Finding Mental Clarity in a Bustling World

Using word maps to help clear your mind and move past overwhelm

This is a more list-based and text-heavy word map, but still helped me to get everything out of my head and onto the page. See below for an example of a more diagrammatic word map. You can use whatever form you find most helpful/enjoyable.

What they are

I came about these naturally, through necessity. They are simply diagrams where I write an area of concern, put a circle around it, and then begin adding everything I am thinking of related to that topic. Often there are lines and arrows leading tangentially to related thoughts. The result appears like a big web on the paper. Keep going until you feel clear.

I have found them very useful to see things more clearly by getting a bird’s eye view. Or, they can be very helpful if you aren’t sure how things connect – you just have a huge overwhelming jumble in your mind.

I use cheap printer paper or a big sheet of cheap art paper. You could also use your journal or whatever you’re most comfortable with / have at hand. I like loose-leaf and cheap paper because it’s low-pressure. Making a word map is meant to be useful, not necessarily pretty. It’s more about the process of writing it out than it is about the end result.

How to use them

Usually, I don’t even look at these diagrams again. I would keep them at first, thinking that I needed them to tell me all that I needed to do – as though their purpose was to remind me of all I needed to do. What I’ve found is that I don’t forget project ideas, etc. Their purpose is simply to get it all ‘out of my head’ and onto the page, and in that regard, their purpose has been achieved.

That said, sometimes, I do make a short to-do list afterward or use the diagram to pick one or two things that I can do immediately – and go do them.

I use these in combination with Morning Pages. My morning pages, I write daily (see my post about creating a daily journaling practice for more on that). These maps, I only use whenever I feel overwhelmed, like my brain is spinning, or trying to juggle too many bits of information.

They can be helpful if you can’t sleep

I find that I wake in the night and can’t get back to sleep, I don’t lie there frustrated or go on my phone. Instead, I will get up and write an extra few stream of consciousness journal pages in my Morning Pages journal or I’ll write out a word map. I have found it works better than anything to get everything out of my mind. Then, I look out the window for a few solid minutes and try to breathe slowly and deeply. After a little bit, I usually find that my mind has quieted down, I’m more relaxed, and feel ready to give sleep another try.

I share the idea for these mind maps not to give you any more ‘shoulds’ in your life, but in the hope that they might be helpful to you, as they have been for me.

For more about how I use journaling to keep myself focussed and motivated, I go into this in depth in my post about Creating a Daily Journaling Practice. Another very effective tool I love to use for staying oriented and motivated is a Vision Story.

If you find yourself battling Inner Critics and feeling blocked, I have a free PDF all about them. In it, I explain where they come from, how you can identify them, and how you can turn them into a positive force in your life: ‘Moving Above and Beyond: Banish Your Inner Critics and Find Your Guiding Energy’.

An example of a word map, a form of journaling to clear your mind of overwhelm

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