How to Use a Brain Dump to Manage Anxiety

Overwhelming mental clutter leads to anxiety and stress, and that seriously affects our mental wellbeing. If you’ve ever found yourself lying awake at night, your mind racing with worries and making constant to-do lists, you’re not alone. 

Fortunately, there’s a simple – but highly powerful – technique you can put into practice that will help you get control back over your thoughts, ensuring you’re able to manage your anxiety much more effectively. This technique is called a ‘brain dump’, and it’s a wonderful way to help calm your thoughts. 

What Is A Brain Dump?

A brain dump is a cognitive exercise that’s designed to help you literally unload the millions of thoughts, ideas, tasks, and worries that could be taking up space in your mind and causing you anxiety issues. 

In other words, a brain dump is a structured, scientifically backed way (there was a 2021 study that shows braindumps could help students feel less worried about their education, for example) to relieve the worry and pressure of negative thoughts. You need to write down all the things that are swirling around in your brain without any judgment and without any particular way of organizing them – they just need to be dumped out onto a piece of paper. 

The final goal of a brain dump is to empty your mind and have all those thoughts spill out onto paper (the act of writing is actually very important, and a second 2021 study shows that it’s writing that makes all the difference because it helps with memory). You can think of it as a way of decluttering your mind, leaving behind only what you really need and want – everything else can be stored away in a desk drawer or journal or anywhere else. The truth is, as long as it’s not in your head, it doesn’t matter much where it goes. 

sample screenshot of a brain dump exercise worksheet from the PACS handbook
Brain Dump exercise worksheet from the upcoming PACS Anxiety Handbook

How To Do A Brain Dump

Now you know what a brain dump is, we’ll go through a step-by-step guide on how to perform one. Once you have the steps in your head, it’ll be easier to know how to use a brain dump when you need to, ensuring that your mind can be as clear as possible at all times – giving you the ideal opportunity to manage your anxiety as well. 

Step 1 – Make Time 

The first thing you’ll need to do when you want to do a brain dump is to set enough time aside. This is not something to be rushed through because you need to do a thorough job to feel any benefit. Plus, you should find somewhere comfortable to do it, otherwise you might be distracted and again, not do a thorough job. 

Step 2 – Write Freely

Once you’re comfortable and you know you’re not going to be interrupted, it’s time to start writing things down. Make sure you write down every single thought, concern, job that has to be done, and idea that comes into your mind. It doesn’t have to make sense or link up in any way, so don’t try to make it, and don’t try to give it any structure; just get the thoughts on paper. 

Step 3 – Don’t Filter

When you’re writing, make sure you’re not filtering through anything or censoring your thoughts and feelings in any way. It might be tempting – especially if the thoughts are negative ones – but the only thing that happens when you do that is that you’ll still be stuck with negative thoughts. You have to write them down fully and honestly if you’re going to learn how to use a brain dump for anxiety. 

Step 4 – Try Stream Of Consciousness 

The best way to make sure you really do write it all down and don’t filter is to write in a stream of consciousness style where your thoughts just flow naturally. Try not to pause and definitely don’t edit – just keep writing until you’re done. 

Step 5 – Read Through

Once you’ve emptied your head of everything, it’s time to read through what you wrote. It might be uncomfortable reading, but it will also give you a huge insight into why you’re feeling anxious, helping you get a handle on the feelings and manage them more easily. 

How A Brain Dump Can Be Good For Anxiety 

If you suffer from anxiety, the idea of ‘just’ getting all your thoughts and feelings out onto some paper or into a journal might not sound like it’s going to be all that helpful, so let’s look more deeply into exactly how a brain dump can be good for anxiety. 

Reduce Overwhelm

Anxiety often comes from feeling entirely overwhelmed by a barrage of thoughts, tasks, ideas, and requests from other people. It can all get too much until, in the end, you’re not able to do anything at all. However, when you do a brain dump, you’re basically resetting your mind, and you’ll get relief from all the chaos that was going on inside it, meaning you can see things more clearly and think more easily. 

Organize Thoughts 

Once you know how to use a brain dump and you’ve started to do them (ideally on a regular basis – you’ll get better at them and you’ll feel less anxious in general), you’ll be able to organize your thoughts a lot better, and even spot priorities to work on. This means you can tackle the things you need to do in a more logical, methodical manner, reducing your anxiety and improving your productivity. 

Prevents Repetitive Thoughts 

Something else that’s often an issue for people with anxiety is that they have repetitive thoughts that just go round and round in their heads, and the more they go round, the more of a problem they seem, and the more anxious you’ll become – it’s a vicious circle. When you use a brain dump to help you, those thoughts won’t be in your head anymore, so they won’t be such an issue. 

Improved Decision-Making

When you’re suffering from anxiety, making any kind of decision is going to be a challenge – it might even seem impossible. But when you have a clutter-free mind after a brain dump, you’ll be able to make those decisions, even the most daunting ones. That’s because you’ll have a clearer mind, but also because all the thoughts you need to use to make the decision will be out on paper, so you can review them a lot more easily and evaluate them properly. 

Is A Brain Dump Right For You? 

A brain dump can be a great thing to do for many people, but if you’re going to understand how to use a brain dump, you’ll also need to know if it’s the right thing for you – everyone’s different, after all. With that in mind, here are some things to consider about brain dumps and who can benefit from them the most. 

Overactive Mind 

If you have an overactive mind and it’s always racing with thoughts and ideas – and worries – a brain dump can be ideal because it gives those racing thoughts a good outlet, leaving you with less to think about and a calmer mind as a result. 


Do you often forget things? That doesn’t just mean small things that don’t really matter (even though they probably do in reality), but bigger things too, like appointments and important tasks, it could be because you’ve just got too much going on in your head. So, using a brain dump and emptying your head should help with your memory (and so will writing things down, as we mentioned above). 

A Need For Clarity 

If you need clarity and you can’t seem to get it because your mind is ‘too full’ (or that’s how it feels), then a brain dump is for you. Getting everything out into a journal, for example, means you can organize your thoughts and get that all-important clarity you’re looking for. 

Consider A Brain Dump To Manage Anxiety 

Anxiety can be the result of all kinds of things, from being overloaded at work to being unable to stop thinking about a particular scenario, and a brain dump helps address these issues. Give it a try, and you might just find that this effective technique assists you in your journey of managing your anxiety.

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