Brain Dumping for the Stressed and Anxious

Micah McGuire
6 min readMay 2, 2019
Image Credit: MikaBesfamilnaya via Bigstock

Ah, the brain dump. A mind-clearing tool popularized by David Allen’s Getting Things Done. Writing down your thoughts in this manner should close “open loops” in your mind. In theory, it should be a simple process. And usually, it is.

Yet if you’re anxious or under a great deal of stress, your thoughts might be spiraling too quickly to even make sense of, much less write them down. The thought of attempting to organize this chaos may be overwhelming. At the same time, you’d do anything just to clear the mental clutter.

Luckily, there is a way to adapt the brain dumping process for even the most stressful of times.

The Real Source of Your Overwhelm

It’s true — your mental space can become so compressed that it’s hard to even consider clearing it out. But we have to make time for this kind of clean-out. Otherwise, we might wind up with a mental mess.

With brain dumping, the actual removal of these mind tangles isn’t the problem. It’s processing them.

Think of your brain dumps like cleaning a room a la Marie Kondo. The first step is piling all the items in a certain category together. That’s rarely the difficult part.

The hard part comes when you’re facing the pile. It‘s the dread that accompanies the realization of how much you have to do.

The cure is giving yourself permission to complete the process in stages. You don’t have to complete this process in one fell swoop. Instead, take breaks between the steps to reduce the overwhelm.

Once you’ve given yourself this permission, you can get on with clearing your mind via the brain dump. Let’s dive into how to do it.

Dump It Now

The “dump” phase of the “brain dump” is what first comes to mind when considering the phrase. Yet, this part of the process takes some getting used to, especially if you tend to overthink. In fact, it can be downright uncomfortable if you’re feeling particularly keyed up. Why? Because you have to do one thing:

Write down everything you’re thinking.

Considering most people would prefer to shock themselves rather than sit alone with their own thoughts



Micah McGuire

Writer, ACE-certified health coach, major productivity geek.