Dr. Dan Siegel coined the term Window of Tolerance, this is the optimal zone of arousal where we are able to manage and thrive in every day life.
Our window of tolerance can be narrow or wide and is different for all people and at different times in our lives.
When we are outside of our window of tolerance because we perceive a threat / don't feel safe, our nervous system responds by going into Survival Mode. .
Sometimes the nervous system activation and its consequent arousal can feel "too much" taking us up into Hyper-arousal or down into Hypo-arousal.
😠HYPER-AROUSAL- Activates the Fight/ Flight response- Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS)
anxious panicky, angry, emotionally overwhelmed, unsafe, tense, stuck in worry thoughts, hypervigilant, impulsive. .
😦HYPO-AROUSAL- Activates Immobility response- Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS)- Ventral Vagal
numb, shut down, disconnected, low in energy, heavy, zoned-out, dizzied, depressed.
✔️OPTIMAL LEVEL OF AROUSAL- Activates Social Engagement response- Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS)- Dorsal Vagal.
✳️What can we do?
✔️Name the emotions, sensations, thoughts: this allows for a sense of understanding. .
✔️Focus mindfully on noticing how our body feels physically, allowing space to be and feel: this allows for a sense of validation and is a powerful grounding tool. .
✔️Try to identify what we need to do to move back to optimal arousal: Identify coping strategies that work for us. .
🎯The goal is to essentially broaden this window of tolerance, increasing capacity for people to hold emotional experiences (even intense ones) without become dysregulated or going into a state of hyper or hypo arousal by using the appropriate coping strategies needed at each given time.
It is important to be curious about our feelings, allowing ourselves to feel them at the same time that we feel safe and in control. Therefore, practicing noticing how we feel in our body, naming the emotions, writing down the thoughts, etc. , can really make a difference. Once we have done this, it is important to identify which strategies are helpful to bring us back to the Optimal Level of Arousal, and slowly build up a tolerance to feel distressing feelings with a better sense of control and agency.
Some of the examples of coping/ self-soothing strategies I propose for each state are:
😠When finding yourself in hyper-arousal try:
✳️deep breathing with long exhales ✳️shaking
✳️weighted blanket- accupressure mat
✳️smelling scents (essential oils/ candles)
✳️listening to music
✳️use a squeeze ball
✳️safe place imagery
😦When finding yourself in hypo-arousal try:
✳️short, shallow breathing
✳️movement- exercise- dancing- yoga
✳️mindfulness of the 5 senses
✳️rubbing ice cube on your body
✳️listening to music
✳️read something engaging
✳️be social .
⚠️Note: maybe some of them will not work for you. Please listen to your body when trying these and adjust / change / stop when necessary.
Check a visual image in my post.
Check more about this topic here.