Tag Archives: behavior

The Power of…

Me with my favorite Scotch! St. Pat's 2009

As you all know I have migraines.

I also love scotch and wine, artisan cheeses and newly baked bread, Chinese food and pickles.  

I’ve wiped out cheeses, bread and MSG from my diet (and probably a lot of things that I can’t remember because they were easy and I didn’t miss them). Pickles are new for me as a possible trigger so they will need to go.

My diet is so bland at times and the only thing I use as a reward system is scotch and wine. I don’t eat sweets much and I don’t like chocolate.

I need to give up wine.

The problem is that wine does not equal migraine every time which makes it like playing roulette. Actually the same things that happen in the brain of a gambler happens in mine. Inconsistent stimulus is actually more powerful than consistent. Ask anyone who likes to play the slots.

Unfortunately this is keeping me thinking that the wine is not hurting me – but as a friend pointed out this morning it is, and I need to give it up. I also know that he isn’t going to let me off the hook so I need to really let it go.

The scotch is fine in moderation but I’m starting to have problems with moderation. I don’t tend to an addictive personality so this is new to me and I’ve been trying to sort out the “why” behind the behavior.

Last night, at a party, a friend of mine may have stumbled upon a clue as to why I love scotch so much. And it may also help me go back to moderation. Information, after all, is the beginning of change.

My friend at the party connected my love of the smell of scotch with the fact that I don’t tolerate most scents well. Almost everything that I can smell makes me ill from headaches and sneezing, or my ears will itch and my throat will close. But not scotch. I’ve been known to pour a little bit of scotch into a glass and just have it next to me while I read or write because the smell makes me so happy. I don’t even drink it.

When I had a job, scotch was the thing I did to move from the work day into the evening. The ritual of pouring a glass and sipping it while I wandered the house getting ready for whatever I was planning for the evening kept me sane.

In the Fall of 2007 I hired a personal trainer.

Not only did he put me on an amazing physical regiment but he also provided me with some dietary guidelines that my body responded well to. I was allowed one glass – 1.5 ounces – of scotch per day. I became obsessed with the exercise and the eating pattern and allowed myself my one scotch per night.

I don’t think there was a time when I was happier.

There is nothing I want more than to get back to that. It was after that, that the migraines started, as everything fell apart. Migraines make me crave carbs, bad carbs, things like goldfish crackers and bread that also qualify in my book as comfort food. I felt crummy, I ate carbs, the carbs added to my body fat, migraines would sideline me for days or weeks, and I would start the cycle all over again.

But like I said – moderation is a problem for me right now.

I’ve always said that the best thing about living alone is the control you have over your environment. The next best thing is not having someone around to criticize your choices – but that is another story. The answer for now is to not have it in the house just like I don’t have soups with MSG, cheese, or bread.

I also noticed a positive shift in my behavior now that I’ve started focusing on exercise and diet again. I make better choices. One of the interesting things that occurred when I was working with my trainer was my unwillingness to work as hard as I was and blow the benefits by poor food choices.

Last night was an example – when I was training I would have left before I poured myself the second drink or ate anything that I didn’t bring. But it was late and I was having fun so I cheated a little. The farther I get into my training the more I know I will be unwilling to cheat.

This morning started the daily weighting portion of the exercise.

From here on out I weigh every day. Cardio is 4+ times a week either 45 minutes on the elliptical or my ~ 4 mile walk. Weights and Yoga start out as twice a week. I eat every three hours and my diet is high in protein and complex carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables. I will stay away from bread, white rice, and cheese… and alcohol. If you want to make it hard to lose weight… keep drinking.

I have a theory that as my fitness level rises my migraines will become fewer.

I’ll let you know.

~ Tess


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My Last Vice

Riedel Sommeliers Single Malt Scotch Glass

Sometime last week I realized I was my own worst enemy.

I’ve been suffering from insomnia and migraines but I haven’t stopped drinking. Any idiot knows that those three don’t play well together.

The problem was that until recently I couldn’t see the affect the alcohol was having on the migraines because it was so slight. It bumps an existing migraine about 0.5 on the pain scale. You know that scale. The one the doctor always asks you. “On a scale of 0 to 10 how much pain are you in?” When you are having daily migraines in the 7-9 category the increase in magnitude of a 0.5 just isn’t enough to register.  

My daily migraines are closer to a 1 so now I’m noticing.

It is the insomnia that is the real kicker. Some days a single drink will cause me to wake up every hour or so. But wine and scotch are part of my lifestyle. They are part of how I view myself.

Funny – I’m sure that is similar to how smokers feel.

