The Plague of a Messy Mind
Sometimes, your brain is a mess. You might be anxious, worried, stressed, or so full of ideas that you can’t focus. It’s a frustrating condition that can lead to even more stress. I find that when my brain is especially restless and haggard, I begin to fall out of my healthy routines and habits. How do you fix this overwhelming sensation? Well, I like to use a method called the brain dump.
What is a Brain Dump?
A brain dump is simply the act of dumping all the contents of your mind onto paper as one might dump the contents of a purse onto a table. You are spilling out stressors, your nagging thoughts, your pesky annoyances. Simply open up a valve in your mind and let all those thoughts flow out of your hand and onto some paper. Write until you feel like the pressure inside of you is lessened and you can take a deep breath. Then you will have achieved a brain dump.
Why it Works
You might think this sounds silly. Listing out your problems and anxieties on paper isn’t that big of a deal, right? How can that solve anything?
The reason a brain dump is effective is that it allows you to capture abstract thoughts and make them corporeal. When you’re stressed or overthinking, you have a tornado of thoughts swirling in your head. The winds are whipping, the cows are flying, and nothing is able to be captured. A nagging worry might swing into your conscious for a moment, then a different thought, then a different thought. Eventually, the first nagging worry will swing by again, and it will continue to do so unless you pin it down. Trying to capture these thoughts with no tool is like trying to catch smoke with your hands. It’s impossible.
But if you turn to paper, you can nail things down in absolutes. Once you write something down, it can’t leave. It can’t take another cycle in the brain tornado to haunt you again – it’s right there on the paper, right where you left it. So you can work through all your thoughts and pin them down one by one. You can stop chasing after half-formed ideas and put them in the inescapable form of the written word.
What to Write in Your Brain Dump
Okay, so the brain dump works. But how do you know what to write when you sit down with your pen in hand? You can write specific to-dos that you have been meaning to deal with, like:
- Replant the wilting succulent
- Practice my hand lettering
- Gather addresses for Christmas cards
- Work on that looming paper
- Take the leftovers for work tomorrow
However, your brain dump doesn’t have to be so task oriented. You can just as easily write down something on your mind with no particular action plan, such as:
- Upcoming Las Vegas trip
- Camping and hiking
- My coworker Cindy
If it’s something that bugs you on a regular basis, then it can go on the brain dump.
The Next Step
When you have written a brain dump and you feel satisfied with your work, you have a few options for your next step. You can look at your list, identify what is stressing you out, and make definitive plans to tackle those problems. That’s always a good option! In fact, if you want to explore a particular problem deeper, you can always use a List of 100 to further analyze a subject. Where a brain dump is a shotgun blast, the List of 100 is a sniper. It allows you to work with one particular theme and delve into your subconscious in a truly unique way.
While making a plan and taking action is a solid next step, it isn’t the only one. You can always set down your pen and walk away. Sometimes, you don’t need to do anything in particular. You may feel like you should take action, that you need to go go go! However, there are moments where you simply need to acknowledge your problems and then take care of yourself. A brain dump is a way to take care of your own mental health by letting it serve as a sort of pressure valve. It’s a good way to reduce stress and clear your mind so you can take a bath in peace.
Untangle Your Brain
The next time you start to feel yourself getting overwhelmed with too much brain activity, pull out your favorite pen and settle in for a brain dump. It doesn’t take long, but it can go a long way in helping you tackle your problems, relax your mind, and take care of yourself. This regular maintenance is as important as cleaning – once you’ve emptied your brain of these pesky problems, you make room for new ideas and thoughts to take root. So go ahead – take out your brain and give it a good shake with a brain dump!