Unlearning Type-A

Unlearning Type-A
Unlearning is the process through which we break down the origins of our thoughts, attitudes, behaviours, feelings and biases” Mariana Plata “The Power of Unlearning” Psychology Today April 235, 2020

I have spent a good part of the last 18 months trying to unlearn how I approach work. I have to say, this is the hardest part of my cardiac rehabilitation. 

I have always been a Type A personality, likely because it brought so much good acknowledgement, love, and what I thought of as success.  In adulthood, my drive, competitive nature, organizational skills and ability to network, all traits of the typical Type A personality, served me very well in my career. I aimed to be that highly driven, achievement-focused model so admired in a corporatized and capitalist culture that values hard work, income earning potential and time sacrifice. 

I took seemingly unrelated university degrees and formed them into a very happy life in healthcare leadership. On the surface it was all wonderful.  But because I had always been able to manage increasing workload levels, increasingly stressful situations, by doing more of the same I didn't really develop any coping skills other than working harder to address changing times and evolving expectations.  

While I had knew of Type-A personalities and wore the designation as a badge of honour, I was never aware of long standing research that Type A personality-traits are a potential risk factor for heart disease. I doubt that it would have made a difference anyway. And, while this way of being might work in our 20s and 30s, by the time I was in my late 40s cracks were beginning to show. 

I was ignoring a lot of what my body was asking for – rest, creative time, quiet, -- because on my days off I had to scramble to get “all the things done”  to live the successful life I wanted to live. I would actually get back to work Monday more exhausted than when I left on Friday – but convinced that because it was a physical exhaustion and not a mental one, that it was different and actually good for me. 

Truth is what my body craved, what my mind craved, was disconnection. Disconnection from the pace, the frenetic energy that is our modern culture. And not just for a weekend or a vacation.  I craved a type of doing nothing that came without a schedule, without expectations, without outcomes. I needed a lifestyle of less energy and less stress but had no idea how to achieve it. I couldn't acknowledge that I created a lot of that stress myself and that my belief system was what needed the biggest overhaul. 

In fact, as Elizabeth Scott, PhD so clearly identifies,  Type A people actually create obstacles to stress reduction BECAUSE of their beliefs and it makes perfect sense to me looking back now. I believed that busy people were successful people – so the more busy, the more successful. Trying to get rid of stress in your life seemed like laziness, like you weren't trying very hard and you couldn't possibly be successful doing that. 

The irony is, that while my efforts at stress reduction are now more in my face, the nagging sensation of not getting things done, of not being successful because I am not busy enough, of feeling like I have to succeed in this new phase of life constantly remind me that I have a lot of unlearning to do. 

Unlearning requires deep excavation of the beliefs that have gotten you to where you are today. It insists on investigating all the ways we behave that have been uploaded in our beliefs by culture, parenting, experiences, and reinforcing outcomes. 

Unlearning is not easy, nor is it pain-free. The sense of general unease I still feel when I have spent a day “not doing much” is palpable. I still crave success. 

What has changed in the past 18 months is what I am willing to sacrifice for the kind of success- mainly financial - that makes life in our world easier. I am no longer willing to sacrifice my health for that success. 

When I forcibly push myself away from my desk for a walk with the dog or an hour or two in the garden, I remind the little voice complaining about things left undone, that there is always time to do those tasks if I am still alive. Of course, if I am dead they no longer matter, so it is win/win. 

I am still an unlearning work in progress and I imagine I will be forever now. The training runs so deep it is embedded in my DNA. It is not lost on me that my excellent physical recovery from two heart attacks means there is little evidence in my daily life that I need to do this unlearning. The only reminders I have are ones I create. I have to be my own best friend and call myself out when my pace, my frenetic energy are working against my body's systems. My body deserves to have an advocate and that, at least, I can succeed at. 


If this post resonated with you, please consider subscribing. Just hit the link below and notice of future blog posts will come direct to your email inbox. As always, you can unsubscribe at any time.

What I learned from my 2nd Heart Attack

What I learned from my 2nd Heart Attack
In 2020 I was the Site Director of a local hospital in BC Canada. I had held and loved that job for 8 years. In July of 2020, right when the first wave of the pandemic started to wane, I had a stress-induced heart attack at work. It was and wasn't surprising.

It was surprising because I had very well managed blood pressure and cholesterol and regular cardiac evaluations throughout my life (I had rheumatic fever as a child so there was always concern over impact to my heart). I had no common symptoms and in fact had only a feeling of a pinched nerve in my neck for four days.

