The Window of Tolerance: What it is and Why it Matters

The Window of Tolerance: What it is and Why it Matters

I remember learning about the Window of Tolerance while completing my graduate studies, and asking myself – how had I never heard of this before?

As I continue to seek knowledge in this field, one theme that continues to stand out is that the body and mind are so connected, and provide us opportunities to stay well if we pay enough attention. If you have ever felt enraged by traffic, or the chronic stimulation of the TV, kids and dinner make you lose your cool – they may be bringing you out of your window of tolerance.

Importantly, that window can be either compressed or open. The best part is that whether your window is a milimetre or metre wide, we can always improve it to support you to stay present and engaged safely in the world in a way that is in support of your values.

What Is The Window of Tolerance?

The “window of tolerance” is a concept used in neuroscience and psychology to describe the range of physiological and emotional states in which an individual is able to function effectively and adaptively. It refers to the range of normal and healthy responses to stressors and challenges, and encompasses both the lower and upper limits of arousal and regulation. When an individual is outside of their window of tolerance, they may become overwhelmed or under-aroused, which can lead to difficulties in coping and functioning.

The Window of Tolerance

Figure 1. Window of Tolerance, Retrieved from

How Do I Get Back Into My Window of Tolerance?

There are several strategies that can help you get back into your “window of tolerance” when you are feeling overwhelmed or under-aroused. Here are a few examples:

  1. Breathing exercises: Taking slow, deep breaths can help regulate your body’s physiological response to stress and bring you back into a more balanced state.
  2. Progressive muscle relaxation: Tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups can help release physical tension and reduce feelings of anxiety.
  3. Mindfulness practices: Mindfulness techniques such as meditation and yoga can help you focus on the present moment and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
  4. Physical exercise: Engaging in physical activity can help release tension and increase feelings of well-being.
  5. Social support: talking to a friend or family member, or a therapist can help you process your feelings and gain perspective on the situation.
  6. Re-grounding: using 5 senses, touch, sight, sound, taste, smell to bring the focus to the present moment.

It’s important to note that different strategies may work better for different people and different situations, so it may be helpful to try a few different approaches to see what works best for you.

What Happens If I Am Chronically Out of My Window?

If you are chronically out of your “window of tolerance,” it can have a significant impact on your physical and mental health. Here are a few ways that chronic stress can affect you:

  1. Physical health: Chronic stress can lead to a variety of physical health problems, such as headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, and digestive issues. It can also increase your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.
  2. Mental health: Chronic stress can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, as well as difficulty sleeping and problems with concentration and memory.
  3. Behavioral changes: Chronic stress can lead to changes in behavior such as overeating, substance abuse, or other risky behaviors.
  4. Relationship problems: Chronic stress can cause strain in personal relationships, and make it harder to maintain healthy connections with others.
  5. Impaired functioning: Chronic stress can affect your ability to function effectively in daily life, and make it harder to complete tasks and reach your goals.

I hope you find this concept both helpful, and reassuring that there are ways we can rebuild and expand your window to support physical and emotional regulation. As always, I welcome you to connect with me and we can explore your window of tolerance together.

Talk soon,