Influencing our Nervous System

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Window of Tolerance from The Complex PTSD Workbook


“The window of tolerance is a concept developed by clinical psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Siegel.

It refers to an optimal zone of nervous system arousal where you are able to respond effectively to your emotions.

When you are outside of your window of tolerance, you will go into survival modes.

Feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or panicked is a sign that you are hyper-or over-aroused, whereas feeling shut down, numb, or disconnected is a sign that you are hypo-or under-aroused.

It is common with C-PTSD to alternate between the two extremes or to feel stuck in one or the other.

When you begin to practice emotion regulation, you focus on developing the capacity to stay within your window of tolerance by cultivating mindfulness of the fluctuations in your sensations, thoughts, and emotions.

Through this, you increase awareness of the subtle signs of dysregulation.

An early sign of distress might be a sense of slight irritability or growing frustration.

Maybe you observe that your breath has become shallow or that you are clenching your jaw.

When you are able to recognize the slight changes in your body, you can engage self-care resources before you get overwhelmed or shut down.
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