It wasn't surprising because of the massive part stress plays in cardiovascular disease and in heart attacks in general. And my workplace became a vast cauldron of intense and unrelenting stress. I wasn't coping well and it was inevitable that a bad health outcome would happen because of it.

Two physicians confirmed that my heart attack was 100% caused by stress and so I began to really learn about stress and its impact on women. 

But most importantly I began, finally, to take my own wellness around stress reduction seriously -- I started a daily meditation practice, I increased my exercise, I lost a LOT of weight, we increased our consciousness around our diet, and I began using essential oils and supplements to support all the body and mind systems that allopathic medicine doesn't. 

So it came as a serious shock to me when in November of 2021, while out walking my dog, and just two days after updated lab and ecg results came back very good, that I had another heart attack. 

This one, unlike the first, was unmistakable. It was a classic heart attack with chest pain, tightness, shortness of breath and radiating arm pain. 

This one required the clot busting medication and then several minutes of CPR when I went into full arrest. 

Happily, like the first one, I survived. I received another stent for a 95% blocked artery and after a few days recovery was sent home. 

Unlike the first one, however, there was no "good" reason for this one to have happened.  The cardiologist summed it up by saying it was just "shithouse bad luck". 

So then what do you do when you have done ALL the right things and STILL had another heart attack? 

Well after you allow the shock to wear off, have a good cry and stop being angry -- You go back to first principles......and begin to look for the lessons in the event. 

The first lesson I had to learn was it WAS possible to do all the right things and still have an attack. That lesson played hard with my mental state for a couple weeks. A lot of "what's the point" thinking was happening and was challenging the very basis of all the healing I had done the first time around. 

I am a firm believer that mindset creates your reality and so the question of "what mindset was I having that lead to the second attack" plagued me for a while. Then I realized that the more I sought it out, the more likely I was to re-ignite it in my subconscious. So I decided to let go of finding the root cause and only look forward. 

I came to the idea that my mindset would determine how much I enjoyed my life going forward - and I began a mindset of "enjoy every moment -- every. single.moment" whether it was doing the laundry or laughing with friends. It didn't matter. Every moment could be joyful! 

The second lesson I had to learn was that stress hides in your body. No matter that I had spent a year meditating with the best possible essential oils, exercising to boost my good hormones, and really being mindful of all that was around me. Stress hid out in my body. I had small residual angina in my teeth when I experienced stressful situations and that should have been my notice but it was so easily explained away that I didn't serve as the messenger it should have.  So now I really check in with my body. Not the cursory "I am feeling fine" kind of check in, but a systematic check in of organs, limbs, mental processes, breathing, pains. 

I have again recognized that I hold my breath. A LOT. And that is something I am working on. I feel instant relaxed when I take  a deep breath but so many times a day I notice that I have been holding my breath. It always feels bad when I notice but makes me curious at to why I do it.  I now consciously check in on my breathing several times a day and take a break to do some breath exercises. It is the FASTEST way to reduce your stress level so it is a critical component to my healing.

The final lesson I learned is that no day is guaranteed to me. I started out my day in November with no indications that a heart attack was imminent. I had walked one dog in the morning, done some office work mid morning and was just walking a second dog early afternoon when the attack came. I had no warning signs prior. 

My focus now is on beauty and joy. I revel in talking with friends...with spending time with my husband, my kids and grandson, and my dogs.  One of my physicians advised "ride your horse like you stole it" and so that is what I am doing.

I seek out pleasure producing activities and ignore ones that I would formally have gone to battle over. I don't have time to solve the problems of the world, and it wasn't like I could anyway. So I try to live my life with a light footprint, with a smile, and with immense gratitude. 

I am still passionate about the courses I have developed to help other women Healthcare leaders better take care of themselves and about teaching people about the important uses of essential oils for good health but I approach this work more sustainably. I don't work long hours at it. I don't sit all day at a computer. But it is something that brings me joy so I will continue doing it.

Who knows if I will have another heart attack. At this point I am working very hard to not let that fear derail my life. If I did, what is the point of living.....

If this post resonated with you, please consider subscribing. Just hit the link below and notice of future blog posts will come direct to your email inbox. As always, you can unsubscribe at any time.

"My New Fat"

"My New Fat"
During a recent visit with a very good friend, we got to talking about my recent weight loss. 

Over the past year I have worked hard to lose 40lbs and at least 2 dress sizes. I feel GREAT!  When I put on new clothes, I feel lithe, energetic and confident. I look at myself in the mirror and think "Good Girl -- you look and feel terrific". It was a different feeling than at other times in my life when I had lost weight.