We have so many hang-ups around drinking in our culture I have a feeling many of you are out there labeling me. Label away. I’ve been referring to myself as the “family alcoholic” for some time now. I’m one of the only ones who drinks.

At least I’ve discovered that I’m not addicted, but I don’t have an addictive personality so that wasn’t a surprise. I can stop and I can limit. I just like to drink. I love the adventure of tasting new wines and visiting old scotches. Only now I need to make the decision about when and when.

It’s all about health.

Health is one of those things that I like to manage myself. Now I know that for me to sleep well and limit that minor bump on the migraine, I have to limit my consumption. Sometimes one drink is too much but often I don’t know until the next day if I’ve caused a negative impact.

Logic says that I should be saying good bye…

The thing is I’ve changed my diet, my exercise program, where I go and who I go out with, all to limit my need for drugs to manage my health. Alcohol is my last food related vice. I never had many but they are all gone. The fried egg sandwiches, nachos, soft drinks, aged cheese, fresh baked bread, and goldfish crackers are all things of the past. There is nothing left to comfort myself with or use as a reward system.

That was what the scotch was for.

Scotch is the ritual that allows me to relax. It was what helped me handle the stress when everything in my life was falling apart. Just the smell of a good island scotch makes me smile. There is enormous power in the wafting scent of peat and seaweed, a strange sort of something that my brain responds to with pleasure.

My scotch brought me happiness when few things in my life did. Often it was less than a glass. Sometimes when I had a migraine I would simply pour enough in so that I could smell it.

I need sleep, but I love my scotch. I wonder if there is any way I can keep my vice and still provide my brain with its much needed downtime?

Moderation in all things I suppose.

We shall see.

~ Tess

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In Search of… Information on Insomnia

Since I had yet another fun filled night of dreams and delusions I decided to do some research on insomnia. Nice to know that I’m not alone – 20% of the population will experience insomnia at some point in their lifetime.

Unfortunately the really interesting bits are locked away in scholarly journals I don’t have access to (I’m hoping there is a “yet” in there). But with a little judicious Googling I was able to find some additional information in the hope that tonight will be better

The Three most Common Causes of Insomnia

Snoring, Stress & Lifestyle

First – I’m going to assume that I don’t snore. In 20 years of relationships I’m sure someone would have mentioned it. So I don’t have to worry about that.

Second – Stress sounded like a good target. Part of their description is “When the mind is occupied, it is hard for it to shut off and sleep.” They mention reliving events, conversations, etc. All that good work stress stuff. Like when I started a new job and used Excel for the first time all day long. I dreamed about spreadsheets for weeks.  

This article recommended that I use aromatherapy or background music to quiet my mind. Nothing that smells is a possibility in my life but I could try my “soother” I love the sound of thunderstorms and that may successfully occupy my brain and let me sleep.

I’ve decided for the next several weeks to give up all alcohol and to limit my caffeine to coffee in the morning and tea only until 3 ish.

Third – Well, yes… I don’t maintain a normal schedule anymore, I could probably cut down on caffeine and alcohol, and although I have a new mattress I could use new pillows.

I’ll try and maintain a normal schedule – I wanted to get to bed early last night (10 pm) and it really didn’t work.

Oh, and melatonin and some chamomile tea 30 minutes before I go to bed sounds easy enough.

And then for the bad news article… if the “sufferer has experienced continuously broken sleep patterns for more than four weeks…a symptom of something far more serious – clinical depression.”

Lovely – I’ve been in this state for at least six weeks and probably more.

Interestingly enough the same article hinted at another player in the insomnia game – allergies. Well, I’ve got those in spades. Wonder if they might be adding to something going on in my life?

Oh, and then I found the article that stated even “extreme joy” is a stressor. So maybe it isn’t stress but the joy I feel in my new life and my subconscious is just trying to help me out with so many ideas for stories I can’t stay asleep.  

The article did go into some of the science behind my lack of sleep.

“Furthermore, chronically elevated levels of cortisol and its precursor, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), can make sleep shallow, fragmented, and unrestful; delay the onset of sleep; and produce more frequent nocturnal awakenings.”

Oh, we are getting somewhere that sounds like me.

“Do you observe a nightwatch, awakening to muse or meditate some time during the late night or early morning? That’s normal, too, and it can be richly rewarding.”

Yes, my whole night is one long nightwatch – with ideas tumbling out of nowhere. Please no one ask me how creative people get their ideas after this. I’d actually like a bit fewer of them.

I’m so liking this writer – however he wants me to buy his book to discover his secret to good sleep without drugs.

But there has to be more information out there that isn’t locked away in scholarly journals and books I can’t afford to buy.

