Gaining a working understanding of the Window of Tolerance is the single most important thing that will help you effectively manage your stress and improve your relationships. Learning to recognize when you are outside your window of tolerance and finding resources to help you calm or activate your nervous system is a key component to your emotional health.

Dr. Dan Siegel coined the term “window of tolerance” to explain what happens to our nervous system when it is functioning at it’s optimal level. Each of us have a window of tolerance and when we are in our window, we are able to function at our optimal level. It is in our window of tolerance that we are our best selves, this is when we follow through on intentions and engage in healthy thinking and healthy behaviors. There are things you can do to help your nervous system recover from the daily stressors we all experience.

When we are out of window of tolerance, we either go up into the “red zone” or we drop down into the “blue zone”. When you are out of your window of tolerance, you do not have access to your thinking brain or prefrontal cortex. As a result of this, new learning cannot take place and you begin to process through your mid-brain and limbic system. This is when we revert to habituated stress patterns. The sooner you recognize when you are out of your window of tolerance, the sooner you can take action to return to your window of tolerance. These steps will strengthen your emotional resiliency.

Window of Tolerance

Sympathetic system is activated
Feeling Overwhelmed
Can’t think clearly
Rigid or Chaotic thinking
Anxious / Panic
Emotional Reactivity
Stress Patterns Emerge
No New Learning Can Take Place

Red Zone
Too Much Arousal

Parasympathetic system is activated
Experience a full range of emotions but with a sense of control and options
State of mind is calm, alert, flexible, adaptable
Able to self regulate and connect with others
New Learning can take place

Window of Tolerance
Green Zone
Optimal Level of Functioning

Poor contact with others
Isolation / Withdrawal from others
Numbing of emotions
Limited awareness of sensation
Hard time tracking conversation
No New Learning can take place

Blue Zone
Too little arousal

Practical Tip when you are in Hyper-Arousal

Regulate before Reasoning:

Anyone who has been around an infant or a young child knows that you have to help them regulate their systems. As we grow up, our system still needs to be regulated before we are able to function at our optimal level. This is true in relationships, when taking tests, at work and when performing.

You do not want to try to resolve issues or make major decisions if you or the person you are talking to is in “red brain”. This is because new learning cannot take place when the prefrontal cortex is not activated. For example, parenting in “red brain” is not going to go well, neither is it going to go well if your child is in “red brain”, they cannot absorb the information you are giving them. Remember, regulation before reasoning applies to all of us.

Practical Tip when you are in Hypo-Arousal

Regulate before Reasoning:

You want to activate your nervous system. This can be done through activating the different senses. You also want to create movement, get your system moving and active. Sometimes this is easier through connection, going for a walk with a friend or playing with your pet.

If someone you know is struggling and is isolating, offering support and comfort is better than giving advice or asking them to read an article.

Bilateral Tapping accesses our natural ability to calm our nervous system down and is one of the easiest ways to assist us in returning to our optimal level of functioning. Bi-Tapp is a product that incorporates an understanding of how our brain works in moments of heightened stress and anxiety. For more information, go to

Strategies to Reduce Stress

Strategies to Reduce Stress