Who are the most mentally tough and resilient in the face of work and life stress?

The concept of "Type A behaviour" has been around since the 1950s when two cardiologists, Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman, first noticed that patients who were wearing out their waiting room furniture seemed to express a behavioural pattern of being impatient, hard driving, competitive and quick to anger.

The results of the studies suggest that these two different Type A concepts of ‘hard driving’ and ‘impatience’ predict different outcomes - but only those who are prone to be ‘hostile’, ‘quick to anger’ and ‘frustrated’ when things don't go their way are at risk for cardiovascular problems.

So, some aspects of personality such as ‘hostility’, ‘impatience’, ‘low agreeableness’ and ‘high social anxiety’ (Type D personality) are still risk factors for cardiovascular illness - even after controlling for smoking, diabetes, cholesterol and high blood pressure. This is particularly important for women because heart disease continues to be their number one killer.

In an analysis of men and women in diverse industries and job levels exploring the relationship between work-life stress, Type A behaviour (driven, impatient and achievement oriented style) and cognitive mental toughness (optimistic disposition; viewing change as a challenge; high self-efficacy and self-esteem; committed to work and life activities) produced three interesting outcomes:

Women reported significantly higher levels of overall work and life stress compared to their male counterparts.

Type A women (and men) who were also high on mental toughness reported significantly less work and life stress overall. Mental toughness seems to be an important buffer of experiencing stress and coping with it (mobilising own social resources; employing more healthy lifestyle and coping skills). This does not mean that mentally tough Type A women thrive on stress, but they let more things roll off their backs and react in more positive ways to life's challenges.

The highest level of stress was reported by Type A women who also reported low mental toughness. Women who are highly competitive, driven and impatient are most likely to experience a high level of stress when they are more pessimistic, and view change as a threat rather than a challenge.

These findings suggest that hardy Type A women can, indeed, "have it all" and remain healthy - both physically and psychologically.

Women are naturally primed to be more emotionally expressive and nurturing under stress due to the release of the pro-social hormone oxytocin, so reaching out to network and avoid isolation comes pretty naturally to most working women. While men experience a "fight or flight" response to stress, women go into "tend and befriend" mode. And if one had to pick three top resilient factors, they would be increasing physical activity; improving sleep quantity and quality; and feeling and

expressing emotions with closure.


I built up and sold my successful business and have genuine hands-on experience of running a business and the challenges that entails. I have been responsible for creating and implementing winning business strategies and the development of high performance sales cultures. My direct and holistic approach to business enables me to get to the core of the issue and to...

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