When our sympathetic nervous system is engaged, which happens when we are triggered or stressed out, our stress hormones are activated. When this system is engaged for longer periods of time, it can have a lasting effect on our health.
Trauma expert Dr. Dan Seigel coined the term “window of tolerance.” It refers to the state of arousal or stimulation – the zone – in which we are able to function and cope effectively. When we move outside the zone, we become essentially dysregulated until we are able to calm our nervous system.
Stress and stimulation within the window of tolerance can be motivating and healthy. Getting used to a little bit of activation can support us to take risks and sit with discomfort that is necessary for growth. As noted, stress that repeatedly or continually takes us outside our window of tolerance can have lasting negative effects on our health and wellbeing.
With time and practice, we can widen our window of tolerance.
- What does it feel like when you are outside your window of tolerance?
- What can you do when you are feeling stressed out, but you are still within your window of tolerance?
- What are some calming practices you can do for yourself when you find your nervous system activated in what feels like an uncontrollable way?
- What can you do when you are feeling overwhelmed, and your responsibilities feel like they are too much for you to manage?
- Who can you go to for support when you need it?