Increase Your Capacity to Cope: How to Find and Stay in Your Window of Tolerance

Life has been compared to many things: a book, a box of chocolates, or even a road we travel. So we forge ahead through its many chapters, never knowing what we’re going to get, and choosing from its many paths. It’s often an unpredictable ride.

At times, it can feel like an uphill battle, full of twists, turns, ups, and downs. Our emotions are often just as volatile as we go. Maybe you find that most of the time, you’re smiling, enjoying yourself, and just along for the ride. But what happens when life gets to be a bit too much and you just want to scream?

The truth is, everyone has their own window of tolerance. We each have our own capacity for coping with the things life throws our way. To stay in the window of tolerance, the primary objective is to regulate your feelings. Concentrating on staying present helps counter high levels of arousal caused by anxiety.

Try these tips next time you’re craving stability and solid emotional ground again:

Just Breathe

Focusing on your breathing can help bring you back to the here and now. A breathing technique may look as simple as the following:

  • Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds.
  • Breathe out through your mouth for 5 seconds.

This simple yet effective technique will help calm you and bring you back to reality. There is a wide range of breathing techniques available. Try a few of them out and see which technique works best for you.

Physical Activity

The pent-up energy you’re experiencing when dealing with different stressors often has nowhere to go unless you express it. Physical movement is a proven way to help channel all of the unwanted energy into something a little more productive. Physical activity doesn’t require you to be an Olympian. Simply walking on a treadmill, stretching, or riding on a bicycle for a while outside. The point is to get moving and tap into the strength and capability of your body.

Stay Present

Staying present will help you in the present moment, as well as prepare you to cope in the future. Instead of staying present in your stressors, try to overcome them by asking yourself questions. Here are a few key questions to begin with:

  • Why am I stressed?
  • What am I thinking about?
  • Will this matter tomorrow, a week from now, a year from now?

Asking yourself these types of questions will help you become more aware of what’s causing your stress and anxiety. When you start to work on being proactive rather than reactive, you can better manage your stressors.

Write Down Your Thoughts

Writing down your thoughts and feelings is another way you can be proactive in developing coping techniques. Journaling what you’re experiencing can help channel your thoughts and feelings through your pen or keyboard. Instead of staying within you, with nowhere to go, feelings are out of your body, giving a bit of distance and perspective.

In addition, your writing is there to return to when you’re in a better state of mind. You can reread your entries and try to determine what caused you to feel the way you did. This can be an effective tool introspectively and in therapy, towards helping to devise an action plan to overcome a similar stressor in the future.

Explore Other Options

Finding and staying within your window of tolerance can be challenging on your own. You may need extra support to help you rein in difficult emotions. Sometimes life sends you in a direction for which you haven’t the tools to manage. To cope, reaching out to a friend or family member may be comforting and calming.

For lasting relief, scheduling an appointment with a qualified therapist can secure a safe space for learning to cope more effectively. Together you can work on processing complex memories, feelings, and the reactivity that keeps you stuck internally. As your therapist facilitates a wider window of tolerance, your capacity to cope grows. When that occurs, your confidence and self-control broaden. Soon, stability happens from within and the old stressors have less power and influence.

Are you ready for a change? I’m here to help. Please consider reading more about adult therapy and contact me soon for a consultation.

Be well,

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