Which group of adjectives is most likely to describe your typical behavior?
1. Very competitive; always on the go; hurried; hard-driving; demanding of perfection; easily angered; ambitious; after quick promotions; a "workaholic" - even at play. Or,2. Non-competitive; relaxed, in control; easygoing; understanding, forgiving; confident and happy in job; able to enjoy lesiure, weekends.
Behaviors in the first group are characteristic of a "Type A" personality - a person who is driven, aggressive, impatient, as contrasted in the second group to a "Type B" personality - a person who is more contemplative and relaxed.
If, in your self-evaluation, you tended toward a Type A person, you need to worry. Type A people are sitting ducks for a heart attack. In a 10-year study of 35,000 men, cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman found that aggressive, hard-driving Type A people were three times more likely to suffer heart disease than relaxed, easygoing Type Bs.
If you'd like to protect your heart and make the crucial switch toward "B-ness," here are tips that may prove helpful:
- Take stock of your life goals, how you spend your time and consider replacing some hard-driving activities with three priorities that you "do" every day: personal "up-keep" time for you; time for a spouse; and time for kids. Concentrate on what is worth being rather than on what is worth having.
- Don't waste your anger on stress you can't control, such as a traffic jam, an inept waiter or an abrupt salesperson. Just say to yourself: "I'm not going to let my present well-being depend on this event. I choose not to vibrate over things I can't do anything about!" Call on your sense of humor to get you through.
- Make friends with a Type B person who emulates some of the more serene qualities you'd like in yourself.
- Leave yourself more time than you think you'll need to get somewhere or accomplish something. Then, if you're delayed, you'll have less reason to become anxious.
- Jot down an appointment with yourself in your date book to exercise every day, just as you would a business or social engagement. Exercising will condition your heart and quantitatively relieve your stress.
- Allow yourself and others, as the fallible human beings you are, to make mistakes without penalty. Invite, rather than demand, growth from others.
- Consider living with less. Acquiring possessions often generates many stressful hassles, including the upkeep of any objects you attain.
- Make a "hassles" list. Write down your hassles, arrange them in order of their urgency, and cross off several at the bottom. Recent studies indicate that the more hassles people had to endure, the more likely they were to have psychological and psychosomatic symptoms, such as depression, anger, low morale, stomachache, low energy and fatigue.
- Use tension-relievers at the office. Periodically take time out - even when you're pushing against a deadline - to look out a window, to chat with a neighbor, or to put your feet up in a dark room.
Force yourself to move around - go to someone's desk rather than using an interoffice phone; or go to the storeroom for supplies instead of keeping them at your desk. Remember, if you sit long hours, the physical tension can lead to emotional fatigue.
- Identify events that can trigger your stress reactions - being late for an appointment, waiting in a long, slow line, a commute at rush hour - and simply choose to look on the positive side of the event. Ed Rocka, author of "Balancing Stress," says: "I know people who `love' rush hour. It's their only time alone all day, and they cherish it and use it productively.
"Is it possible you could learn to relish the rush hour?" he asks. The answer is yes, if you're willing to reconsider your interpretation of this happening. Consider this, he says: "Suppose I said to you: `For every minute extra your commute takes you due to the heavy traffic, I will give you $10,000.' You'd be praying for traffic jams! Delays would cause ecstasy. Pokey drivers would be blessed rather than cursed."
- Give up Tryna. "The word `tryna,' " says Dr. Hamer Reiser, "is a contraction of the expression `trying to do too much,' which evolved over time to `tryna'ta do too much,' then to `tryna do too much,' and finally to `tryna.' "
People with tryna - who are usually overcommitted and overextended - manifest a long list of variable and nonspecific symptoms, including fatigue, irritability, insomnia, exhaustion, headaches and depression. Management of the condition consists of learning to set priorities, to realize that there are limits to what you can do comfortably and effectively; and to recognize that everything you do has a price.
Although no medication has been helpful in treating tryna, one prescription has been found effective - "Saying no!" says Reiser, who recommends: Keep the prescription handy in a wallet or purse and take it out as a reminder whenever the symptoms of tryna appear.