What Is Your Window of Tolerance?

Jack Fox, M.A. Resident in Counseling in Northern Virginia

You are gearing up for a test at school, a performance review, a presentation at work, or a few days home with your kids for a long weekend. These stressful events are often times manageable for us on a day-to-day basis. These kinds of stress-inducing events fall within what is called your “window of tolerance.”

The window of tolerance is a term to describe the zone in which your nervous system is able to regulate and deal with what is happening in your life. However, you still are in control of your reactions even though you may feel stressed or under pressure. A traumatic event can start to shrink that window and make it more difficult to stay within the ideal zone.

If a traumatic event is experienced, it can result in sharp jumps in and out of your window of tolerance. You may become hyperaroused (anxious, angry, out of control, overwhelmed) or hypoaroused (zoned out, spacy, numb, the “thousand-yard stare”). These uncontrolled reactions to stressors in your life, combined with a traumatic event can make it much easier for your brain and body to slip into these zones of vulnerability.

To improve your window of tolerance, seek support from a licensed mental health professional who is focused on healing through trauma or reprocessing traumatic experiences. This type of support can help to expand your window of tolerance. It will also allow your body to once again start to regulate and stay out of danger zones.

Here are some practices to help improve your window of tolerance: 

  • Grounding exercises
  • Creating a safe place
  • Working with EMDR therapy

These all can help to expand the window of tolerance and give you the tools to get back in control!

Connect with us to start your mental health journey today!

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