Expanding your window of tolerance

Mental Health Blog / Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

When traumas strike and emotions become overwhelming, a person is forced out of their comfort zone. According to scientific research, when this happens the frontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for thinking, planning and reasoning) shuts down and the victim’s window of tolerance narrows.

Window of tolerance is a term created by clinical psychiatrist Daniel Siegel. It describes the optimum zone of comfort a person should be in to effectively process the stimuli within his or her environment. Even though situations can be dealt with on the fringes, the most comfortable spot is in the very centre.

Outside of their comfort zone and in extreme stress, a person generally experiences either hyper or hypo arousal. In the first instance, the person has episodes of panic, anxiety, racing thoughts and is highly likely to become hypervigilant (over-cautious). In the latter case, the person will feel numb and empty, most likely freezing up and refusing to take action as a result.

If you find yourself way outside your comfort zone and your window of tolerance compromised, it’s important regain your calm, stay in the now and gently work through the traumatic situation.

Techniques such as Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness can help calm you down and anchor you in the present.  However, if you really want to ensure all effects of the traumatic event are dealt with and not suppressed, it would be wise to enrol in both a talk based and a somatic (body centred) psychotherapy program.

As a counsellor psychotherapist, I am trained to help you expand your window of tolerance and help you find calm even when you’re in the middle of stressful situations.  Please contact me for an informal, confidential chat.

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