Window of Tolerance

This is an exercise I have learnt from my trauma training course. It is designed to help people recognise their triggers or intolerances that impact on their emotional responses and cause them to leave what we usual call our ‘comfort zone’, that area where we feel safe or happy with the emotion we are experiencing. For example you may feel comfortable with a little stress at work but at some point that little stress will grow and become an intolerance or trigger causing you to feel uncomfortable or to react such as crying or shouting. This window of tolerance and our ability to calm ourselves and stay within it can shrink if we are exposed to things we find traumatic and if we have no way of coping with the trauma.

So the window of tolerance has 3 main zones. These are the hyperarousal area, the window of tolerance and the hypoarousal area, btween these areas is almost a grey area or flexible zone called dysregulation, learning to recognise this can be a good way to prevent slipping completely into hyper or hypo arousal.

HYPERAROUSAL is when you feel strongly anxious, angry, or out of control; feelings of being threatened or frightened can overwhelm you, and you might want to fight or run away.

DYSREGULATION (hyper) is when you start to notice feeling agitated or uncomfortable. You don’t feel out of control yet but you can feel uncomfortable, anxious, revved up, or angry.

WINDOW OF TOLERANCE is where things feel just right, where you are best able to cope with the punches life throws at you. You’re calm but not tired. You’re alert but not anxious.

DYSREGULATION (hypo) is when you start to feel like you’re shutting down. You don’t feel out of control yet but you can feel uncomfortable spacey, sluggish, slow or even like you have lost track of time.

HYPOAROUSAL is when you feel strongly numb or unfocused (sometimes people say zoned out) emotionally and/or physically. Your body takes over and you can feel frozen or like you have lost time but don’t know what you have been doing.

Try the Window exercise for yourself. Under the three headings hyperarousal, window of tolerance, hypoarousal write the following (choosing a different colour for each bullet point helps):

 · Any bodily sensations you might feel while in this area

 · Any emotions or feelings that come up for you while in this area

· Any behaviours you engage in while in this area

· Activities/behaviours that you can do that keep you in your Window of Tolerance or are helpful to get you back to your Window of Tolerance

If you’d like video, telephone or face to face counselling in the Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme or Staffordshire area please do contact Wright Minds at or on 07598810304

(information was researched from my trauma course, nicbam and TrueNorth Medical Centres handouts)