Friday, July 22, 2016

Thinking about Overthinking

My Thoughts on Overthinking…

Today I saw two different messages on Facebook warning people of the dangers of overthinking, which got me thinking… is overthinking such a bad thing? As a chronic overthinker, I was a little offended at first. I mean, don’t we make better decisions when we have thoroughly examined all the pros and cons? Isn’t “UNDERthinking” a far greater problem in this world? People who go through life at a breakneck pace, never stopping to think of consequences or laze around and never focus on what they want out of life are surely at a greater risk of harm or unhappiness than those of us who think things to death? Of course the solution is finding that happy medium of just the appropriate amount of thinking! But how do we get there and what leads us to overthink in the first place?

Several months ago I had “Monkey Brain” least that’s what my good friend, Camille, told me I was suffering from. At first I pictured this rabid monkey on my head clutching so hard that he reached by brain and wouldn’t let go (it's kind of what it felt like). She laughed and explained that it's more like you have a little monkey in your head constantly swinging from vine to vine, or from one thought to another to another to another to another, and that little sucker never stops for a nap and never lets you get any rest! It is a living torment, and if you’ve experienced it, you know what I mean. Another way of looking at it is “black and white thinking” and it usually stems from trauma that you have experienced. Your mind is caught in this never ending struggle of putting multi-colored experiences, traumas, or thoughts into one of two boxes, the black box or the white box. These boxes could also be labeled “it’s my fault or it’s their fault” or “what I did or what I should have done” or “my life the way I want it to be or the way my life is going to be now.” It’s a vicious cycle because the things don’t fit in the boxes but we try and try! Sometimes I find myself searching for a simple, clear sentence that can sum up, explain and prevent another super complicated event, or series of events, or traumas. Oh man, If I could somehow harness all of the energy I have spent in trying to write one of these magical sentences, I could have put a man on Mars for sure! Yet I do it because I need closure so I can let it rest. The frustrating thing is, even if I could sum in all up perfectly, that would never protect me from future harm or sorrow anyways, the world just doesn’t work that way. The point is, life isn’t simple, things aren’t black and white and they never will be. What you have to be willing and able to do is to smear all the colors together into a big colorful, imperfect mess, and hand it over to God, to the universe or to someone smarter than you and let them carry it for a little while, while you find some much needed peace! For some people it is not that easy. Not for me, but I am getting much better!

For me the secrets to kicking that monkey out of my skull have been pretty straight-forward and so crucial to finding peace. Number one is getting outside help for what is tormenting your brain. Sometimes we find ourselves isolated in our own worlds thinking that we are the only one suffering through trauma or just the difficulties of life, especially when we see other people’s highlight reels online and we can only see our struggles. It makes me so sad to think how long clutched onto my secrets that only began to heal when I let others help me shed light on them. Really good friends, family and qualified, inspired counselors are absolute life-savers. I am not at all ashamed to say that several counselors have opened my eyes and brought me peace over the years. Sometimes I will bring a list of questions to my counselor and dare her to answer them! Sometimes my question is simple, am I crazy?! As a teenager and again as a young mom, I dealt with bulimia, which was basically obsessing and overthinking about every inch of my body and food and how my carefully constructed world would likely fall apart if I wasn't seen as skinny and “perfect” anymore. I was so concerned about gaining weight, yet I was unable to starve myself like an anorexic and so I fell into the addiction of purging my food. Finally, in 2003 I could tell it was wrecking my life, my body and my relationships so I started really opening up about it. Talking to other people and letting them see that monkey swinging around in my head was one of the greatest steps towards recovery. They show me things I never had considered because my mind wasn’t working in healthy ways at the time! They were just the geniuses I needed. Thank God for them!

