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Seeing through your window of tolerance

Using psychiatrist Daniel Siegal's Window of Tolerance as a tool to help manage overwhelm.

When your nervous system is regulated you will usually feel a sense of calm, and this in turn enables you to cope with day-to-day stressors and problems most effectively, enabling you to problem solve and trouble shoot in a controlled and positive way. The idea is that we are most regulated, relatable and able to reason when we are within our window of tolerance.

Everyone has a different sized window, which is down to a number of factors including genetics, emotional sensitivity, neurodiversity, developmental trauma and physical health, amongst other things. But our window size is also affected by day-to-day stressors together with environmental, social and economical factors, both in our immediate environment at home and work, and in the wider cultural and political context.

Though it may seem obvious retrospectively, it is common to be unaware that we are struggling until we are out of our window, either in an 'over-drive' (hyper-arousal) or 'shutdown' (hypo-arousal) mode. Looking out for the warning signs before this happens, by checking in with your body and mind, is the first step to keep you from being pushed out of your window of tolerance. Once we notice we're close to the edge, we can use tried and tested ways to widen that window and stay in a functional place of regulation.

The infographic above can be a handy 'go-to' if you feel you're dropping into 'over-drive' or 'shutdown'. Usually the best antidote to this is self-care - have a look at the white text for some suggestions.

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