Have you ever felt overwhelmed or stuck in a state of emotional distress?

Perhaps you felt like your emotions were spinning out of control and you didn't know how to regain a sense of calm?

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Whether you're dealing with a difficult situation at work or navigating a challenging personal relationship, having the strategies to manage your window of tolerance (WOT) can help you:

  • regulate your emotions

  • reduce stress and anxiety 

  • improve your overall well-being

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But What Is the Window of Tolerance (WOT)?

Your WOT is the range of emotional and physiological states where you can function well. When you're in this range, you can handle stress and react to it in a healthy way.

However, if you're pushed outside this range, you may experience hyperarousal or hyporarousal.

Infographic on Window of Tolerance designed by the author.

Tip #1: Identify Your Window of Tolerance

Before you can regulate your emotions and body, it's important to know your window of tolerance (WOT) so you can tell when you're overwhelmed or underwhelmed and take necessary actions.

  1. Notice your physical sensations

    Establish a baseline for what it feels like to be within your WOT.  Pay attention to your body in a calm and relaxed state and take note of physical sensations like relaxed muscles, normal breathing patterns, and a steady heartbeat. A penguin chilling on a float with a drink, gif says

  2. Observe your thoughts and emotions

    Find the indication that you're moving beyond your WOT. Pay attention to your thoughts and emotions during times of stress. You may notice patterns such as racing thoughts or intense feelings of anxiety or anger.

  3. Identify triggers

    Think about situations or events that push you beyond your WOT, such as conflict, deadlines, or unexpected changes.

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Tip #2: Address Your Triggers

  1. Develop coping strategies

Find the strategy that works well for you. It may be practicing mindfulness, deep breathing, taking a break, or going for a walk.

  1. Set boundaries

If certain people or situations consistently trigger you, you should consider setting boundaries to protect your emotional wellbeing. Types of boundaries include physical, sexual, intellectual, emotional, and financial. You could limit your exposure to these triggers or express your needs to the people involved.

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  1. Seek help

To better manage triggers and build resilience, you could reach out to your trusted friends, family, or mental health professionals for help.

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Tip #3: Practice Self-Care

It’s crucial to take care of your body and mind to manage your window of tolerance (WOT). This can include:

  1. Ensuring adequate sleep.

  2. Consuming a healthy diet.

  3. Staying hydrated.

  4. Regularly engaging in physical activity

Prioritize activities that promote emotional well-being and make you feel good.

A self-care checklist gif ticking off each item: drink water, read a book, get some fresh air, eat a meal.

Tip #4: Bring Yourself Back From Hyperarousal

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Using diaphragmatic breathing

Take deep, slow breaths into your belly, rather than your chest, to help calm your body and regulate your nervous system.

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Physical movement

Engage in gentle stretching or practice yoga poses that promote relaxation and stress reduction.

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Sensory stimulation

Use calming scents, such as lavender, or listen to soothing music to help regulate your emotions.

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Guided imagery 

Visualize calming scenes or activities, such as lying on a beach or walking through a forest to feel safe and relaxed.

Tip #5: Bring Yourself Back From Hypoarousal

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Deep breathing

Take slow, deep breaths to regulate your breathing and increase oxygen intake, which can help stimulate your nervous system.

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Physical movement

Engage in light exercise, such as stretching or going for a walk, to promote blood flow and stimulate your body and mind.

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Sensory stimulation

Engage your senses with activities, such as holding a warm cup of tea or smelling essential oils to stimulate your mind.

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Cognitive stimulation

Engage in cognitive activities, such as puzzles or reading, to stimulate your mind and increase alertness.

Meet Mark

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Mark’s boss called him into his office and pointed out mistakes in his work. He had been working tirelessly on the project and he didn’t expect all the negative comments.

He needs to make changes to the project and the deadline is the next day. However, he is struggling to keep himself composed as his mind races with thoughts of failure and disappointment. 

Mark needs to regain a sense of calm. What could he do?

A: Do some breathing and stretching exercises.

B: Relax after making the changes to his project.

C: Take a slow walk and get some fresh air outside.

D: Reach out to someone he can trust for support.


What could Mark do? Select all that apply:

Take Action

Everyone's journey is different, so it's important to experiment with different strategies and find what works best for managing your window of tolerance (WOT).

Be patient and compassionate with yourself during this process.

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