During that time, and again now, I also am utilizing another tool. It is anti-anxiety medication. I know it’s sometimes embarrassing for people to admit, but I am telling you, the first time I took it to help me overcome bulimia, it was heaven sent. My brain just settled down just enough to let the counseling, the love, the prayers and the Spirit, work in my heart and mind long enough for me to create new habits and break old ones. FINALLY! It felt like the first bit of peace I had felt in years even though I had been to counseling, I had been to bishop and was working with my husband to get better. Recently a series of traumatic events caught me up in that same tortured cycle of trying to figure out massively complicated quatum physics formulas, with a scratch paper, pencil and a bachelor's degree in "general studies." It wasn’t going to work, and it’s not my job to understand it all in the first place. My injured brain needed a little cushion so I could find the answers and the peace that was available. My brain needed something it wasn’t getting in order to bridge that gap and quiet down the anxiety. That’s what it really boils down to… anxiety.

Overthinking is also a product of anxiety. A pathological worry that we haven’t figured things out and until we do, we are screwing up our lives or other people’s lives. So if we can just think of that perfect answer, put things in their perfect boxes, our problems will be solved. But they won’t be solved so easily and they won’t fit in the boxes and still, somehow everything will still be okay. When I start getting frustrated that I haven’t figured things out, or when that feeling of darkness and dread creep into my mind and stomach, that the future is so uncertain or even dreadful, my counselor reminds me to stay in today. “Stay in today, Sarah.” I don’t get to see the last chapters of my life yet, to see if things work out, or how they work out, but I do get to go home to sweet kids, dogs and husband who love me, even though all of us are far from perfect. I do get to spend time making pretty art. I do get to love and serve those around me in anyway I choose! I am healthy and I have overcome many things and still can. I do have strong faith. Will things work out the way I want them to? Most likely not. Does God hold me in his hand and help me when I reach out to him? Absolutely. He has taught me all the things I have written about today and he will continue to teach me… and hopefully I can share that with you too! Everything is going to be okay. Overthink about THAT!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015



Our Tree of Life Challenge has come to an end...Sniff sniff. Thanks again for giving your time and effort into the fun and unique adventure! Thanks to everyone for filling out the survey! GREAT JOB with finishing out the challenge with good points! We had half of the group (that filled out the survey) in the thirties and several with high thirties!!! WOOT WOOT!! I appreciate all your kind words and your input! YOU ARE WELCOME!! I loved running this!!  

It was REALLY fun to see which challenges were your favorites and least favorites etc! Please check out the results at the end of the email...

IF YOU ARE CONTEMPLATING RUNNING THIS CHALLENGE for your friends... PLEASE REPLY to this email and let's set up a time to get together in person or on the phone and I will teach you how to do the surveys etc. It's not too hard to learn but someone taught me and I'd be happy to show you how. I really hope some of you will take this challenge and spread it to your friends, who will then share it with their friends and we can touch thousands of lives! PLEASE CONSIDER IT! You can make it your own and YOU WILL LOVE IT!!

I finished my tree of life art project yesterday and I'm super happy how it turned out even though it was stressing me out! Haha! The path is lined with the scriptures (from 1st Nephi 8:10,11) from Lehi's dream that inspired this whole challenge, and inspire me daily. The birds represent my many prayers I send to Heavenly Father, and the Holy Ghost. The bird in the tree represents my little sister, Liza, who is always close by me and loves to reside in trees. ;) And the little girl is the little girl in myself that I discovered along my path. On her dress is a tree that has grown in her heart, which represents what I learned in the temple on the first week of the challenge, that we can plant the seed in our hearts and have our own tree of life within us, if we will nourish it with faith in Christ and never give up! Of course the Tree is the love of God, which is our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the flowers are the blessings of the atonement, which are many! 

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Two Michelles shared their art with me this week. Michelle Steen shared this photo of a tree at sunrise that she took years ago. It is so incredibly majestic! I love it! Here is what she said about it. 

