Outside My Window

The “Window of Tolerance” (Ogden, et al. 2006; Siegel, 1999) is the optimal zone of arousal where we are able to manage and thrive in every day life.

This can be thought of as sailing within a river of well-being (Siegel & Bryson, 2012) where we are able to respond to all that comes our way without getting thrown off course. When we are outside of our window of tolerance, our nervous system responds by going into survival mode – fight, flight or freeze.

We can either feel overwhelmed and go into hyper-arousal or we can shut down and go into hypo-arousal. Our window of tolerance can be narrow or wide and is different for all people and at different times in our lives.

“We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”
— Thomas s. Monson

Mindfulness practice and an understanding of the window of tolerance help us to regulate our emotions.

Mindfulness is present moment awareness. It means paying attention to our thoughts, emotions, and feelings in the body as they are happening and adopting an attitude of curiosity and compassion.

The practice of mindful awareness can help us to feel better, especially if we are struggling with difficult emotions, fluctuations in our mood or physical pain. It is a skill of stepping into a mode of “being” present with whatever is happening, rather than reacting and getting stuck on autopilot.

Mindfulness teaches us to:

  • Be more present and engaged in everyday life, rather than being lost in thoughts about the past or worry about the future
    • Step out of autopilot so we can be more purposeful in our day-to-day choices
    • Notice our direct experiences (body sensations, emotions, thoughts) – whether they be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral
    • Regulate emotions and ride the waves of their intensity
    • Learn to respond rather than react to or avoid difficulties
    • Relate to ourselves and others with kindness, warmth and compassion

When we can widen our window of tolerance, we can enjoy more smooth sailing regardless of the waves, obstacles and adventures we encounter.

Emotion regulation depends on our ability to be mindful of fluctuations in our level of arousal and to respond wisely. By becoming aware of body sensations, thoughts and emotions, we can learn to recognize when we are in our optimal zone of arousal or drifting ineffectively into hyper or hypo-arousal.

Mindfulness gives us skills to:

  • Enjoy when we our sailing within our river of well-being
    • Notice when are heading into rough waters and steer us back on course
  • Recognize when were in the danger zone and bring ourselves back to safety through grounding skills
    • Grounding skills can serve as a life preserver in those moments of extreme distress. Use these skills to help bring yourself back into the window of tolerance.

What about hypo-arousal?

  • Numb, no feelings or energy,
    • Cannot think, shut down, ashamed.
    • Emotional overwhelm, panic.
    • Feeling unsafe, angry, racing thoughts, anxiety, etc…

Smooth Sailing, once you have gone outside your window of tolerance and become aware of chartering a new course for you..

Take deep breaths; extend your exhale
• Release gripped hands
• Stand tall; feel the ground beneath you
• Take a brief walk
• Notice your feet connecting with the floor
• Orient to and label objects in the room
• Listen to a song you enjoy
• Call a friend you trust                                                                                                  •

And then take a moment to reflect on all that you discovered.

9 thoughts on “Outside My Window

  1. This is so practical and so real! I’m very glad you’ve written all these examples and steps here. We can always return to the window, no matter what its shape or size, the window will always be there for us. May your window grow wider and more beautiful with time.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks JoAnna, I am so glad this resonated with you as well. I find being mindful of whether my widow is getting too small that it is a sign for me to clear some of the clutter. I find thinking of things this way to be really helpful in me coping. I hope your window is beautifully adorned and letting lots of sunshine in. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Finding our middle ground was my way to describe to a traumatized client how to be grounded in the highs and lows of life. When we find that place of center, safety and detachment from all the turmoil around us and within us, we can become whole, creative and awesome. Mindfulness and moment to money awareness without judgement is the answer. I’m so happy you are on this oath Harlon 💛🙏💛

    Liked by 1 person

    • It always makes me smile when I hear from you. I am glad your picked up on the picture looking like a number one – I thought I would sneak that in and see if anyone notices 🙂 You are right, writing is good for my soul – as are the wonderful connections that I have, and you are one of them. Big hugs, Harlon

      Liked by 1 person

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