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
Can’t think clearly
Rigid or Chaotic thinking
Anxious / Panic
Stress Patterns Emerge
No New Learning Can Take Place
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
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