Mikey Allan

Reduce anxiety with a simple mind map

Every few months I get overwhelmed.

One of the biggest challenges I found from moving into a management role was focus. My attention ranges from strategy to people to micro design details. All this context switching builds up. Life can easily get the better of me. I’m in the eye of a storm and everything in my head is whirling around me, blurry and confusing.

A while ago I attended a workshop run by Elen de Vries around structuring content for a talk or article. One of the techniques she proposed was using a mind map to get everything you want to say out of your head. Once out, you analyse it, cluster it into themes, priority and a narrative.

This technique really resonated with me. I was able to create patterns and see connections on paper, moreover I wasn’t trying to do it all in my head.

Remembering this technique, I used it as a way to prioritise my work and focus on what really mattered.

If I started to feel anxious or overwhelmed, I would simply write down “Brain Dump” in the middle of the page and get everything in my head down on paper. From there it was easy to to see what I needed to focus on first, second and so on…

Well that’s it! A simple technique used by many and it worked to prioritise my work. All done.

Well not quite…

I do this regularly now and I’ve noticed something strange happening. I don’t use it to prioritise anymore and yet the relief remains, the weight on my shoulders still goes away.

What once was a tool to help me get more focus on my work has turned into, subconsciously, a tool to reduce my anxiety. Within minutes the swirling storm settles down and I feel better.

The act of getting things out of your head and onto paper, for me, is the biggest hurdle. Once there you can choose what best suits you. Talk it through with someone? Order and prioritise it? Or store it somewhere that you can revisit in 6 months and laugh about the things that made you stressed back when.

This helps me and maybe it can help someone else?


Also published on Medium.

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