Could you use a 'brain dump'?

If you sometimes feel anxious, have racing thoughts or tend to overthink things, then you might benefit from a technique known as ‘brain dumping’.

The fast-paced nature of today’s world and its myriad pressures and distractions often has our minds racing, trying to focus on 10 different things at once.

It’s no surprise then, that all these stimuli can lead to anxiety. It’s important to take time to deal with these feelings, even though it might feel impossible at times.

One way to tackle stress is the mindfulness technique called a brain dump.

Essentially, a brain dump involves writing a list of all the thoughts, worries, fears, doubts or any other tasks you need to complete.

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Seeing all your stresses laid out works to declutter your thoughts, and helps you clarify exactly what is worrying you.

People usually get the most benefit from doing brain dumps either first thing in the morning, or at the end of the day before bed.

In the morning, the practice can help improve focus by reducing distractions. At night, brain dumps can help calm your thoughts and wind your brain down so you can sleep.

If you don’t want to do it every day, there is still benefit in doing it weekly or even monthly.

“It can relieve a lot of anxiety, especially for people who constantly have racing thoughts or ruminations or people who tend to overthink things,” psychologist Dr Marsha Brown told Business Insider Australia.

“It takes those thoughts from their head so that they’re not constantly bouncing around in there and it puts them somewhere, so they know they’re not going to forget, that it’s written down somewhere, and that it can be taken care of later.”

Read: Could you have pandemic PTSD?

The four-square method

While it can be useful to simply write a list of your stresses, some people need a more organised method to really understand what is bothering them. This is where the ‘four-square’ brain dump method comes in.

This involves setting out four categories to be completed in order: thoughts, to-do, gratitude and your top three priorities.

The thoughts category is for the most raw and unorganised worries you might have. Don’t think too much about these, just write down the most immediate concerns that come to mind.

Under ‘to-do’ you are looking to record all the unfinished tasks you currently have, both in your work and personal life.

Read: Why we wake at 3am and dwell on our fears

You’ll probably find some of thoughts you put in the first category also come up here. This can really help to reinforce the task’s importance and reduce procrastination.

After completing the first two categories, you’ll probably feel even more stressed in the moment. The gratitude category helps to calm you and steel your resolve by reminding you of the positive things in your life.

Try to get down three to five positive things that you’re grateful for; whether it’s your friends and family, your home, your health or even just your morning coffee.

Finally, from the to-do list you’ve made, select three tasks that absolutely must be completed today. Tasks that also appear in the first thoughts list make good candidates for this list.

Having categories to think of, and an ordered process in which to deal with them, can help you draw out your concerns more effectively.

Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed and anxious? Do you think you could benefit from a brain dump? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by Brad Lockyer