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Discovering your Window of Tolerance for Stress


what is your window of tolerance

Imagine your mind and body as a window with a green band (image below) representing your optimal coping and functioning zone. This is called your Window of Tolerance. Inside your Window of Tolerance, you feel balanced, think logically, make informed decisions, and respond in developmentally appropriate ways to life’s challenges.

Every person has a different Window of Tolerance, which is influenced by their surroundings and experiences. Your trauma has affected your nervous system so profoundly that it has impacted your Window of Tolerance.

Our Window of Tolerance refers to a state in which we can easily deal with everyday challenges. During this time, our thinking is clear, decision-making is rational, and behavior aligns with our values and goals. However, there are instances when we are pushed outside this optimal zone. Stressful situations, past traumas, or overwhelming emotions can make us feel as though our window is shrinking, making it difficult to manage and regulate our emotions.

Experiencing trauma can cause your window of tolerance to shrink, resulting in intense emotional outbursts and a roller coaster of emotions.

Let’s take a moment to discuss how your window of tolerance can affect your ability to heal. When you are outside of your tolerance, your brain goes into survival mode, which means it doesn’t prioritize using your prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain responsible for learning and regulating emotions. As a result, being outside your tolerance window can make learning, retaining new information, and healing challenging.

This is why talk therapy can be difficult for trauma survivors, because it doesn’t necessarily consider the biology of trauma. It’s like trying to read a book on a small boat tossed around in the middle of the ocean during a hurricane. 

Somatics is a practice that helps us find calmness within ourselves, which in turn gives us space to learn and heal. It brings calmness to the ocean and opens doors to new possibilities. Learning to recognize when you’re within or outside your window of tolerance is essential to trauma healing for women.

self-sacrificing and stress

What happens when you continue to push yourself beyond your limits?

In doing so, you are reinforcing the pattern of stress and anxiety. We all know that when rushed or stressed, we tend to make more mistakes, forget things, and generally feel unhappy. You are outside the window of tolerance. 

It’s essential to allow yourself to rest, slow down, and listen to your body. When you allow yourself to enter the green zone, you become more productive, your memory improves, you make fewer mistakes, and you can actually experience happiness.

I want to remind you that when you constantly push yourself to the point of burnout, you are actually reinforcing the trauma. Society has conditioned us to believe that self-sacrifice and overworking are the way to succeed, but this is counterproductive and can keep you stuck. 

window of tolerance

If you start feeling overwhelmed, give yourself permission to take a break, breathe deeply, and return to the task at hand.

It’s important to take responsibility for your own well-being and prioritize self-care. Another key to healing is recognizing when we’re outside our window and gently guiding ourselves back in. 

Here are four ways to begin understanding and working to improve your window of tolerance. 


  1. Start by becoming aware of your body and emotions.
  2. Notice any signs of stress or discomfort.
  3. Acknowledge what you’re feeling is the first step towards gentle self-awareness.


  1. Take slow, deep breaths to calm your nervous system.
  2. Focus on the sensation of your breath entering and leaving your body.
  3. Allow each breath to remind you of your capacity to find calmness within gently.


  1. Engage your senses to ground yourself in the present moment.
  2. Notice the sights, sounds, smells, and textures around you
  3. Connecting with your immediate environment can help anchor you back into your window of tolerance.


  1. Be kind and gentle with yourself, especially during challenging times.
  2. Offer yourself words of encouragement and understanding.
  3. Remember that healing is a journey, and taking things one step at a time is okay.

How can you begin to work better within your window of tolerance?

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