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Understanding our Window of Tolerance

What is window of tolerance?

The Window of Tolerance is a concept coined by Dr.Dan Seigel, MD, to describe the optimum zone of “arousal” for a person to effectively manage and cope with their emotions.

When in the Window of Tolerance, we

  • feel balanced, calm, confident, and secure in facing day-to-day experiences

  • are capable of handling pressure or stress

  • are settled and with full awareness of the present moment

  • are open and curious as opposed to feeling judgmental and defensive

  • are aware of boundaries and how to set them

  • experience empathy not only for others but also self-empathy

  • we have the ability to self-soothe

  • we experience a full range of emotions and can regulate the ebb and flow of emotions

  • state of mind is calm, alert, flexible, and adaptable

  • can take in new learning

  • feel relaxed and in control

When in the window of tolerance, we...

Our work is to broaden our Window of Tolerance.

When we are in our Window of Tolerance, we are able to learn effectively, engage, and relate well to ourselves and others. Each one of us has different ‘windows’, based on our childhood experiences, our neurobiology, social support, environment, and coping skills. The size of our window can change from day to day but the wider we can make the window, the less likely we are to experience anger, frustration, or feel low, and lacking energy.

Dysregulation occurs when we start to deviate outside of our window of tolerance. We start to feel agitated, and uncomfortable but we're not out of control yet. However, if we move outside of our window we can become hyper-aroused or hypo-aroused.

We need to increase our capacity to experience emotions (including intense ones) without becoming dysregulated by recognizing and being aware of our window of tolerance. We also need to learn techniques on how to regulate ourselves when we are in hypo-arousal or hyper-arousal state. It is also important to give ourselves compassion and not fall into guilt or shame that may arise after feeling dysregulated.

Try and think of a time when things were in the flow, smooth sailing, and easy. What was it that you were doing and how did it make you feel?

What are the behaviors, practices, and actions that you do to keep you in that smooth-sailing state?

Who in your circle of relationships supports you to be in this calm, connected, and collected state?

Reflection Worksheet: Recognising our Window of Tolerance

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