People who can be described as “Type A” come in all forms and disciplines. If you tend toward Type A characteristics, chances are you already know that about yourself, as may those around you. You are driven, motivated, energized, and enthusiastic. You may already be quite accomplished, but there are always new challenges awaiting you, and the prospect of preparation and execution in tackling them is thrilling.
That is the good news. The bad news is that Type A people are often overwhelmed with the stress of urgency. They feel rushed, tend towards workaholism and competitiveness, lack adequate sleep or downtime, and don’t participate enough in other activities necessary for rest and recuperation.
A Closer Look at the Type A Personality
Most people think of high-profile celebrities, such as reality stars, journalists, business people, and artists as classic Type A personalities. But did you know that Type A people come from all walks of life? The tendency to be driven and tirelessly ambitious knows no discrimination across cultures, occupations, and socioeconomic status.
Is being Type A a necessity for success? I would say no. But people who are Type A often have a lot of energy and drive to put into whatever task presents itself. They are highly motivated to accomplish goals and succeed, often as efficiently and quickly as possible, so they can move on to the next challenge.
When Your Mind Is Motivated, but Your Body Can’t Keep Up
What happens when your ambition exceeds your physical capabilities?
Maybe you have a Type A mind in a body that lacks the same vigor. This is a rather common occurrence, but it leaves many people feeling frustrated. It is especially discouraging if there was a time of life when you did have the energy and physical capacity to drive your body as fast as you wanted.
Often, I see people in my practice whose bodies decided it was time to slow down while their minds did not experience a similar awakening. Having a body that is less tolerant of stress can be a natural reaction to being pushed through countless deadlines, nights of inadequate sleep, few vacations, too much caffeine and sugar to stimulate the body’s energy, and too little time to eat nutritious food.
How to Nurture an Energized Mind and a Tired Body
If this sounds even a little like you, there are steps you can take to manage your Type A tendencies to achieve your goals while honoring your body’s needs to minimize stress or harm.
1. Make your Type A personality traits work for your health.
Schedule regular bodywork, exercise that is not too strenuous, and a regular bedtime. Use your drive and motivation to tend to your body. If shopping and cooking healthy food is not your thing, consider some of the many food delivery services that do all of the shopping and prep for you.
Having a body that is less tolerant of stress can be a natural reaction to being pushed through countless deadlines, nights of inadequate sleep, few vacations, too much caffeine and sugar to stimulate the body’s energy, and too little time to eat nutritious food.
Think about caring for your body as one of your many tasks. See how you can fold self-care and optimal health into your naturally hard-driving inclinations.
2. Make bedtime a priority.
Few things are more critical to optimal physical and emotional well-being than sleep. If your sleep is not adequate in time or quality, that will affect everything else you do throughout the day. You may be too tired to exercise, unable to attend to your hunger cues effectively, and unable to concentrate or function without excess sugar or caffeine.
3. Keep moving, but slow it down.
In Yiddish, there is a word called shpilkes. People who have shpilkes are those who have a lot of “get-up-and-go.” They don’t want to stop moving and are always ready to take on the next thing once a task is completed (and maybe even before that).
That may be true of your Type A mind, and you do not have to give that up. It is possible to continue being productive and inspired despite a tired body. Non-strenuous activity can be particularly beneficial when you feel very tired or sluggish. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to take a rest day or week, or even a little time off during the day to eat your food, take a walk, visit with a friend, or to self-reflect. But generally, even when you feel very tired, and despite your obligations, keep it moving. Just slow it down.
4. Be kind to yourself.
It is normal to feel frustrated with yourself when your body will not comply with all you are demanding of it. Those are the times it is most essential for you to encourage your body and your Self.
You may naturally feel the urge to criticize yourself, especially if you find you are unable to complete tasks and meet work demands. But altering your focus to pay attention to what you are doing well can help shift your energy in a more positive direction.
5. Journal, talk to someone regularly about your feelings, or speak with a therapist.
Voicing irritation, urgency about reaching your goals, and disappointments in your body’s limits may help take the “teeth” out of your frustration. When you express your emotions, verbally or in writing, you may be more likely to slow down the hamster wheel of thoughts racing through your mind.
Speaking with a therapist or counselor about this frustration can also help you reconcile your capabilities with your ambitions. Therapists are there to support you in reaching your goals and can help you incorporate healthy habits into your daily routine.
You will also be able to reflect on your responses, an activity which may reveal that your stress responses are not always necessary. You can still accomplish your goals at a pace that is more productive for your body once you ease any resentment towards yourself.
It is possible to thrive with a Type A mind and a body that needs more care to function at full capacity. The key is in honoring your body’s needs. This may mean taking more time than you would prefer to care for your physical self, but in return, you may be rewarded with higher levels of functioning and energy and much-needed rest for your mind. The payoff is often well worth the effort.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.