As the seasons are shifting and fall on the horizon, it’s not uncommon for there to be some new stressors added to your life. Dr. Dan Siegel, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School
of Medicine, coined the term “the window of tolerance”. This is a concept to describe the
optimal zone of arousal for a person to function in everyday life. To put it more simply, when a
person is operating within this zone or window, they are able to effectively manage their
emotions. Through life experiences and trauma this window can become quite narrow
knocking you into hyper-arousal (a more anxious state) or hypo-arousal (a more depressed
state). However, there is good news, you have the ability to widen your window! I am going to
talk about 3 key ways to help you widen your window of tolerance and hopefully be emotionally
prepared moving into the fall season.
The first key is good quality sleep. It’s amazing what sleep will do for your physical and
emotional body. Our bodies need to be able to shut down in order to completely rejuvenate.
Sleep effects many aspects of life. In order to operate to the best of your ability, try and get
around 7 – 8 solid hours. One way you can boost your quality of sleep is by establishing a
nighttime routine. Our bodies thrive on rhythm so having repetition before bed helps
communicate to your mind and body, it’s time to start winding down and getting ready for bed.
Here are a few examples of things you can implement for a nighttime routine; taking a warm
shower or bath, making a cup of warm tea, reading a book, diffusing lavender oil, and/or
decreasing the amount of screen time in the evening hours.
The second key is movement. Our feelings and emotions live inside our physical bodies. Therefore, it is important not only for your physical health but also for your emotional well-
being. This is because certain emotions and feelings can then move through your nervous
system and not get stuck or cause stagnation in the body (often times contributing to injuries
and/or sickness). Any movement is good movement. It’s important to find movement that
resonates with you! If you don’t enjoy it, it’s likely you’ll have a hard time returning to it. Find
ways your body loves to move and let “your stuff” move through you!
The third key to widen your window of tolerance is though nutrition. I can speak for myself,
when I am hungry, I’m definitely not at my best. Therefore, in order to effectively manage your
emotional state through the day, it’s vitally important to make sure you’re well nourished. It’s
not only satiating your body but also your mind. When our brains don’t get adequate nutrients,
it doesn’t operate to its fullest capacity. Aim for consistency and adequacy.
I hope these simple yet important aspects of life (sleep, movement, and nutrition) will help you
widen your window of tolerance and navigate the transition of this next season.
By: Mary Ellen Alexander, Master’s level intern