Overwhelmed? You Might Need a Brain Dump. 8 Ways to Tell & 4 Types to Try

By Krista


Last Updated: December 22, 2022

“So far, you’ve survived 100% of your worst days. You’re doing great.” — unknown

Our mind can be our best friend and our greatest enemy. And sometimes, life can feel a tad overwhelming. You might find yourself spiraling into a pit of anxiety-inducing thoughts to the point that you can’t really think straight.

Sound familiar?

Well, something called a brain dump might help. In fact, writing out your thoughts can help you not only get rid of them but also organize them in a way that makes sense and leads to feelings of calm.

So, how do you even do a brain dump?

What is it exactly?



What is a Brain Dump?

A brain dump is exactly as it sounds. Basically, it involves writing everything down, specifically when it comes to what’s causing your feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, or stress. The idea is that this will create space in your brain, allowing you to better organize these ideas or thoughts or let them go. 

In fact, a 2021 study showed how performing a brain dump helped lower student’s perceived cognitive load. Plus, it’s well-known that writing your thoughts down can enhance your memory and recall abilities.

And all you need is about 5-10 minutes, plus a piece of paper and pen to do one! It’s nothing fancy! So, let’s get to the how of doing a brain dump.



How to Do a Brain Dump

The truth is a brain dump isn’t super structured by any means.

This is kind of the beauty of it. Basically, you write everything down until you’ve got nothing left. This might include:

  • To-do lists
  • Grocery lists
  • Thoughts about a conversation
  • Priorities
  • Goals
  • Worries and fears
  • Action plans
  • Special upcoming events
  • Anything or someone that’s bothered you on a regular basis

Heck, if you’re a super visual person, you might even doodle some things that have been stuck in your head for a while.

The point here is to truly let it all out. Once it’s on paper, it’s easier to organize and understand why you might feel overwhelmed or stressed, and there might be clear indicators hinting at what you need to do next.

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4 Types of Brain Dumps

Dumps also come in many shapes and sizes. For instance, you might find doing them regularly particularly beneficial at certain times of the days or when you start to feel a certain level of stress or anxiety. Here are some examples.

The Morning Starter Brain Dump

Pouring all your thoughts on paper first thing can be particularly helpful for those with morning anxiety or for those that really want to be productive and focused during the upcoming day. Many times, these types of dumps include worries about the day and to-do lists (but there is no limit!). 

The Learning Brain Dump

It can also be super useful when trying to grasp a new skill or understand a new concept. Many studies show how recall is enhanced via writing things down. 

For example, if you need to remember a new procedure at work, a brain dump after learning about it might help. If you need to memorize something for an upcoming exam, doing a brain dump on it, again, might help!

The Appreciative Brain Dump

Now, not all dumps are negative. We can also use them to further enhance positive feelings and propel those positive feelings forward even more. 

In many ways, practicing gratitude regularly is a type of brain dump. However, this type is usually timed, such as 10 or 15 minutes. The goal during this timeframe is to write down as many things as you can that you are grateful for and truly feel those feelings of gratitude!

The Overwhelmed Brain Dump

Many people favor this type since it offers a strategy to turn to when feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

Basically, when life gets hectic, stop for a few minutes. Write down everything that’s bothering you. It doesn’t matter what it is; write it down.

Again, this is the type of brain dump that can help you let go, de-stress, avoid overwhelm, get organize, and experience a clarity of mind. It can also help you reduce distractions, amping up your focus on tasks at hand and that are more important right now. 



8 Signs You Need to Do a Brain Dump

Wondering if you even need this tool in your life?

Well, chances are you do. We all get overwhelmed and stressed from time to time. Having go-to strategies to combat this stress can help improve your mood and quality of life. 

So, here are a few signs you might need to do one:

  • You feel perpetually stressed.
  • You keep going around in a circles on a particular issues or problem.
  • You are having trouble prioritizing tasks or activities.
  • You feel as though there is too much on your plate.
  • You are having more negative thoughts than normal.
  • You have difficulty remembering what your priorities are.
  • You lost track of your end goal.
  • You have a lot to learn in a short amount of time.

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Grab That Pen or Pencil!

A brain dump can prove to be one of your most useful mental tools. Do it when you need it and share it if you feel others could benefit too. 

Stress is a real problem in our modern society. Yet, there are tons of healthy way to cope with it and work around it, like doing a brain dump. Add this to your mental toolbox and find out how this easy tactic can enhance your life and well-being.

Read Next: Your Go-To Mental Health Resources: Here When You Need a Helping Hand

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch


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