The Window of Tolerance or Zone of Emotional Regulation is a helpful way to describe the best emotional ‘zone’ for us to be in to
function well.

When we are within our window of tolerance we are emotionally regulated and have the capacity to
cope with everyday things.

Internal or external stressors can cause us to move outside of our window of tolerance.

Outside our window of tolerance when we are hyper-aroused, we can appear angry, panicky,
irritable, anxious, overly excited or vigilant, overwhelmed, ready to fight or escape.

Outside our window of tolerance when we are hypo-aroused, we can look withdrawn, flat, shut down,
depressed, or disconnected.

Emotion-Regulation-Window-of-Tolerance-Educational-Poster-in-Yellow-Red-Fun-Style-724x1024 Understanding our Window of Tolerance

We all have different windows of tolerance depending on factors such as our temperament,
personality, background (including any trauma), our social supports and our physiology.

People who have experienced trauma usually have a smaller window of tolerance.

With support, our window of tolerance can be expanded.

To function well in everyday life and build healthy relationships we need to exist, for most of the time,
within our window of tolerance.

Inside our window of tolerance, we are use the ‘thinking’ part of our brain and we can access
(executive functioning) skills which allow us to work, relate to others, and to problem solve.

These (executive functioning) skills include the ability to organise, plan and prioritise tasks, stay
focused, regulate emotions, practice self-control, and manage our time.

When we are outside our window of tolerance, we generally stop using the thinking part of our brain
and lose access to the executive skills we need to function well. This is when we are more likely to
make poor choices, display behaviours that aren’t helpful to us, or do/say things that harm our
relationships with others.

We will all move outside our window of tolerance at times.

Being aware of this concept can help us understand our emotions and behaviours and that of others.

How do we expand our window of tolerance?

Manage our physical environment: create or organise our living and/or working environments to
reduce stressors (think about lighting, sound levels, clutter, etc.)

Practice good self-care: get enough sleep and exercise, eat well, and address any health issues.

Be kind to our mind: engage in activities that mentally stimulate us and help us to focus, find time to
play, and allow our minds to rest. Do things that soothe our senses- calming music, scented candle,
getting into comfortable clothes.. whatever works for you!

Make connections: try to build and maintain some healthy relationships and find a purpose (for
example, exploring your spiritual self or taking time to enjoy nature).

Develop helpful strategies or habits: to help us soothe ourselves, regulate our emotions, and redirect
our minds away from unhelpful or harmful thoughts. Try writing things down, challenge negative
thoughts with positive ones, practice deep breathing, etc.

Things to try when we move outside our window of tolerance

Practice mindfulness to be more aware, open, accepting, present

Increase our happiness by being creative, socialising, getting outdoors, laughing..

Reduce SHAME by showing more self-compassion, reframing our thoughts

Build resilience through connections, wellness, having purpose

Learn to self-regulate more effectively.

We may initially need help with this ALL these things take PRACTICE!

Helping others stay within their window of tolerance

We can help others (family, friends, colleagues) to stay within their Window of Tolerance by:

Sharing information about, or teaching them about, the Window of Tolerance

Sharing information, or teaching, strategies that will help us stay within, or even expand, our Window
of Tolerance

Use of Posters on the walls of staffrooms or classrooms may be useful prompts or reminders