The photo is one from a few years ago. It is my favorite tree in the world. I used to look at this tree as a child and feel something move within me. It connected me to everything. I would look for it every day when I got up, when I returned home from school, when I needed a connection. I continued to do that throughout my adulthood even after I moved away from "home." Unfortunately this tree no longer exists in the world. Someone decided that a tree in the middle of a large field was not good for their farm... But I keep the photo to remind me of that connection and that centered feeling I got when I would see the tree. I have plans for the photo... A montage of other photos of trees that I have seen that have affected me and reminded me of our great Creator. It hasn't come together yet, but I am working on it.- Michelle Steen

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The other Michelle (Budge) texted me this picture that she drew. It's a tree she always drew as a child, and it reminds her of being that sweet little girl. So for the project she drew her special little tree again and put, what I think is the perfect quote in the tree. She's going to frame this and put it on her desk to remind herself of her childhood and of this challenge and all that she learned!

Thanks Michelles!! :)

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I REALLY RELLY hope that more of you will send me your projects to share as you finish them!! THANKS SO MUCH!!


I loved that I finished reading the Book of Mormon this week. It was very fitting for our challenge to end on Moroni 10. I have such a respect and love for Moroni. He is an example of enduring to the end, remaining faithful to the end, all alone. Just think if we didn't have the book of Moroni included in the Book of Mormon. He shared the sacramental prayers, how to love and care of the members of our wards, wonderful discourse on faith, hope and charity, the correct way to righteously judge, review of the gifts of the Spirit we each possess, the formula of how to know the truthfulness of the things of God, and especially a beautiful, personal invitation to each of us to "Come unto Christ and be perfected in Him". I am grateful for this challenge and the refining process it has been in my life. I feel Heavenly Father's love for me. – Lachelle Hull

This has been an amazing experience- I have loved every bit of it!!- Camille Smith

April 28, 2015. Sarah’s Tree of Life Challenge ended yesterday, and it has been a great three months. I finished my art project which is a poem and a collage of my “ah ha” moments. There was one moment of realization that I didn’t include in the project, because I am somewhat embarrassed by it. It is actually a little humorous to me because of a human reaction I had. It is important to know that I am always wishing I were more motivated to keep better order in my home, and not collect stacks of papers and projects; I often pray about this. So following the week where we focused on de-cluttering, I eventually came to grips with the fact that I needed to do this right, and found specific helpful encouragement from Sarah and others, including Cindy Seipert. And here is my admission: I actually wondered why Heavenly Father hadn’t answered my prayer and given me the desire to work on this; and now I’m being spurred on by my daughter through this Tree of Life Challenge. Then it hit me that Heavenly Father was helping me and answering my prayers, but it was through Sarah and the Challenge. Duh! I had to laugh at myself, and immediately thought of the story many have heard about the man who was climbing a mountain—or maybe he was sliding off a cliff—and found himself in peril. He prayed fervently to God for some kind of help. All of a sudden he found a branch to cling to. He then told God to never mind, because he had found a branch and was safe. Funny, huh. And now as I have been thinking about this story, I am smiling again as I see my branch coming from the Tree of Life. – Mary Anne Koski

This was a great and rewarding challenge! Thank you Sarah!!! I also enjoyed all that was shared by the group and for all of your wonderful examples!- Cindy Sorensen

I found another scripture this week about the tree of life in Alma 33:32 
"And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts, an das it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, slinging up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen"  I love how he says "if ye will." It is really just up to us! Simple as that. Do we want these blessing of our burdens being light? Then there are things we can do to help, through our faith and through Christ. YES! – Sarah Crawford


I loved this Challenge even thou I have failed miserably at it. It has been an eye opener & confirmed that EVERY time I start down a 'Spiritual Journey' I am forever bombarded with obstacles, restraints, road blocks that get in my way...& this was no different. However; I am determined to not allow it to distract or take me down - I will continue to press forward & complete my "Tree of Life" project it's just gonna take a little longer than expected!! – Tave Udall

I am still working on the project. I wanted to have it completed by this week. However, just as life is, I am learning to be flexible in my plans. It seems I keep finding more items I want to add. I will complete the project soon.- Lachelle Hull

Haven 't done it yet but still planning on it!- Camille Smith

Still working on it, its going to be more of a summer project since this wedding season is killing any free time I have. But I am excited to have something as a reminder to look at everyday!- Trellany Udall