The conversation took an interesting turn as we exchanged various weight loss stories from our past and she told me that the last time she lost a significant amount of weight, her new weight became "her new fat" -- meaning she now felt that the weight she was at ...not the weight she had come from....was now "fat". She struggled to get past that feeling that even with weight loss, she was still fat.  

I pondered this conversation and it's implications for the whole of the next week while I was on a solo roadtrip with my dogs. I realized that other times in my life when I had lost weight, I, too, had determined my body to be at the "new fat". Pictures where I could see I still had a belly were deflating.  It wasn't long before my old habits crept back in alongside the pounds.

Why is it that women, even when they lose weight and achieve a goal, still look at themselves and think "still fat"? So what was so different this time for me? What was the fundamental change?

Sure we can blame this feeling on cultural conditioning, on advertising that shamelessly airbrushes away female flesh to make it more appealing, who applies body makeup so blemishes of any kind disappear into a milk of consistency. But advertisers only do that because it works. 

Women have so internalized this culture of the pursuit of female "perfection" that advertisers are only serving us back what we ordered....it truly is a vicious circle. 

So what to do....do we take advertsiers to task for continuing to promote the unattainable and really undesirable traits of "perfection"? Do we try to shake up society so the entire idea of "perfection" and it's whiteness is challenged? 

Sure we can and should.....but it is a herculean task and will truly only change when we do. In the meantime how do we respect ourelves more and judge ourselves less?

I know for me what happened was that I began to question all my beliefs about the way I lived my life. Work that I loved (and most importantly the  way I worked) was the cause of the overwhelming stress that caused my heart attack  in July 2020 so I was already excavating the mindsets that got me to that point so naturally my mindset about weight/fat/body also started to bubble up. This is where I found my path.

So, let's talk fat mindset then. What is the script we have running , that I had running, in our heads about being "fat"? 

I can remember my mom endlessly chastising my sister and I about holding our stomachs in when we were girls. Why, after all, would you want to stand there with your belly hanging out like that?

Later in life, as I went up and down in weight, my mom's side comments reinforced that her conditioning linked fat and slobby, I began to tune it out. Mostly because I just couldn't be bothered getting upset by it anymore. 

That didn't mean I didn't also hold those beliefs, because I certainly did. I felt slobby. I felt ungainly and unattractive. It was just that at the time, I didn't care enough about those bad feelings to change them. I just bought larger clothes thinking that baggy would hide the rolls. I couldn't have been more wrong. 

The baggier the clothes, the larger I felt I looked -- but I had to try to hide it -- didn't I?

After my heart attack, I found myself suddenly having a conversation with my body and my opinions on it changed. I became softer in my analysis of it, and suddenly had a new found sense of pride in it. I had SURVIVED! My body had taken all the punishment I threw at it, rebelled enough to get my attention but didn't die! Maybe I should be proud of my body?

So I began asking myself what narratives I had around my body and food and fat and attractiveness- and asking myself were those narratives still serving me - indeed, had they ever served me? 

I can't say I was shocked to uncover the stories, the judgements, the beliefs that I held. Or that I suddenly just gave them up and started anew. Nope. Every day now I find myself confronting my beliefs as they arise.

What I did find was a new sense of peace with my body, how I thought it looked, how I thought it SHOULD look and MOST importantly how it felt on the inside.

I also had to hold myself accountable for what I thought when I looked at another woman and her body size. Did the old narrative just start when I saw her running or eating or just simply being? Yep. But I started replacing that judging narrative with "Good for you-- you go girl!"  every.single.time. I saw another woman. No matter what she was doing. No matter how she was dressed. No matter what her size. YOU GO GIRL.

And what it did for me -- not just confronting those narratives head on, but challenging them when they flipped in to judgement mode of other women -- was that I started to feel better in my own skin.

Then I started to add "you are beautiful"  to my thoughts as I watched my sisters in their lives AND when I looked at myself in the mirror (and by looked I mean naked. full on. no bullshit). The sense of freedom was intoxicating!

So if you are working on your self-image, on your judgements, on being comfortable in your own skin, I challenge you to uncover your fat narrative. Call it out for what it is -- a cultural conditioning that no longer serves you and in fact keeps you down but one that you replay everyday on yourself and other women.

Does this mean I will stay at the weight I am now? Dunno. Doesn't matter.

What I do know is that I now love and respect my body more than I ever have and commit to listening to what it tells me.  Maybe that way I can mute the harangues of a culture obsessed with fat. Maybe that way there won't ever be a "new fat" in my beliefs ever again.

