Do you ever feel anxious and stressed because there are too many things on your to do list that you have to get done or too many thoughts circling around in your head. You may notice this more when you are trying to sleep or trying to focus on something. Because of the amount of time we spend online, we consume lots of information regularly. Most of which is useless and only fogs our mind with unnecessary details. If this is the case with you as well, you desperately need to declutter your mind. For this, I prefer to use the brain dump method.
Brain Dump is beneficial when you have an endless chain of thoughts, creating a mental clutter. A chaotic mind leads to more stress and also hampers your decision making abilities. Just as we declutter our home, it’s important to declutter your mind. And this method helps you to process your emotions and let go of things you don’t need to worry about.
What is a Brain Dump?
A brain dump is a simple concept of dumping all your thoughts on a paper to help you work through them. Our thoughts are abstract, writing them down on a paper makes them corporeal. Our mind often perceive things worse than they actually are. So, when we write them down on a paper we realise that certain things that we were worrying about are irrational.
Also, our brain is a problem solver, when we write down our problems, our brain automatically starts creating solutions. Once you’ve emptied your brain by putting down everything that’s bothering you, you make room for new thoughts and ideas. This helps in freeing your mental energy to put towards other important things.
How To Use Brain Dump Method?
You can brain dump about anything that’s stressing you whether it’s a never ending to-do list or a last minute presentation you need to prepare or just some sentiments you’re feeling. The thought of attempting to organise this chaos may be overwhelming for some but it’s necessary. You can do this by working through your thoughts one at a time. Here is how you can brain dump to sort through your mental clutter.
1. Write Down
Grab a pen & paper and start writing down everything that’s on your mind. Don’t think anything’s irrelevant and don’t judge yourself. Even when it doesn’t makes sense, do what feels natural to you. Let your thoughts flow from your mind onto the paper.
Suppose you are stressed out about your never ending to do list, write down everything that you need to do, even the smallest ones because they also block some time.
Or if you are having anxious thoughts write them all down. Most people get uncomfortable with this idea of sitting down with their thoughts. The main problem is that we are too scared to acknowledge our thoughts or even face them. The simple process of writing down your thoughts can help in reducing stress and anxiety – it is a mindfulness exercise.
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2. Use Some Brain Dump Prompts
Double check if you missed out anything. Ask these questions to yourself
– Is their any other task that I need to accomplish?
– Are there any meetings that I have?
– What do I keep forgetting to do?
– Is there something that is annoying or bothering you?
– Are their some goals that you keep putting off?
– Did something go wrong with your day/week ?
Take as much time as you need. Answer these questions honestly so that you don’t leave anything out to bug you later.
Now that you have decluttered your mind, you are ready to analyse your thoughts. Next to each task write down the category that it falls in (like home, work, relationship, health etc). You can have all sorts of different categories. Once you categorized everything, you know which thing is bugging you the most. You will be able to notice some patterns in those thoughts. Example, you get stressed about school because you have a pattern of finishing all your assignments on the last day. Becoming aware of these patterns helps you to avoid them in future.
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Hopefully you already feel less overwhelmed looking at an organised list of tasks. Now you need to prioritise them.
So if you have a long list if tasks that you need to complete, start prioritising them in the following order :
– Today : Tasks that need your immediate attention and need to be completed on priority
– Upcoming : Tasks that need to get done soon, but can wait for a day or two
– Later : Tasks that don’t need attention for a while.
Once you’ve sorted this out, mark the upcoming and later category tasks in your planner so you don’t worry about them or forget about them afterwards.
Now you need to scan the list of things that distress you. Prioritise them on the following basis.
– Things that unnecessary bother you : Sometimes you draw the worst conclusions out of smallest things. Once you analyse these thoughts you realise how silly they are. Cross them out immediately.
– Things that you can change : We all have a habit of worrying about stuff instead of taking necessary actions. Example, you have a presentation tomorrow that you’re worried about. Prioritising it would push you to start preparing for such things.
– Things you need to let go : Asses these emotions, accept them, and let them go. Example, you’re really upset about your partner moving to a different country, and you are drawing the worst conclusions from this. Once you recognise this emotion and the reason behind it, you can accept that there’s nothing you can do about it and let it go for your own happiness.
Now that you have a super organised and categorized overview of things, all you have to do is take action. This is the most important step because without taking appropriate actions, you might just fall back into the spiral after some time. Determine the actions that you need to take for top priority tasks first. Organise them in the your planners (The one I use) or online schedulers (here) that can also push notifications to remind you.
Sometimes, you don’t need to do anything in particular. All you need to do is to acknowledge your thoughts, accept them and then take care of yourself. That itself is enough! Once you’ve completed the brain dump, you’d have more clarity and an organised schedule to get your tasks done.
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There is no right or wrong way to do this. Just keep in mind the following reminders as you go through this process.
• There is no specific time to do this. Do this whenever you feel overwhelmed. Or if you are feeling stuck with a problem.
• If the process gets too overwhelming for you, take a break but do not procrastinate working through your emotions.
• There is no specific time for how long you need to go. You’ll know when you physically start feeling lighter.
• Prefer to do this in a Journal instead of your phone notes.
Next time you notice yourself spiralling in your thoughts without drawing any conclusions, grab a pen and your journal and try out this brain dump process. Let me know in the comments, what do you do to declutter your mind.