When I went to England, I started taking pictures of trees. I was drawn to their beauty, shape, character and majestic height. In the back of my mind, I wanted to create a slide show for my family. My Tree of Life project is this slide show. 
Since I am currently serving in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, I am going to incorporate the importance of strong roots. I feel that my great family heritage, my roots, have given me the strength to grow tall and straight and to send out branches, my children and my twiglets, my grandchildren to create a beautiful tree. A tree that brings forth good fruit to share with all we meet. A tree that shelters others from the storms of life. A tree that receives it's light, life and refreshing water daily from a loving Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ and gentle promptings from the Holy Ghost. I am so grateful I could participate in this glorious experience. Thank you Sarah for following the Spirit and putting it all together!- Sharilyn Wilson

I must say that I did enjoy doing it. It was helpful to do it in steps.- Mary Anne Koski

I have not finished The Tree of Life art project, what I did start I did not like so I am starting over. I do plan on make a art project but I know now that is will take a lot more effort, my commitment, and it will take more time! I think I have learned because I have have not completed the art project that life can be very hard but that doesn't mean you give up or quit. You keep on trying until it becomes easier, until you know what works best for you! I know I had 12 weeks to work on the art project not just this one week, but I did not make it a priority. I believe that being a disciple of Christ take a great wiliness to do all that is required and brings joy when we put forth our greatest efforts. So I do have hope that I can make this art project happen.- Cindy Sorensen

THOUGHTS ON MYSTERY CHALLENGE: (make a plan on how to continue your new positive habits)

I am going to try to keep on keeping on. I still have a lot of work to do.- Michelle Steen

I prepared a "vision board" following a presentation by Joyce Brinton a couple of years ago. I have updated that to include some statements about changes I am making. Mary Anne Koski  (note to self… I need to find out more about this “vision board" my mom mentioned!)

My plans are to keep working on the daily goals, to improve on the weekly challenges and to be able to make each of them part of my weekly goals. And to apply the mystery challenges as often as possible in my daily life.- Cindy Sorensen

My plan is to act as though I am still doing the challenge every day. My painting will help me remember and I might even make up a new chart to track my progress.- Sarah Crawford

Good news!! My sweet mom found the talk I was looking for about the joy that comes from CREATING! Here is my favorite part of it. But the link to the whole talk is below. I highly recommend!  (more results are after the talk)!!

The Work of Creation

The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.
Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.
Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty—and I am not talking about the process of cleaning the rooms of your teenage children.
You might say, “I’m not the creative type. When I sing, I’m always half a tone above or below the note. I cannot draw a line without a ruler. And the only practical use for my homemade bread is as a paperweight or as a doorstop.”
If that is how you feel, think again, and remember that you are spirit daughters of the most creative Being in the universe. Isn’t it remarkable to think that your very spirits are fashioned by an endlessly creative and eternally compassionate God? Think about it—your spirit body is a masterpiece, created with a beauty, function, and capacity beyond imagination.
But to what end were we created? We were created with the express purpose and potential of experiencing a fulness of joy. 4 Our birthright—and the purpose of our great voyage on this earth—is to seek and experience eternal happiness. One of the ways we find this is by creating things.
If you are a mother, you participate with God in His work of creation—not only by providing physical bodies for your children but also by teaching and nurturing them. If you are not a mother now, the creative talents you develop will prepare you for that day, in this life or the next.
You may think you don’t have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us. 5 The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and do not require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano. Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before—colorful gardens, harmonious homes, familymemories, flowing laughter.
What you create doesn’t have to be perfect. So what if the eggs are greasy or the toast is burned? Don’t let fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you—whether that voice comes from the outside or the inside.
If you still feel incapable of creating, start small. Try to see how many smiles you can create, write a letter of appreciation, learn a new skill, identify a space and beautify it.
Nearly a century and a half ago, President Brigham Young spoke to the Saints of his day. “There is a great work for the Saints to do,” he said. “Progress, and improve upon and make beautiful everything around you. Cultivate the earth, and cultivate your minds. Build cities, adorn your habitations, make gardens, orchards, and vineyards, and render the earth so pleasant that when you look upon your labors you may do so with pleasure, and that angels may delight to come and visit your beautiful locations. In the mean time continually seek to adorn your minds with all the graces of the Spirit of Christ.” 6
The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create. That is your opportunity in this life and your destiny in the life to come. Sisters, trust and rely on the Spirit. As you take the normal opportunities of your daily life and create something of beauty and helpfulness, you improve not only the world around you but also the world within you.