If you are interested in the wellness services I offer, check out my website at https://newwellnessperspective.com 

Frustration and Its Purpose

Recently, I have had what could only be defined as a super frustrating set of events happen. 

Traveling to a couple of events that I had long planned for with my three dogs,my the motorhome broke down, far from home, in a town where I knew no one. 

Luckily I managed to coast the vehicle to a safe off-road place where the whizzing traffic of an adjacent highway blew by without harm and right in the town I had only meant to pass through. 

Now, because I am a planner, I had roadside coverage that got me taken to a mechanics shop fairly quickly. But this is where the frustration truly began. 

It wasn't an easy fix. In fact, it wasn't an easy diagnosis. The first shop thought it had it sorted, two parts and 36 hours later it still wasn't fixed. 

The countdown timer to the start of my events was already underway and rapidly approaching. I felt that ticking like I felt my heart beating. 

I started working all of my stress reducing skills – meditation, using my oils for calming and release, morning and evening gratitude sessions, sifting carefully through my thoughts and feelings looking for a vibration that could have called this frustrating abundance in to me.

I know my cortisol levels (our stress hormone) was likely WAY higher that was healthy and I was very conscious of what I ate, drank, and craved. I upped my supplements of Vitamin B and C to help with the impact of all this cortisol. I increased my NingXia Red intake to ensure the antioxidants were as high as the stress. 

I knew this was a good test of my ability to manage when things quickly spiraled out of my personal control. The lesson of “heal thyself” was not lost on me. My response to this situation could make or break my health –and the choice is ENTIRELY mine. 

The second tow truck driver, now towing me, the dogs and the motor home to a larger city, was very pleasant and we happily chatted for the 2 1/2 hour drive. I kept thinking to myself “I must have been meant to meet this man and have these fun conversations about Hawaii, all things pandemic, and some just general life chats.”

In the bigger centre, I was rescued by my lovely sister-in-law, who lives there. She happily took me and the dogs in even though she is not and has never been a “dog person”. She helped me keep focused and went walking with me when nothing else worked for the stress. The walks through the meadow with her and three dogs really physically worked our some of the residual stress that just lingered like a weight belt. It truly was soul-soothing. 

During my time with her, we discovered many many similarities, A love of watching a movie with popcorn.  A joy in walking in nature. Every book we had read that we loved we shared. We talked some about family but mostly we just reveled in being together. 

If she was stressed about her house invaded by three big dogs and a one-night layover turned into seven, she never let on. I just kept thinking about guests and fish and when my three days were up, I was very self-conscious about smelling. 

The final shop the motor home was towed to was full of good people. They truly felt sorry for me, now that my event was definitely scrubbed and I was effectively stranded 1000 km from home. They were short staffed because of summer vacations but they crammed my mystery issues in amongst their regulars and finally fixed it up enough for me to make my way home.

The whole way home I pondered the meaning of my frustration. And I came up with a couple of points.

First, I had to practice and practice all the stress reducing, sanity saving exercise that I teach to students every day. I gained a new sense of gratitude for their nearly immediate impact on my physical and mental well being. I realized that every plan can go sideways no matter how well designed it is and that you sometimes just have to give over your plan on the fly and be OK with the outcome. 

But mostly I learned that human beings are not independent. We cannot function or survive independent of other human beings. 

We are an inter-dependent species who have crafted a life so complicated and complex that we MUST find our way with the support of others. We cannot do it alone. 

This time of our existence we are faced with the most frustrations I have ever seen. It doesn't matter what plans you have, we know there is a HUGE amount of uncertainly and issues outside of our control. 

Some people respond by becoming hostile, by generating mass mistrust based on fear and frustration, and they are polluting the already stressed world with such a toxic response that the only response can be one of distancing from them. 

Frustration is an emotion that signals to us that we have become disconnected from our natural state of interconnectedness. It is a signpost that we have taken a wrong turn and when that turn leads us to hostility it tells us we have run right off the road..

Maybe it is time to reflect on the message your frustration is bringing you. There are ways of using that energy to bring you to an new awareness of life and develop some stronger connections. 

If you find yourself unable to shake the frustration feeling, it is time to talk to someone about it and root out the real reason you cannot shift. 

Is Your Intuition Really a Seven Year Old Child?

Is Your Intuition Really a Seven Year Old Child?