Sleep Foundation  has a list of things you can do for stress induced insomnia.

  • First, set your bedtime and your wake-up time according to the number of hours of sleep you are getting currently. For example, if you are sleeping only five hours a night (even though you usually plan to spend eight hours in bed), set your sleep time for that amount. Then gradually increase the amount of time allotted for sleep by 15 minutes or so every few nights. The idea is to “squeeze out” the middle of the nighttime awakening and gradually increase the amount of sleep you will get during the night.
  • Spend some time “winding down.” A person with insomnia needs a “buffer zone,” a period of time to allow the activating processes in the brain to wind down to allow the alerting mechanisms to decrease their activity so that the sleep systems can take over. I suggest that you start winding down two hours before bedtime. Stop all work and end phone calls to family and friends, as often they are activating. Watching television is all right in the evening. However, an hour before bed, I recommend reading or listening to music.
  • Finally, focus on conditioning yourself for different sleep behavior. Insomnia is painful for people—it can take control of their lives. When someone suffering from insomnia walks into their bedroom, they often feel anxious, uncomfortable and tense, as they know from their experience that they might spend the night tossing and turning. They need to set up a situation so that they like going to their bedroom. The bedroom should be visually pleasing and very comfortable. One should use the bedroom only for sleep, sex, and changing clothes, pleasant activities, and if awake in the night should leave the bed and bedroom and spend “unpleasant” times awake in another room. “Waking” activities such as working on the computer, talking with one’s partner, talking on the phone and watching TV should take place out of the bedroom.  

No stress when I enter my bedroom. But I probably should get up rather than toss and turn when it gets stressful in the middle of the night.

Lots of food for thought and I’ll muse on these for a little bit longer and see what I can change quickly.

Here’s to some good night’s sleep!

~ Tess


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The Magic…

I’m still trying to find the magic.

That is probably a problem in and of itself. When I was a stage actor, every once in awhile, I’d have an amazing night. The next night it would be hard not to focus on recreating that wonderful night instead of focusing on the job at hand.

You can’t go back.

I’m wondering if that is my problem right now. It seems that every time I write a short story I am starting from the beginning. Not the beginning of the story – but like I’ve never written anything before. Never completed anything before. Each work unfolds in its own way – in its own time – and none of them take the same path.

A part of me wants to feel what I felt over Labor Day again.

The 3-Day Novel Writing Contest was the most amazing writing experience I’ve ever had. It eclipsed how I felt when I sold my first short story. Afterwards I was exhausted, drained of words, and exuberantly happy. I was also distracted by other commitments in my life so after I recovered I couldn’t give up days to writing.

Now I can – but I love my blogs. I love the feeling of posting every day – of producing content and publishing it. I also love the idea that there is no filter. It is just me – my thoughts – my words – and my audience.

So I’m trying to figure out how to balance all of this. I have an idea – one that scares me a little because it feels crazy. But often the crazy ideas are the best. The only thing is that I never seem to put it into practice. Something always conflicts.

The sane part of me thinks I should just learn how to shift from article writing in the morning, to fiction writing in the afternoon. The insane part of me wants a day – like the days that I took to write “Any Man’s Death” – days where I turned off the phone, the email, and did nothing but write.

Dream on, right?

I can dream. But I think I’m caught in the dream and forgetting the reality of the situation. The reality is that I’ve committed to my blogs – and providing content five days a week – I’ve also committed to writing stories. And once again I’ve put myself in the position of having to learn how to write all over again.

So I’m going to keep working on the practical angle – even while I dream of leaving the world behind and drowning in story. I need to give up the dream, stop focusing on the past, and figure out how to live in my present.

Wow, writing is a lot like life, isn’t it?

~ Tess Anderson

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I always know… this time I thought I was over reacting… but I always know when a relationship is ending.

It’s the patterns.

When we date someone we develop very specific patterns around our interactions with them. They only change when circumstances change. I’m sure if I wanted to I could develop a whole mathematical formula for it – looking at word usage, type and frequency of communication, and body language – but it would just formalize what my brain does a great job in processing for me.

Unfortunately I’ve never gotten very good at using this skill in larger group settings. It would be very helpful to watch the flow of power during a debate and see how people are responding. But then I’m not sure I’ve ever really tried. For some reason my brain reserves this skill set for relationships.

This time I was surprised.

I was surprised this time because I didn’t want this. Since last week when I felt the first tremors I was hoping that it was holiday stress. For days I tried to convince myself that was all there was to it. But I knew. Usually I’ve known for so long that it is only the formalization of what has become fact. This wasn’t that… this hurt.

But I was trying to talk about patterns.

