Overcoming the Stress of Overwhelm: How and Why to Brain Dump


I've been MIA over the last weeks. Not because I've been lying on a banana lounge with a cocktail and a good book but because I'm juggling ONE MILLION projects, and try as I might I cannot keep up.

If you have a high need for achievement (N-Ach in psychology-speak) you will be familiar with the push to set yourself big goals, to start new projects, to take on challenging roles and to want to control all of the things. Then one day you find yourself standing in your kitchen unable to eat because you've forgotten how. That's me right now.

Want to know the difference between perfectionism and high need for achievement? Read this.

The challenge when you're in high N-Ach overwhelm - any overwhelm - is knowing how to be less overwhelmed. Because you can't think straight. Because you've fried your brain. Overwhelm.

Overcoming the Stress of Overwhelm. How and Why to Brain Dump. Potential Psychology.

Thankfully I have a lovely business coach who reminds me to make a coffee, hide in my spare room with a notebook and pen and 'brain dump'.  

I need the reminder because although I know brain dumping works I have fried my brain and can't think clearly enough to eat. This is the power of a coach.  She can see clearly and prod you the right direction when your ability to navigate daily life has deserted you.

So I'm off to do as she says. I will dump the many, muddled ideas, thoughts, plans, priorities, worries and obligations out of my head and on to paper. This will clear enough brain space for eating, and more. It will reduce the overwhelm.

Before I go I will tell you why brain dumping works.

1. Your brain gets tired and less productive when it's trying to remember everything you need to do.  Mental lists require brain power that physical lists do not.  Dump it out and make space for more important stuff like problem solving and new ideas.

2. Once the data is visible on the page you can organise it.  If your head is spinning with a long and chaotic mental list there is no way it can calmly assess each item, prioritise and then take action.  Those thoughts will just keep swimming around in there, bumping into one another and increasing your blood pressure. Write the list, read it, assess it, prioritise, make sublists, take action, relax.

3. When you write things down you offload emotion along with thoughts and ideas. The stress that comes with too many competing priorities ebbs away as your head empties and your action plan becomes clearer. It makes you feel better as well as think better.

Do you brain dump regularly? Who reminds you to get back to basics when you're freaking out? And how many things are on your list?