Do you feel overwhelmed or disconnected with the world around you? Knowing what your Window of Tolerance is will help you with these feelings and I am going to give you a few strategies to go from overwhelmed or disconnected to calm, cool and collected.
“Window of Tolerance” is a term created by Dr. Daniel Siegal
Your window of tolerance is your brains ability to manage stressful experiences. It is influenced by your life experiences, stress, trauma, and your natural sensitivity. Staying in your window of tolerance will help you manage overwhelming and underwhelming feeling.
When you are in your window of tolerance you can handle what is going on in your life, your current situation and emotions.
In the Window of Tolerance – Your Comfort Zone
Your Behavior might look like: able to handle stressful situations, ability to tolerate and regulate emotions, flexible, grounded
You might Feel: capable, calm, connected, happy, content, present
Too High out of the Window of Tolerance – Fight or Flight Response
Your Behavior might look like: outburst (emotional or aggressive), impulsive, rigid, addictions, self-destructive, defensive, have racing thoughts, hyper-vigilance
You might Feel: anxiety, anger, rage, overwhelmed
Too Low out of the Window of Tolerance – Freeze Response
Your Behavior might look like: shut down, auto-pilot, not present, memory loss, physically slowed down, passively going along with things, spacey
You might Feel: withdrawal, numb, disconnected, cut off from feelings, frozen, ashamed
Two parts to managing your window of tolerance:
1. Learning skills when you are about go out of the window or are out of the window
2. Increasing your Window of Tolerance
While I very much suggest therapy when you are struggling to control your emotions; I highly recommend that you work on the second part, increasing your window of tolerance, with a therapist because you are going to be dealing with issues like trauma, fear, unconscious feelings or core beliefs.
So let’s focus on the first part: Skills to stay in your window or for when you go out of your window
When you are too high out of your window of tolerance you want to use skills that will decrease your fight or flight response and decrease your arousal.
When you are too low out of your window of tolerance you want to use skills that will decrease your freeze response and increase your arousal.
15 Skills when you are Too High out of the Window of Tolerance – Fight or Flight Response
Identify 10 Items in Your View
Take a Shower/Bath
Drink warm water
Tighten and Release Your Muscles
Talk to a friend
Count to 10 and back down by odds numbers
5-4-3-2-1 Technique (5 things you see, 4 things you feel, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell, 1 thing you taste)
15 Skills when you are Too Low out of the Window of Tolerance – Freeze Response
Mindfulness – being present in the here and now
Notice Your Feet on the Floor
Tighten and Release Your Muscles
Smell essential oils
Sensory fidget toys
Listen to upbeat music
Recognizing limiting beliefs - Counter with positive statements
Play an instrument
Go for a walk
Eat something healthy
Interact with your Pet
Stay tuned as over the next few week I will be taking a dive into the different types of coping skills and will encourage you to:
Monica McNeeley is a licensed therapist, LCSW, provides online therapy in the state of California. She has been providing therapy services since 2011.
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