Can shifting Type A behaviors help to save your life? I could choose to write about anti-inflammatory meal plans, raw foods, juicing, blending, eating healthy fats and proteins, and moving your body, but it simply wouldn’t be enough. These lifestyle choices are all very important, critical in fact.
However, my integrative, holistic approach to wellness beckons me to broaden my examination of lifestyle practices, to include stress, mental/emotional patterns, and Type A behavior. All of these factors are significant in creating your current health condition.
While we used to talk about “Type A personality,” the conversation has shifted to “Type A behaviors.” This is good news because you can influence a change in your behaviors, changing your personality, not so much.
What are Type A Behaviors?
- You’re driven.
- You are an “anxiety-prone go-getter.”
- You’ve got your eyes on the goal.
- You might be impatient.
- You’re easily irritated, especially with anything that gets in the way of your progress.
- You have time-urgency, constantly looking at the clock.
- People can’t get a word in when you’re talking.
- You are competitive with a drive toward perfectionism.
- You have a low tolerance for “incompetence.”
- You’re probably very good at completing your goals.
Type A Behavior and Health Concerns
The term “Type A personality” and the traits that accompany it was coined by cardiologist, Dr. Meyer Friedman, in the late 1950s. While doing research with cardiology patients, he observed a link between these specific stress-driven personality attributes and heart disease. His findings became known as Type A personality.
Here is the concern: If you are someone who demonstrates Type A behaviors on a regular basis, you have an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. In fact, you may be more likely to suffer a “cardiac event” than your peers who choose to relax rather than rev up.
Though you may have been aware of these health concerns, and even as I’m raising the flag now, Type A tendency is NOT to take notice or make significant changes until you crash and burn. Unfortunately that could look like a medical emergency, like it did for me just weeks ago.
I found myself in the ER with chest pain; you can watch the full story here. It was eye-opening to say the least.
Is Denial Lurking Under Your Hood?
I’ve always thought of myself as a calm person with a soothing demeanor. A few years ago I had an appointment with a new dentist. She said to me, “You just seem so… sedated.” I’ve prided myself on this tranquil quality. However, when it came to work, I could really ramp up.
Are there areas in your life that you consistently ramp up—go for the drive and competition, and find yourself impatient and irritable? Like me, you might not be a typical Type A personality, but you might exhibit Type A behaviors in certain areas of your life.
Over time these behaviors can seep into other areas of your life before you even have a chance to notice.
I was in denial.
I judged “Type A” as a negative term without even knowing much about it. Someone very close to me said, “You’re Type A,” and I said, “No, I’m not Type A; I’m calm and peaceful.” It was only during my research on this topic that I realized I secretly took her opinion of me as a compliment. Why? Because I’m an entrepreneur.
I’m an entrepreneur that delivers value and I deliver it yesterday! I know how to get the job done.
Start Changing Your Type A Behaviors for a Healthier Life
If you’re creative and driven, you’re going to produce. I know and you know there’s simply no stopping you, so let’s examine the kind of adjustments you can make to take your health into consideration.
Making a shift starts with your mindset; it’s an internal process. If you’re going to make a sustainable shift in your behaviors, you need to understand why and embody it.
It starts with a mental mindset, a reframing that says, “I can produce and create beautiful, valuable material, and I can do it differently. I can do it with a new attitude.”
Jumping in to make physical changes without seriously understanding why you are doing them will most likely be a change that does NOT stick.
Which Behaviors Should You Change?
I will highlight some of the ways I am changing my Type A behavior for health concerns. Obviously these are personal to me; you may relate to some of them and not others. You need to find what works for you. If you’re not sure, get support—grab a buddy, find a community group, or get a coach or a mentor.
First of all my perspective has changed. (There’s nothing quite like a coronary intervention to create an immediate shift in perception). You see, I’ve lost value for the so-called “grind and hustle” of the entrepreneurial lifestyle.
I used to love it; in fact, it spoke loudly to me for a number of years until I landed in the ER. The grind and hustle used to feel like stars lit up; now it seems like a limited picture.
Funny thing is, I know my passion, creativity, and desire will not be diminished in anyway by reframing my perspective. On the contrary, what I produce will be significantly better because it will be fine-tuned, selective, and extremely intentional.
The umbrella mindset shift for me, or “overarching theme” now is to create more spaciousness between activities rather than batching everything all together. Yes, this was suggested to me months ago, maybe even years ago, by someone near and dear. Did I listen? I’m sure you can guess the answer to that.
“More spaciousness” means stopping and checking in to see how I feel while asking the question, “Does X really need to get done right now or can it wait until later?” Perhaps it’s not quite as urgent as I once thought.
Specific Changes in My Activities
- Instead of doing a live video broadcast daily, I am doing one every other day. I am the type of broadcaster that prepares extensive notes. The research is time-consuming. Now, rather than prepping and broadcasting on the same day, I am preparing one day and broadcasting the next.
- Unplugging my digital devices—phone, tablet and computer—by 9:00PM; it feels so good. Sure, there are plenty of things I want to watch that have piled up—Snapchat stories, video broadcasts, and the webinar replays sitting in my email inbox. They’ll just have to wait. This gives me another hour and a half or so to read, write, relax, and get to sleep by 10:30PM.
- My meditation has been consistent, however, now I’m diving even deeper into my practice. Sitting quietly in a moment of presence activates my parasympathetic nervous system, creating a calm and relaxed state which allows my heart and arteries to relax. This interrupts the Type A behavior pattern and the health concerns that accompany it.
- At age 50, my hormones are changing. I’m choosing to honor a new pace as I allow these Type A behaviors to shift. I was constantly looking at what’s next and I still catch myself doing so; it’s ingrained behavior. Immediately after completing one task, I would ask myself, “What’s next?” Now I resort to one of my favorite books written in 1971 by Ram Dass, Be Here Now, and remind myself to come back to the stillness of the present moment, the only moment that truly exists.
In What Direction Will You Turn?
We think there’s so much to do; so much in fact, we could stay up night and day to research, watch, learn, and listen. We continue to consume more and more in an attempt to figure out how we’re going to create, produce, deliver, and take care of ourselves at the same time.
Changing Type A behaviors because you care about your health starts with a mindset shift. It’s a change in perception that calls upon a preventive approach to living your life.
Don’t wait until you crash and burn to wake up. Most people with Type A behaviors won’t make significant changes until they’re down for the count; don’t let that be you. Type A behaviors can lead to a higher risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. You just have to say it’s enough for today.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this topic; will you consider making changes or continue going “full speed ahead?” Let me know in the comments below.