How to Do a Brain Dump & Clear Your Mind + Worksheet!
Dealing with racing thoughts is the literal worst. As soon as your alarm goes off, you already have so much on your mind. Maybe things are getting busy at work or you’re trying to stay on top of school. You could be going through a transitional period like a big move or job change. Perhaps you are generally feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Thoughts tend to get messy during periods of high stress, but a brain dump worksheet can help!
Because of my anxiety, I deal with racing thoughts on a daily. I’m also a journal lover. If things get stressful, I always revisit my bullet journal. This helps me feel more in control of what’s going on in my life. I even created a section for free writing filled with self discovery journal prompts!
So, what does a brain dump even mean? I asked myself that same question when I found out about the concept. After some research, I realized that I was doing one each time that I wrote in my journal!
How to Do a Brain Dump
1. Pick an outlet.
Do you like to get things down physically on paper? Are you a someone who enjoys using markers and highlighters? Or do you prefer typing everything out on your laptop? Is it more productive to make this exercise an entry in your bullet journal or agenda?
2. Find the perfect spot.
Next, make sure you’re in a quiet and comfortable area. This could your bedroom, home office, or even a cozy spot in your local coffee shop. A calming space is necessary for writing because you’ll be able to think more clearly.
3. Free write until you feel better.
Write what’s on your mind. Remember there is no right way to do a brain dump. Maybe you’d prefer to list ideas on paper as they come or treat this exercise as a diary entry.
Personally, I do a little bit of both. At first, I’ll check in with myself and free write for a few moments. This step helps if I’m feeling emotional and down. Then, I’ll jot down random thoughts like “need to respond to that email” “don’t forget to set up auto pay” or “decide on dinner for tomorrow.”
Don’t worry if your page looks messy. Brain dumps are going to inevitably be messy. It’s important to get everything down in one place before thinking about organization.
4. Take a step back.
When you’re done writing, take a break. Give yourself a little breather, because “brain dumps” can be initially tough to digest. Step away and do something that relaxes you. Personally, I like to read, bake cookies, play the Sims, or watch videos on YouTube. These hobbies are fun and also help to ease my mind!
5. Organize your thoughts.
Finally, it’s time to get organized. After you’ve taken a break, sit down with your writing for a moment. Start a new page in your journal (or other outlet) and divide your writing into various categories. This can be done by sectionalizing everything based on different aspects of your life.
Things that can clutter the mind without you noticing
Many things compete for our attention during the day. There are endless emails, caretaking, errands, or making meals — the list goes on and on. Clearing your mind is crucial to reinvigorate yourself and complete your tasks to the best of your ability.
1. Make a to-do list
Writing down what you need to accomplish will help you stay organized. Doing this lets you “empty your thoughts” on paper, freeing up space in your mind. By writing down, “make a vet appointment,” that thought will no longer pop into your head every few days (or hours).
2. Learn to say no
You can’t always say yes. We have limited time and resources. In fact, according to expert leadership coach Fred Kofman, making a commitment that you can’t keep is far worse (for both parties) than saying no. In work, and life, we have to prioritize and make decisions.
It’s also okay to prioritize your own needs. That’s especially true if you’re feeling rundown or overwhelmed. Saying no will reduce your stress and leave you valuable time for yourself. You can’t help others if you don’t take care of yourself first.
3. Just do it
Don’t put things off. Procrastination only increases your stress and distracts you from other tasks. Delayed tasks can take up space in your head and add guilt. If the task is something unpleasant, try breaking it up into parts, or take frequent breaks.
If you work from home, find a quiet place and close the door. Use settings on your email, phone, and chats to shut off notifications and let others know you are busy for a time. Tell your colleagues you need some uninterrupted space if you work at an office. Establishing boundaries is perfectly healthy.
4. Take a break
Your circadian rhythm , or your body’s internal clock, helps maintain mental fitness and your well-being. Sometimes working when our body doesn’t want to — like late at night, or too early in the morning — just isn’t an option.
But stepping away from what you’re currently working on will help you find space for whatever types of rest you need throughout the day. Plus, it’ll enhance your attention when you return to it. If you’re feeling stuck, try these strategies:
Meditation can help you practice mindfulness and overcome negative feelings. Using apps makes it easy to practice the techniques. If you’re having trouble sleeping, working a meditation practice at the end of your day or your nightly routine will improve your quality of life.
5. Seek help
Ask for help from a colleague, your boss, a friend, or for medical advice from a therapist. Be honest about what you’re experiencing — to yourself, and others, too. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or experiencing burnout , say so. Acknowledging and vocalizing how you’re feeling will ease your mental strain. Cooperation lends new perspectives on a problem and will lighten your load.
Confide In a Loved One
If you’re feeling mentally overloaded, try sharing the burden with a loved one. Whether it be your spouse, a friend, a family member, a therapist, or a life coach, sharing what’s on your mind with someone can be helpful. Unloading your thoughts and feelings can help you gain perspective and clarity, break the cycle of ruminating, and lighten the burden of carrying everything in your head.
According to an article published in the Journal of Neuroscience, if your environment—whether it be your home or office—is cluttered, the chaos constantly competes for your attention and restricts your ability to mentally focus and process information. Whether you realize it or not, having clutter in your surroundings occupies a part of your mind and blocks your ability to think and act clearly. If you want to improve your mental state, you need to organize and clear out physical clutter. Here are eight tips to help you get started.
Last but not least, everyone needs some space to unwind. It doesn’t have to be a week-long vacation, although that is very helpful, but sometimes spending 15 minutes with your feet up or doing something that makes you happy is all you need to hit the reset button.
Let these tips help you to declutter your mind. Remember that the goal isn’t to “empty” your mind—removing every thought, feeling, idea, dream, etc., would be impossible. Instead, it is to help you simplify your life and build new mental habits that increase your productivity, clarity, awareness, organization, and well-being. Next time life throws you a curveball, you’ll have the space and tools to flex your mental muscles.
Doland, E. (2011, March 29). Scientists find physical clutter negatively affects your ability to focus, process information. Retrieved from https://unclutterer.com/2011/03/29/scientists-find-physical-clutter-negatively-affects-your-ability-to-focus-process-information/