Is your life going to be different (improved) now after doing this entire challenge?

YES! I've tried several new things that brought me closer to the Lord1213.3%
Yes, a little. I learned something...88.9%
It might be different, but not really in a good way.00%
It will be pretty much the same.00%

If you didn't join us very often on the challenge, please let me know why

Too busy!562.5%
Not really what I thought it was going to be112.5%
Too much reading00%
Too churchy00%
Too boring00%
Too much pressure00%
Just didn't find it interesting00%
Don't really need someone to motivate me to do things00%

Which WEEKLY CHALLENGE do you think is the MOST VITAL of all the 12 weeks to get to the TREE?

Focus on PRAYER420%
DECLUTTER your life210%
Look back into your CHILDHOOD00%
Feel God's love through NATURE15%
Learn about your ANCESTORS15%
Feel God's love through MUSIC15%
Focus on the SCRIPTURES420%
Focus on the SAVIOR525%
Write in your JOURNAL15%

Which WEEKLY CHALLENGE gave you the most or best "ah ha" moments?

Focus on PRAYER630%
DECLUTTER your life15%
Look back into your CHILDHOOD15%
Feel God's love through NATURE00%
Learn about your ANCESTORS210%
Feel God's love through MUSIC15%
Focus on the SCRIPTURES210%
Focus on the SAVIOR315%
Write in your JOURNAL210%

What was your favorite NEW things that you tried of all the 12 weeks? 

Focus on PRAYER00%
DECLUTTER your life15%
Look back into your CHILDHOOD420%
Feel God's love through NATURE735%
Learn about your ANCESTORS15%
Feel God's love through MUSIC210%
Focus on the SCRIPTURES315%
Focus on the SAVIOR00%
Write in your JOURNAL00%

Which MYSTERY CHALLENGE was your favorite? 

Get a SMALL NOTEBOOK or journal for "ah ha" moments15%
Enjoy an activity from your CHILDHOOD315%
Write a LETTER (or email) to a friend15%
Have a TEMPLE experience15%
Self affirmation in MIRROR15%
Look at and enjoy visual ART15%
Pray to be someone's ANGEL525%
Share your testimony of JESUS CHRIST00%
Group FAST (and prayer)15%
Re-read or listen to a recent GENERAL CONFERENCE TALK210%
Develop a PLAN to STAY ON TRACK with new habits00%

Which MYSTERY CHALLENGE was your least favorite? 

Get a SMALL NOTEBOOK or journal for "ah ha" moments15%
Enjoy an activity from your CHILDHOOD15%
Write a LETTER (or email) to a friend15%
Have a TEMPLE experience00%
Self affirmation in MIRROR1155%
Look at and enjoy visual ART15%
Pray to be someone's ANGEL00%
Share your testimony of JESUS CHRIST00%
Group FAST (and prayer)210%
Re-read or listen to a recent GENERAL CONFERENCE TALK210%
Develop a PLAN to STAY ON TRACK with new habits15%

How hard did you try over the whole 12 weeks of the challenge?

5 - Gave maximum effort every week15%
4 - Gave maximum effort most weeks315%
3 - Gave a good effort most weeks1050%
2 - Gave a little effort most weeks315%
1 - Gave a little effort a few times210%
Didn't really change my behaviors but read the emails15%
Didn't even read emails00%

Looking back, do you think you might have tried harder if we had shared our points with the group?

Yes - That would have been better all around00%
Yes - But it might have changed the feeling of the whole challenge525%
No - It wouldn't have affected how much work I did.1365%
No - It would have made me not want to do the challenge.15%
Not sure15%

Lots of love! PLEASE STAY IN TOUCH!!