy for those who are hurting. I feel anger when seeing those who are mistreated. Constantly being in those emotions is just not a healthy place for me or anyone to be.

When I was heavily struggling with anxiety and panic, I couldn’t watch the news at all. The horror of it all was just too overwhelming for me to deal with. The peace I longed for was so far away. If you have never “lost your peace” I am truly happy for you. If you have, you know too well how difficult it is to live like that. To be longing for nothing more than peace. Peace within your soul.

peace

Peace, for me means having a sense of calm despite the circumstances around me. In our humanness, it is near impossible to find true and lasting peace because our contentment, our joy always seem to be wrapped up in what is going on around us. For me personally, I have only been able to know true peace through my relationship with Christ.  When peace was just something I longed for, I desperately sought it. I tried meditation, medication, prayer, music, exercise, etc. While these things did help a little to bring about an inner calm for a period, none was lasting.

 

Discovering My Peace

For months, all I prayed for was peace. I didn’t care about anything else. It is hard for anything to go right or feel right in your life if your peace isn’t there. Over time I could feel God’s presence and slowly, bit by bit, peace filled up the place where anxiety lived.

Does that mean I feel calm and peaceful all the time? No. Definitely not. But each day I can declare that no matter what goes on in the world, either my little world or the world at large, I don’t have to lose my peace. I claim it as my own. It is the Gift of God.

With that being said, I try to do things to safeguard my mind. Limit the news, limit social media. Read more scripture, pray more. Do things that I enjoy. Do things to help others.  All these things strengthen the soul and help to keep my mind in perfect peace.

PHILIPPIANS 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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