What is the Window of Tolerance?
This was first described by Dr Dan Siegal, a psychiatrist who specialises in trauma and how the brain is altered by experiences. Each of us has a different window of tolerance, where we feel able to cope with the daily highs and lows life throws at us.
The window of tolerance isn’t always plain sailing, sometimes life is calm and everything is going to plan and other times we are thrown a curve ball and have to deal with an unexpected situation. We are able to successfully deal with the difficulties thrown at us and they don’t leave any lasting effects, except for a story to tell later. This is where we feel in control and have optimal emotional regulation.
If we have unexpected situations to deal with, too much happening at once or for a prolonged period of time, we can move outside our window of tolerance:
- Hyper-arousal is where we may feel more anxious than usual or for a prolonged length of time, more reactive to small issues that we would normally take in our stride, overwhelmed or rigidness where we need to stick to the routine or we become stressed. This could also be called the Fight or Flight response.
- Hypo-arousal is where we may notice we feel a bit down or depressed but also disconnected from family or other people, low mood or loss of interest in the activities we used to really enjoy. This could also be called the freeze response.
It is important to understand our own window of tolerance so that we can recognize the early warning signs and put measures in place to regain the feeling of calm and being in control.
How to notice you are outside your window of tolerance: this will be unique to all of us but there may be some clues such as:
- You find yourself snapping at your children or partner
- Routine tasks seem too much
- Everyone is annoying you or irritating you.
- You feel exhausted
- Not sleeping
- Your mind is overactive
- Feeling tired all the time
- Can’t think clearly, brain is a little foggy.
Tips to help us remain within our window of tolerance during covid
- Watch less news about COVID apart from following the guidance
- Add some exercise into your day
- Breathing exercises
- Share the housework and reducing the pressure on yourself
- Singing – virtual singing event or singalong with the family
- Dancing – teach each other to dance – my teenager taught me how to do the floss and I taught him how to do some Scottish dances around the living room
- Snuggle up with a cosy blanket, comforting warm drink and a movie.
- Learn something new
- Do something you love to do but never get time
I have found that understanding my window of tolerance and how it has shrunk a little during lockdown is helping me to do something about it. Therefore, I have joined in with virtual singalongs and family charades which have made a big difference and have slightly increased my tolerance levels.
Pauline Baird, Ollie Coach trainee
Pauline is a Trainee Ollie Coach and Adopter. Pauline is a registered nurse who recently retired after 34 years in the NHS. Her interests are understanding how early life trauma affects children and how a therapeutic approach can make a difference enabling them to lead the life they want as a young person and adult. Pauline enjoys learning and practicing the Ollie techniques and seeing what a difference it makes to individuals but also to herself.
To get in contact with Pauline, email firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about Ollie and his Super Powers and how to become an Ollie Coach go to https://www.ollieandhissuperpowers.com/pages/about-us