Compartmentalization can be used as a mental structuring tool that may help you keep stressful thoughts and feelings in one situation from invading other parts of your life. It’s human nature for thoughts and emotions that pop up in one moment to carry on long past the original event. If something negative happens on your way to work in the morning, for example, it may swirl around in your thoughts for hours, creating a psychological rain cloud over the entire day. Negative thoughts and feelings that persist 24/7 are often a big reason why stress becomes chronic. Even when you’re out of a stressful situation, your thoughts can keep you locked in. Being able to separate your thoughts and store them in their own “compartments” of your psyche might help reduce the impact they have on unrelated aspects of life. And when done for the right reasons, this self-imposed mental structuring could help you manage stress.

What is Compartmentalization
When you divide out certain thoughts and isolate them from others, it’s called compartmentalization. Like organizing similar items in different compartments of a desk, compartmentalization separates unrelated thoughts from one another. Compartmentalization is frequently viewed as a psychological defence mechanism especially among people who have experienced emotionally overwhelming circumstances.

How to Compartmentalize
Even though you may naturally compartmentalize in your life, this psychological state can be cultivated with practice using the strategies below:

Set clear boundaries
Set specific limits on different areas of your life, such as:
• work
• self-care
• personal relationships
Creating and maintaining boundaries can help train you to mentally shift from one area of focus to another.
Develop routines and rituals
With enough repetition, routines, rituals and habits can become second nature. This can help you mentally disengage when a task is done. Establishing routines can help transition between different compartments of your life.
Practicing mindfulness
Mindfulness is a state of awareness that holds your attention in the “now” and not on past or future thought rumination. Cultivating mindfulness can help you develop compartmentalization by teaching you how to disengage with thoughts, emotions and circumstances around you once they’ve ended.
Writing down troublesome thoughts or concerns can be a way to mentally place them in a ‘box.” Once written, it’s easier to set these thoughts aside, knowing they are recorded and can be revisited when appropriate, thus clearing mental space for other activities.

Is Compartmentalizing healthy
Compartmentalization is not inherently “good” or “bad.” Like many psychological processes and practices, it all depends on why and how you’re using it. Compartmentalization can be a healthy practice when used appropriately because it can help isolate issues that could be overwhelming if considered as a whole. When used in a beneficial way, compartmentalization can help you:
• set aside stressful thoughts and emotions
• regulate your emotions
• efficiently problem-solve
• enhance attention and focus
• maintain boundaries

Compartmentalization becomes unhealthy when it leads to denial or persistent avoidance of significant emotional or existential issues. If compartmentalization is used to ignore or avoid emotions or problems, it can lead to increased psychological distress or a break-down in emotional processing.