I don't think I have insomnia so much as my brain just doesn't want to shut off for the night. Like my laptop, it has 7,494 tabs open that MUST BE ADDRESSED RIGHT NOW. Sigh. Not to mention the other hundred things you know you must get to at some point but just can't find the time. Sound like you? You're not alone!
It can be SO overwhelming and sometimes even paralyzing to the point where you don’t do anything at all. When I feel like I have too many things to do, the only thing that makes me feel better is to do a thorough brain dump where I write ALL THE THINGS down. And while this doesn't help everybody - seeing all those pages of writing can be ever more overwhelming - the minute I feel anxious or overwhelmed and start a brain dump I feel better!
So... what even is a brain dump?
Pretty much what it sounds like! Not literally dumping your brain (or its fluids) out but taking a writing utensil to a piece of paper and writing down every thought that crosses your mind. I sometimes type mine if I have a lot to say, but find writing can be more therapeutic. Why does it help? It makes you face yourself- literally! You're writing down every worry, question, feeling, chore, etc. so you can a) remember them and not suddenly go into panic mode for forgetting something and b) so it's out of your brain!
When do you do a brain dump?
Everyone is a little different, but I find most brain dumps happen when people procrastinate (guilty) until things get a bit too overwhelming OR if they have too much on their plate (also guilty). I feel like certain stressors - like paying bills, having a packed schedule, being unorganised - or events can be what causes everyone to sort of 'crack' and want to run away from their problems and responsibilities instead of facing them. Trust me, I've been there before!
In fact, I've written down some of my 'triggers' that make me feel anxious or overwhelmed. Noticing a pattern can be a powerful tool top help you be more self-aware, which is always a good thing in my opinion.
What my brain dumps look like
How you go about brain-dumping is all up to YOU. It can be as simple as writing things out before bedtime or having categories and then writing stuff down.
I personally keep a journal on my bedside table so I can write the random thoughts swirling around in my head before I go to sleep. Why not my phone? I know me - I'll be too tempted to check my emails, scroll through social media, etc. - and would rather not tempt myself. Usually just writing these thoughts down can calm me enough to go to sleep (or if not, hello melatonin) but when life feels really out of control, I have to be a little extra with my brain dumps. Cover everything you need to do, should do, have thought about doing, should think about doing, want to do, you get the idea here! Write it all down. Let yourself be random and unorganized. And then? Do something else.
"Wait, what?" You heard me. Step away from the brain dump paper and take a minute or two to do something else to get your brain off of it for a bit. If you think of new things? Add it to the “I’ll do it later or think about it later" portion of your list.
The next day, I add some order (and color coding) to my mess. I grab a fresh page and create categories (such as "Personal," "Finances," "Work," "Podcast," etc.) that coordinate with a certain color. From there, I have sub-titles such as "MUST DO," "Important but not urgent," etc. I don't start my brain dumps this organised because have you ever seen an organised dump? Not I! The first go-round is just getting everything out... worry about tidying it up later.
I did the brain dump... now what?
Shortly after your brain dump, after you have organized your list and prioritized what things MUST be done... well, then actually handle things and start crossing them off!
I like to do some easy things right off the bat, as they are usually “easy wins” and things that I can just get out of my head and move on to the next.... whatever. Often this has to do with doing a load of laundry, vacuuming/mopping our floors, sending a letter to a friend to check up on them, emailing someone back, etc.
What if I can't do everything in one day?
Nobody expects you to! Put them down in your calendar so you WILL carve out time and space in your life to address whatever it is. Don't try to get everything done in one way - that is a surefire way to overwhelm yourself, and that is the opposite of what this exercise is about.
Do any of you do a form of brain dumping? What does your technique look like?
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Hi! I'm Melissa, an Australian-based Latina science educator, podcaster, and freelance writer. I spend a lot more time on Instagram and Twitter, but blogging is my first love. Thanks for stopping by — I hope you stay a while.
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