By Siew Ching

When your mind starts taking you in circles, it’s time for a brain decluttering. Here’s how you can do it.

Are you having one of those days where you feel like everything is caving in on you all at once? Welcome to today’s world where you are constantly bombarded with things to do, places to go, people to meet and the list goes on. It’s no wonder why so many of us feel completely overwhelmed with life, not knowing where to start and when all this hustling and juggling will end!

If this is you at the moment – especially now with a brand new year approaching and you wanting to make it even better than the last – you may feel anxious about how to tackle everything all at once. This can cause you to feel stuck, experiencing stress that seems to go in circles around you. Essentially, your brain is a mess – and we don’t blame you, when you’re trying to do it all!

Unfortunately, when the brain is a mess, your life can be messy too. You feel restless, fall out of your usual habits, and oftentimes find yourself just sitting there staring at your screen or paper trying to get something done but can’t (who can when the brain is thinking about 101 other things!)

How do you fix this overwhelming sensation? Enter the brain dump.

Literally, the brain dump exercise is simply the act of dumping everything from your mind onto a blank page as you would when you dump the contents of your bag onto a table. You’re writing down everything that is stressing you out, whatever thoughts you have (positive and negative), ideas you might have at the back of your mind somewhere, anything that’s bugging you. Just dump it all out on a piece of paper (or more, that’s ok too!) and let all those thoughts flow out as you write. And you know what, you’ll eventually notice that the more you dump out, the more clarity you’ll feel!

So how does a simple exercise like the brain dump work? It’s effective because first, you are dedicating attention to this exercise when you are writing down your thoughts. This realigns your focus (which is clearly lacking when you have a mental block!) and as you continue with the exercise, the thoughts and ideas that are swirling in your head will become clearer for you to pin down and jot on the paper.

Why can’t you do this mentally? Like close your eyes and think of what’s bugging you? It’s not as effective as the whole act of actually writing things down! The process of brain to pen to paper will ensure that your brain doesn’t do its juggling act again – and that you’re committed to the task on hand. This is what experts called being present and self-awareness, which you’ve probably read a lot about in terms of what it does for mental clarity.

Now we know what you’re thinking: What do I write in my brain dump? Well, literally anything! But for clearer guidance, you could start with the below:

  • If you are feeling stressed at work because of having a lot on your plate, we suggest you make a list of everything you need to get done regardless of priority or urgency. Then go through that list and divide them into two columns – get done now and do it later. Pin that list up at your workplace and tackle them one by one.

  • Have some worries about whether to change jobs or take on a new role at work? Brain dump it! Again, list down what’s nagging you at this point. As you write, you will feel some sense of relief having able to lay it all out. Take that piece of paper, put it away for a day, and don’t think about those worries for a while. The next day, look at it and see if your brain dump has helped you see things clearly.

  • Anything that’s making you stuck! It could be because you have a lot to do on a personal level and work’s getting in the way. Or maybe you have an idea for a new business venture but don’t know whether to start. Perhaps you’re just feeling down at the moment. You know what to do – write it down with no particular action, no specific category, no specific order. The rule is to just dump it all out.

The next time you start to feel like your emotions are overwhelming you and you feel unsettled, take out your favourite pen and start to brain dump! You don’t have to spend a long time doing it so long as the exercise helps you relax your mind. It’s also a good idea to schedule in a brain dump exercise once a month so you can give yourself mental space for new ideas. Go ahead – take your brain and give it a good shake with a brain dump!

Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash.

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