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The Recovery Expert
with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.

Using Brain Dumping to Manage Anxiety and “Over Thinking”

There are many coping skills which are helpful for managing anxiety. Brain Dumping is  a step above a coping skill. It is a technique. It involves removing the “over thinking” thoughts from your mind and placing them somewhere else. This can help you live more freely throughout each day as the things that are troubling you are being resolved.

Listed in this article are some brain dumping techniques to help choose from to help you get started on becoming free from the symptoms of anxiety, “over thinking” and “ruminating.”

Brain dumping is an exercise in differentiation. It is similar to cleaning out and organizing a closet.  The reason it will help your anxiety is because part of anxiety is the problem of too much unresolved “clutter” in your mind.  Brain Dumping helps organize this clutter into workable pieces, which are easier to resolve than a jumbled mess.

There are many different approaches to brain dumping and I recommend you pick the approach that works for you. Following are just a few  options of brain dumping; I recommend you pick your own rendition of the method that best fits your needs.

The Basic Brain Dump

This process involves waking up in the morning, getting out your journal or notebook, and writing anything in it that comes to mind. This is a sort of free-floating, free association process of jotting down anything and everything that is in your mind.

The purpose of this exercise is to simply remove the clutter from your mind and placing it outside of yourself. In essence, your brain feels satisfied that the problems are being acknowledged, categorized, and removed.

If you do nothing else with the information other than writing it down, consider this progress. You are helping yourself manage your thoughts in a very practical manner, by removing them from your mind and placing them on paper. This is helping your brain relax because it no longer has to remind you to focus on the issue because you have recognized it.

The Four Square Brain Dump

This involves dividing your page in to four sections by drawing horizontal and vertical lines across a piece of paper. Label each section with the following titles – Thoughts, To Do, Gratitude, Top 3 Priorities.  Here’s how you write in each box:

  • Thoughts – Just write down all your random thoughts without thinking about them too deeply.
  • To Do – Write down all thoughts related to things you need to accomplish.
  • Gratitude – Write down the things you are grateful for.
  • Top 3 Priorities – Go back to your To Do list above and write down the top three things on that list that are most important to you.

You can also use this process to begin taking action on the items in your To Do list.  You could resolve each day to begin tackling items on this list until they are finished and then move on to your next list. Taking action on the items in your To Do list will help reduce procrastination, which is also a contributing factor to anxiety as well as depression.

The End of Week Brain Dump:

  1. Get out a piece of paper and pen.
  2. Write down everything that is on your mind. Think of uncompleted projects and other tasks or problems that are concerning you.
  3. Leave the list on your desk and add to it as new ideas or problems come up. Your list will become very long.
  4. After you make your brain dump list it’s time to process it. First, write your brain dump as a list of problems and activities needed to solve the problems. Prioritize your list of problems to be solved by ranking them in levels of effort to resolve.
  5. Now, pick a day to go through your list and resolve each item on it to the best of your ability. This could be done on the following day in order to prevent yourself from procrastinating and not resolving your problems, which in turn will cause you to rebuild the clutter in your mind and you’ll be back to square one.

An example of how to use this process would be to take the brain dump list you wrote on the end of the week, say, Friday, and then on Monday take one item off your list and begin to tackle it. And then on Tuesday, take another item off your list and tackle it, and so forth. Or, you can just pick one other day of the week to “attack” your To Do list portion of your brain dump.

At the end of the week, repeat.

The Spiritual Brain Dump

This process involves bringing all your concerns to God (your higher power) in your journal. Start by writing down everything that is bothering you in a written prayer to God. Write about each area of your life that is on your mind as a separate section, or bulleted item. Write everything about the problem that is gnawing on your mind.

Once you’ve written everything down, take each item and pray about it and “give it to God.” You can even physically hold your hands open and figuratively release each problem or issue to your higher power. This will help you find peace and feel a sense of resolve regarding the issues that are plaguing you.

This latter technique is definitely a simple one, because all that you have to do is discipline yourself enough to write and then release your problems. This feels very liberating and satisfying because you are not forcing yourself to take more action with the things that are bothering you, rather you are releasing these issues to God or the the Universe, or whatever higher power works for you.

Finally, it is important for you to remember to work with yourself and your own limitations and strengths. Pick any process that works best for you. If you find yourself over-thinking often, you might feel satisfied in having mini brain dumping sessions throughout each day, where you write down your obsessive thoughts and worries as they come, jotting them in a journal to be dealt with at a later time.

This exercise will definitely help your mind feel better because you are telling it that you are taking your problems seriously and they have been written down, which means you won’t be forgetting the. Your brain can stop ruminating because it feels that it’s concerns are being addressed or going to be addressed.

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Sources:

Hamm, T. (November 6, 2015). The Value of an End of the Week “Brain Dump.”  Retrieved from: https://lifehacker.com/the-value-of-an-end-of-the-week-brain-dump-1740776196

McGuire, M. (May 1, 2019). Brain Dumping for the Stressed and Anxious. Received from: https://medium.com/@micahmcg0035/brain-dumping-for-the-stressed-and-anxious-a6f76e6c05c8

Morning Coffee with Dee (Sept. 13, 2018). Brain Dumping for Psychological Self Care. Retrieved from: https://www.morningcoffeewithdee.com/brain-dump-exercise/

Using Brain Dumping to Manage Anxiety and “Over Thinking”


Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at LIfeline Counseling & Education Inc., in Southern California (www.lifelinecounselingservices.org). Lifeline Counseling is a non-profit organization 501(c)(3) corporation. Sharie is also an abusive relationship recovery coach - therecoveryexpert.com

 


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APA Reference
Stines, S. (2020). Using Brain Dumping to Manage Anxiety and “Over Thinking”. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 28, 2020, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/recovery-expert/2020/04/using-brain-dumping-to-manage-anxiety-and-over-thinking/