Window of Tolerance

Know your limits

As parents, we get pushed to our limits. The rollercoaster of parenthood takes us up, down, around, backward, and sometimes through flaming rings of fire. Often we may ask the question: am I going to survive this? The Window of Tolerance offers perspective into understanding one's own personal limits. Knowing one's own personal breaking points and how to rejuvenate can help parents keep their cool.

What is the Window of Tolerance?

The Window of Tolerance is a way we can understand how we react to stress. As shown in the diagram, the window portion refers to the calm and collected state in which we are able to receive information and situations around us. Within the window, we are emotionally regulated. However, when we become stressed out and reach our breaking points we leave the window; our bodies go into "fight or flight" and sometimes freeze. Stress can lead us in two different directions: Hyper-Arousal and Hypo-Arousal.

Hyper-Arousal is most often connected to the flight or fight response. Feelings that might lead some to this kind of response are: rage, anxious, aggressive, frightened, out of control, and overwhelmed or racing thoughts.

Hypo-Arousal tends to send us to the freeze response. Feelings that can lead to this kind of response are those of being withdrawn, disconnected, empty, hard to reach, lost, inactive, terrified, and frozen.

Real-life Application

As you start this journey to self-mastery, self observance is key. Take note of what's happening around you; how are those things influencing you? How do you feel? How are you choosing to react? How do the people, places, and things around influence you? It takes time to understand your own personal limits. Practice recognizing how your body responds to different emotions. As you start to understand yourself better, you will be better able to catch yourself from going over the edge.

Once you are able to recognize these limits within yourself, it will become easier to see when you need to do something for yourself to regulate (like taking a break).

5 Tips for Parents to Self Regulate

  1. Deep Breathing. It is a very normal response for people to take short shallow breaths when they are feeling stressed. Stop for a minute and take 3 to 10 deep breaths.
  2. Drink Water. When we are dehydrated, our nervous system does not function as well and we become more sensitive.
  3. Pause. Have a mindfulness moment. Close your eyes and just feel what is happening in your body.
  4. Think. Look for the positive. Try to see the situation from a different perspective.
  5. Visualize. See the positive outcome in your mind. This can be a very powerful tool.


Children are also affected by stress. However, children may struggle to know how to self regulate. It is important that, as parents, we teach children these skills.

Tips for Teaching Children Self-Regulation

  1. Rest and Nutrition. Sometimes what a tantrum-throwing toddler needs most in the moment is a snack or a nap
  2. Outside play. Children need time for free play and outside play. Outdoor play that includes running, jumping and big movement gets the heart pumping. This allows the body to release happy Endorphins, bringing the child back to happy and calm.
  3. Bubble blowing. This skill teaches kids to slow their breathing down and take deep breaths.
  4. Read and Teach. Read books that help teach and explain the different emotions. Help children identify what they are feeling.
  5. Music time. Listening to music can help settle children down.

For more on this topic check out these resources

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVEDueyZ2C4

https://www.hhri.org/gbv-training-manual/about-manual/tools/window-of-tolerance/

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/window-of-tolerance

http://ageofmontessori.org/teaching-children-to-self-regulate/

https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/strategi 

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Saturday, 26 September 2020

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