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This Circle Taped to My Wall Is Keeping Me Calm-ish Today

And other strategies I’m using to compartmentalize my election stress


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Shane Kinkennon

a year ago | 3 min read

The day after a tense, unfinished presidential election seems like a good time to exercise my trusty compartmentalization skills.

Throughout my life, I’ve been able to box up and set aside life stressors — on a temporary basis, of course — in order to crank out something that resembles a productive workday. Here are five ways I’m doing that this week.

A couple notes: One, no one should be expected to work to their normal productivity today. And two, psychologists say compartmentalization is useful for people who are mentally healthy, but left unchecked, it can lead to emotional disconnection.

It’s crucial that you find ways to express your anxieties about this election. These tips are merely meant to help you focus on the welcome respite of your job, if you see yours that way.

I’ve taped a drawing of the “circle of control” on my wall

I voted. Even though it’s not easy, it’s time to acknowledge that where things go from here is out of my hands. That’s where the “circle of control” comes in. (Here’s a primer on the “circle” — it’s a modification of the original Stephen Covey “circle of influence” from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.)

I’ve put “what happens in the weeks to come” in the outermost ring because it’s out of my control. I’ll focus on the inner ring, what I can control, which includes my attitude and how I spend my energy in the days to come.

I’m putting a hard check on my social media

I will forego commiserating on social media with people who share my anxiety in the moment, and I definitely will resist any urge to bicker about politics in the comments sections. I acknowledge that even a quick social media scroll in times like this erodes my mindset. So every time I pull out my phone, I’ll be mindful. I’ll pause and ask myself, “Is what I’m about to do the right way to spend the next two minutes (or hour)?” If I simply must do it, I’ll set some time aside after work in the evening.

I’m consuming news thoughtfully

The results of this election will run their course whether or not my face is glued to the news. Pausing my flow at work every five minutes to seek out incremental updates is, again, focusing on what is outside my circle of control.

I’ll also focus my limited news consumption time on hard, objective reporting rather than opinion and commentary. I have an obligation to be an informed citizen, but I also have an obligation to put the most important things first. To me, that means prioritizing the steadiness in which I engage with my family and work.

I’m taking an observer’s view

Like most of us, I believe the outcome of this election has deep societal implications — and maybe implications personally for me and my family. But as best as I can, I’m trying not to get riled up every moment.

When I think about the election, I try to view it as a dispassionate observer. I attempt to be fascinated in a political science kind of way rather than impassioned in a concerned-but-helpless citizen kind of way. It often helps.

I’m beefing up my daily meditation

I definitely don’t fit the lingering stereotype of a “person who meditates.” Yet for nearly three years, meditation has granted me a quick early-warning system when a shot of stress-inducing cortisol is about to hit my veins. I can pause, take a deep breath, and respond in a levelheaded way rather than react with emotion.

Starting today, I’ll lean on my meditation practice even more. I’m adding minutes, purpose, and focus to my morning meditations. And I’ll punctuate my days with additional short mindfulness sessions.

I can’t let anxiety infiltrate and sour my workdays. When my workdays hum along, it’s far easier for me to find peace in my personal life. Right now, that peace sounds really appealing.

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Shane Kinkennon

Certified Executive Coach. I work with CEOs of company up to $500M to help them get the most of their human capital and to lead change.


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