Disclaimer: Please seek professional supports if you know you have a history of trauma in your childhood. This activity could bring up very strong emotions and reactions so please monitor your well-being. If you have had or are currently undergoing therapy, please discuss this exercise with your therapist before beginning. I am not a therapist and am using this exercise only to excavate and reframe deep mindset issues that may be holding you back. 

"What is your gut telling you?"

 "Go with your gut" 

"Follow your intuition" 

How many times have you said this to someone or told yourself this? Accessing your intuition or going with your gut can be a great values-based way of making a decision or determining a course of action. 

But what if your gut feeling is based on narratives that were developed when you were a child and really are no longer serving you well?

Maybe you noticed that sometimes your gut isn't leading you in the right direction or not getting you the results that you desire? That it might be a bit reactive, a bit pissy, a bit juvenile? Sounds like it is time to reflect on some of the key narratives you have about life to see if those narratives are your inner seven-year-old talking back.

Bruce H. Lipton, PhD, gives a great overview of the massive brain development in children from 0-7 years old and states:

"A child’s perceptions of the world are directly downloaded into the subconscious during this time, without discrimination and without filters of the analytical self-conscious mind which doesn’t fully exist. Consequently, our fundamental perceptions about life and our role in it are learned without our having the capacity to choose or reject those beliefs. We were simply programmed..........The problem is that we download our perceptions and beliefs about life years before we acquire the ability for critical thinking.    


So, basically, the thoughts and perceptions we have taken in, unfiltered, by seven years of age form our world view – our “gut”. We do, of course, add to that over time with new experiences, lessons and interactions – but all of these are framed by that seven year old world view. The lens we use is set and our understanding of experiences is rooted there.

There is a way to begin to excavate those long held and well covered up belief systems. It takes some effort and some courage but you can do it!

Grab some paper and a pen. Find a quiet place where you can be undisturbed for a period of time – maybe a half hour, maybe 10 minutes, at least start the process. 

Sit quietly and tell yourself “I want to talk to my youngest self. It will be ok. I am safe.” Then think back to the very earliest memory you can remember. Think hard and go far back if you can. It may only be glimpses and shadows, but focus on it. Can you remember where it was? Can you remember how it smelled then, how warm or cold it was, who else was there? Maybe you can even remember where it was.  What was the experience you can remember. Write it down. Write down everything. See if you can tap into your physical feelings, your mental feelings, your senses. Try to as stay detached – like you are watching this like a movie. 

Then write down any words that come to your mind. These words can be important to understanding what you tell yourself subconsciously when you are accessing your intuition or your gut reaction. Remember any conversations that happened and who they happened with. 

Write for as long as you can see the memory, it may fade in and out but keep going. Monitor your breathing and if you find yourself holding your breath, stay in the memory but do a couple of deep and calm breaths. Remind yourself that you are safe. 

Once you feel you have done as much remembering as you can, slowly walk back to the present time. Don't rush, there is no hurry. Just honour that you may want to sit for awhile after you are back in the present to honour the memory and the child who showed it to you. Be grateful for that child and thank her/him. 

When you are ready, start reading what you have written about the memory. Use your adult, critical brained, non-judgmental and honest mind to reflect on any you find. What narratives can you see? Are they ones that you find yourself using in your adult life? Do they provide you with good advice?  Are they narratives that lead to mindsets that promote your success, your happiness, and your wellbeing? Or do they hold you back, keep you afraid, keep you small and powerless? If they are, now is the time to deal with them.

Write those mindsets down so you are not surprised when they surface in your day to day life. Put them in a column on the left-hand side of the page. On the right-hand side, make another column. In that column write down a new mindset to counter the old one. 

Then as you travel through your days, when you find the old mindset escaping, call it out. Catch it in the act of slowing you down, restricting your success, reducing your happiness. Then Cancel that thought. Say it out loud if you have to. Make sure you are consciously aware that you are NOT going to use that again and then Correct it by repeating the positive mindset saying you wrote earlier. This is your magical sword to cut out the negative mindset and replace it with one that serves you, serves the you you want to be. 

This exercise can be completed more than once and have you walk through from your earliest memory to ones at about seven years of age. Repeat the recording and identifying of mindsets, then the Catch, Cancel and Correct process for them with new mindsets that  you want to instill. It takes some time to excavate these deeply held beliefs but the effort can bring a release and a redirection that suits your desired self.

Then, once you are able to replace the old mindset with the new, remind the seven-year-old you that everything is ok and that they don't need to worry about that anymore. 

Give yourself a hug. 

If you enjoyed this post and would like more -- click subscribe to be notified when new posts are up.

Read Older Updates Read Newer Updates