The Power of Compartmentalizing
During these days of Covid concerns and election stress, combined with the “usual” ways our lives come to include challenges in our personal lives and professional lives, it is worth cultivating a talent for compartmentalizing. This is the way I think of it: Creating a file system in your mind into which you mentally place stressful concerns and challenges. Once a concern or challenge is filed, it is considered to be tucked away, until you decide to take that file out and work on it.
This mimics filing in a file cabinet, of course, and it isn’t a bad idea to mirror the cognitive solution I have outlined above with a concrete, real-world equivalent. Creating manila files or a card system with a label or heading for each concern or challenge in your life reinforces the walls of the compartment of each in your mind.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you learn that your doctor warns you about your cholesterol being very high and talks about the risks associated with it. Or imagine that you learn that a very significant client of yours is putting your contract out to bid. Or think of the Covid epidemic and its potential impact on you and your family and your community.
Each of these potential storms in your life could distract you quite a lot. But you can limit the potentially massive amount of distraction by focusing in a determined way, for a discreet amount of time, on any one of them. You could think of all the resources you need to bring to bear to deal with it and then imagine it as a file you have assigned it and then stored in your mind. It would help a lot were you to create an actual hard-copy file on paper or a file on a computer with the information and plans you associate with it.
Once the file is created, filled and stored away, you make the deal with yourself to not address the topic until you consciously decide to take the file out and review it, add to it or act on it.
I know this strategy might sound fanciful, but it really can work. There is a degree of peace that comes from allowing yourself some dedicated time to deal with each of the issues nagging at you—even the unwieldy ones—and also allowing yourself to keep some distance from it when the file is closed and put away.
A natural complement to the filing system is meditation. Meditating each day reminds you—somewhere deep in your soul, beyond your conscious mind—that complexities of every kind may swirl around you, but they are not you. They can’t invade your core, which is inviolable and sacred.
Dr. Keith Ablow