‘Type A’ Personalities Are So 1992: Why (And How) to Chill!

Humans did not get to this point by being lazy. Evolution, if you’re a believer, is always doing what it’s got to do in weeding out the unfit from the survivors. But in our case, it’s not without a bit of choice in the matter as we are self-aware enough to make a conscious decision about our lives. Our active (and highly caffeinated) participation in our global development over the last several centuries has jettisoned us into a futuristic intensity that hit a peak frenetic vibration right around the same time we became digitally connected. Like our machine-dominated world, many of us are “on” around the clock.

But we are not machines. Not yet, anyway. And while that quintessential corporate-driven control freak type A personality may have been crucial in getting us here, does it really serve us anymore?

According to health experts including Redford Williams, head of behavioral medicine at Duke University Medical Center, the over-achieving Type A personality contains a lot of inherent hostility. This can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, weight problems, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The typical Type A is releasing more cortisol than the rest of us. Cortisol is our unevolved stress hormone incapable of telling the difference between a deadline and a deadly lion.

Recent research connects stress to our health in a greater way than previously thought, from weakening our immune response to contributing to an elevated risk of developing heart disease, stroke and even certain types of cancer.

Corporate influence on our culture has created a fixation on urgency and excess—the distillation exemplified in the Type A, tweaking and micromanaging details ad nauseum. But now that we’re seeing an exodus away from corporate influences—reclaiming our food, our banking systems, our communities—what does that mean for those behaviors within ourselves?

While Type A rigidity seems a passé phase of our evolution, we may just now be entering the most crucial time in our history. But what we seem to need more of is an uptick in Type B personalities—those who roll with the punches a lot more and stress less, even in such serious times. That’s not to say that there isn’t important work to be done, but like the saying goes: what doesn’t bend, breaks.

If you are the classic Type A, consider some of these tips for chilling out for yourself and the rest of us:

Change doesn’t happen over night.

Habits take a while to build and a while to undo. Be patient with yourself and your process.

Ask yourself how important a task really is.

Can someone else do it? What does “done the right way” really mean anyway?


Type As tend towards myopia—but just because someone else has a different approach doesn’t mean it’s wrong or incapable of working. In fact, it might expand your horizon and help you chill out.


Even five minutes a day can connect and ground you to the really big picture making it easier to relax and let go.

Take a breath before you speak.

That split second between reacting and responding can make a huge difference in your stress levels.

Forgive yourself (and others).

Often the realization that we’re being aggressive, hostile or pushy can thwart us further into the patterns. But forgiving and honoring yourself is a great way to start chipping away at the habits and allowing calmness and inclusiveness come to be more valued than competitiveness and aggression.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image by Victori