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The art of compartmentalizing so that you can remain focused in turbulent times.

selfcare Apr 20, 2020

Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi 

...I started writing this post prior to events in Nova Scotia that have shaken many of us. I have chosen to publish the original post because it is a tool that we may need.


There's no doubt that this pandemic has thrown a bit of a wrench into things for many of us. As business people, we have enough stress on the best of days; the last thing we needed is an added layer.

For the most part I'm doing well until I'm not. There are moments when I get pretty frustrated at not really being able to do the things that I enjoy doing when I want to do them. I consider myself one of the lucky ones that have tools in my toolkit to deal with emotions. Things like meditation for example really go a long way to helping me get back to an even keel. Reaching out to other like-minded people who won't try and stifle what I am feeling definitely helps. 

Every now and then I am caught off guard; the alarm sounds informing me that I have a coaching call that starts in half an hour. I may be in the middle of a meltdown after speaking with my parents who are in a nursing home right now. I look in the mirror and wonder how I can make this face look professional - snot and tears will an distort your image.

We're all dealing with layers of stress right now. We've all had to learn how to deal with emotions while maintaining a level of professionalism.

One of my key strategies is a visualization exercise that someone taught me years ago. It has served me well. It's one of many tools I use to ensure that I look after my emotional well-being in high-stress moments. 

I begin by picturing a filing cabinet in my minds eye. When I have work that I must focus on, I open a file drawer for the item that is causing me distress right now, like loss and grief for example, and I place that item into that drawer. I then open the drawer with the work that I am about to get done. 

This visualization allows me to focus upon the work that needs to get done. Now and again when I am pulled back to the troubling event, I take a breath and do the exercise again. Like most new habits, in the early days, it took many tries to get into the habit but now it comes much easier.  I find myself doing that drawer exercise more and more these days.

Compartmentalizing is a necessary skill when we need to deal with the business at hand. Some things need to be put on the back burner - or in that file drawer. 

Compartmentalizing is not a replacement for dealing with emotions. The reality is that events have happened in Nova Scotia that keep popping into our mind as we work. That is quite normal. Sometimes I may choose to open that drawer and allow myself to feel what I am feeling for a short while. Not for long because there is work that needs to get done; clients who need to speak with us or folks who need to be reassured. 

Remember this - what you're feeling right now is quite normal. 

Stay safe and be kind to yourself. 

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