We are creatures of habit and we love our patterns. Coffee in the morning, a glass of wine with dinner, how we address our significant other, and what we say when our children walk in the door. All these patterns of behavior make up the web of our lives.  

I have a specific pattern for this blog – postings on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Last week I broke the pattern because of a migraine (three days long) – this week I promised myself that I would be back on track.

Today I wanted to talk about fruit flies and why I love genetics so much. But I can’t seem to ignore the pain I feel and how foolish I feel. Foolish because I let someone in, again. Foolish because I, of all people know, that everything ends. Foolish because I wanted so badly to believe that this wouldn’t.  

There is no blame – it was an honorable ending.

So, I have work to do…. Stories and articles to write, worlds to create. But just for this moment I wish I could howl with the pain, and let it all out – throw things and beat my breast – and then begin to heal.

That isn’t me. It will lurk in the corners of my heart showing itself in fits and starts until like all things it too ends.  

Thanks for listening,

~ Tess Anderson


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Leave me alone – I want to stay in bed!

The alarm went off with plenty of time for a snooze yet I didn’t want to get up. It is so nice to not hurt! My back, which has been cranky for the last five years, is feeling great. My neck is still having issues – but that is a pillow problem not a mattress problem. I feel great when I get up… I just don’t like getting up.

This is all because after 10 years I finally purchased a new bed. I’ve decided that is my excuse for sleeping in this morning not a lack of discipline. I’ve always loved bed. Not necessarily sleep – I just like lying in bed. When I lay there my mind wanders I come up with ideas and work through problems and issues. For me my bed is a second office.     

Yet – how many of us feel inferior to those souls who need only a few hours a night? The average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours. I’m more of a 9 hour girl myself, yet every once in a while I dream of only needing 4 hours so that I can be more productive during the day.   

But sleep is important!

But I digress – what amazes me most is that after multiple doctor visits about my back I don’t remember anyone telling me I needed to get a new bed. Now they may have – and I may have ignored them. But the bed is magic! And I’m wondering if pressure from the medical profession might have tipped me over into getting one sooner.  

We seem to be in a transition between “here’s a pill” to “let’s look at your lifestyle”.

One of my doctors recommend, and threatened to prescribe, having someone clean my house. I’m allergic to dust mites and mold. I am also allergic to cleaning products. My reliance on drugs and the number of days I felt sub-par because of allergies has decreased. I truly believe that when we are having health issues we need to look at all the factors – and not reach for the medicine cabinet.

Changing behaviors takes effort, taking a pill only means remembering to take the pill.

It’s funny because it is a matter of degree. I once dated a guy who dealt with his allergies and asthma though drugs. His house was filled with dust and mold but no matter what was causing it he found it easier to mask it with drugs then deal with the root cause. Being with him was causing me to go back to using medications to keep me healthy – that didn’t last long. I left preferring my health over his company.

This leads me to wonder about the medical profession.

How many of us are willing to change our behavior if a doctor tells us to? Most of us still feel a reverence for the profession and put a lot of weight in what they tell us. But so much of what I’ve read about healthcare talks about doctor’s unwillingness to look at behavior – often because they don’t believe it will work.

Maybe it is just the people that I hang out with – but I was surprised to learn how many of them responded to their doctor’s request to alter their life style. A couple I know are the most religious of gym goers – three times a week without fail. No whining, no complaints. All because a doctor told them to.

Another friend has altered her diet multiple times as she tries to sort out what might be affecting her migraines. A co-worker, who had multiple serious injuries in the last year, is recovering faster than average because she does the physical therapy prescribed by her therapist at home. Oh, and then there was the couple who one of them was having insomnia and the other discovered he had sleep apnea – the hope is once the sleep apnea is resolved his wife will be getting better sleep.    

Now there are also folks I know who aren’t doing quite so well… but they are at least beginning to understand that they are their own worst enemy. Having chronic insomnia and heading up to play computer games at 11 at night with a two liter bottle of regular Coke is a recipe for another sleepless night. But most of us are taking our health more seriously and understanding that our environment and habits could be responsible.

Now there are plenty of times when I reach for medication – my allergies are only under control with daily drugs but I’ve cut down on the need for Benadryl. I have severe migraines but have successfully moved off of daily meds to Imitrex as needed. My back was fixed by my bed and regular exercise, however my insomnia would be much better if I didn’t drink – but we all need a vice.  

I hope that I always start with the root of them problem and then work out – leaving medications as my last course of action. And think more of us would if we were given the information to make that choice.  

So where do you sit on this spectrum? The pill or the behavior or someplace in-between?

 ~ Tess


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