Being Smart vs Overthinking

Entertainment is a JOB and a CAREER. You may have wanted to get into entertainment because it sounded fun, only to find it is actually tireless WORK, and not fun at all. Well, not really – it CAN be a lot of fun. But fun is a reward. It’s the destination, not the journey. The one thing I learned from being in various entertainment industries is how the projects where everyone is having a great, rockin’ time, are usually the projects that look pretty horrible at the end. The projects where everyone is working their asses off to make sure they are creating a quality product without anyone getting hurt? Those are the projects that are epic in both their satisfaction quotient as well as the reward of knowing that you created something great.

Being comfortable with yourself is part of that equation. Thinking things through makes for amazing results, but overthinking not only makes you uncomfortable, but it translates to the screen, stage, and every other kind of work you do. Not only that, but it can affect your entire being. Be smart, but also keep a good sense of humor and the ability to breathe through the tough times.

The rest of this blog is from the October 2008 issue of Figure magazine, in an article written by Kellye Carter Crocker, titled “Do you think you way to stress? You can affect your health, your mood and your behavior.”:

The problem is that many people don’t know how powerful negative thoughts are, says Karen Klemm, direcot of the Employee Assistance Program at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “It’s the old saying, ‘Life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we react to it,'” she says, “If you believe something is horrible – no matter what the actual circumstances are – it is. We are what we think.”

The Fix

The first step? You need to learn how to recognize your stress-inducing thoughts. Here’s some advice for letting go of some of that stress and making your thinking more realistic:

*Catastrophizing vs focusing on the present. Do you fear the worst? Many of us do. We overestimate the danger, distress about what a future event could cause and underestimate our strength and ability to cope – as well as the willingness of others to help us. “Even if something bad happens, we can usually get through it and be OK,” (Tiffany) O’Meara (Ph.D., a counseling psychologist at the University of California at San Diego) says. Plus, most of what we worry about never happens.

*Shoulds and musts vs. striving for flexibility and gentleness with yourself and others. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with rigid rules: “I should exercise every day,” for example, or, “I must never make a mistake.” Then when something goes awry – and it will – we beat ourselves up. Expect – and accept – that life rarely goes as planned.

* Polarizing vs recognizing the gray areas of life. Perhaps you tend to use all-or-nothing thinking, perceiving people, including yourself, and situtations as 100 percent bad or good, such as “If my child gets into trouble, I’m a terrible mother.” Or “If I don’t get an A on the test, I’ve failed.” Life isn’t always that cut and dried.

* Jumping to conclusions vs sticking to the facts. It’s easy to think negatively about something before having all (or any) information. Someone gives you a strange look, say, and you assume he doesn’t like you. When you do this, gently remind yourself that you just don’t have enough information to make a conclusion and that you’re not a mind reader.

* Personalizing vs looking at a situation objectively. You’re not always to blame for something bad happening, or an issue may not always be related to you. Your partner is quieter than usual, so you figure he’s mad at you. “The truth is, often people are so worried about their own lives and how they’re coming across, they’re not even thinking about you.” O’Meara says. Try not to personalize so much.

* Selective attention vs seeing the big picture. In (a) work presentation scenario, you focus(ed) on your stumble and ignore(ed) the 99percent flawless performance. Strive for assessing the situation objectively instead of magnifying negative details and ignoring the positive. How would you have judged the same presentation by a friend?

* Myopic view vs focusing on what you can control, letting go of the rest. “We tend to get ourselves all riled up about things we can’t control,” O’Meara says. “And you can’t control other people and most everything else.”

* Obsessing over stress vs finding positive stress busters. Does retail therapy make you feel any better than other positive habits such as relaxation exercises, deep breathing, reading, and calling a friend? Probably not, says Klemm. But taking care of the basics – eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising and working on your sense of humor – goes a long way towards easing stress.

* Visualizing the bad vs visualizing your success and practicing positive self-talk. Telling yourself “you can get through this,” “this is going to go well” and “this is going to be a great day” may sound cheesy, O’Meara says, but how often do you do the opposite? And where does that get you?

Change Your Stress, Better Your Body

Just as a sexy fantasy can get you primed for love, stressful thoughts turn on your sympathetic nervous system – specifically the fight-or-flight response, O’Meara says. Cortisol, adrenaline and a stew of other stress hormones flood your body, your breathing revs up, your heart races, your hands tremble.

Chronic stress can lead to all sorts of physical problems, including insomnia, ulcers, fatigue, muscle tension, headaches, gum disease – even acne and wrinkles, O’Meara says. Over time accumulated stress increases blood glucose levels, damages blood vessels and may cause heart problems, she says. Negative thinking also affects mood and behavior, O’Meara says, and can lead to depression, anxiety, irritability and isolation, among other troubles.

“You can change the way you think,” O’Meara says, “but it has to be something you set as a goal and make a conscious effort to do. Otherwise you’ll wake up in the morning and go straight to the default. It’s just like learning a new skill. It takes practice.” (If you have trouble fixing the problem on your own, seek help from a cognitive behavioral therapist who deals with negative thinking styles, she says.)