Finding your window of tolerance

| October 29, 2020
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In a recent postthe SHWB team shared some advice for maintaining your equilibrium when current events bring up negative feelings. 

In this post, we (a team of providers from the Homewood Counseling Center) would like to discuss additional strategies to use when you are emotionally heightened or distressed, by either personal or global events. 

Acknowledge how you are feeling and take time and space to cope. Avoid discussions that lead to conflict or arguments. Have a plan for setting boundaries and taking space from others if needed. Practice deep breathing, muscle relaxation, or guided imagery and mindfulness. You can try this election self-care worksheet, which has guided questions to help you think through your feelings and thoughts.

Practice gratitude. Remind yourself what you are grateful for. Write it down, or take a picture. Focusing on gratitude can build hope and resilience.

Do a self-check of your emotional state. The window of tolerance is the zone of arousal in which we are able to function most effectively. In contrast, when we are hyperaroused, we feel excessive activation or energy, often in the form of anxiety, panic, fear, hypervigilance, and emotional flooding. When we are hypoaroused, we are shut down or dissociated from our feelings.

Continue to monitor your level of arousal. Doing so will help you feel more in control of your mood and stress. The more you check in with yourself, the more you build self-awareness about your feelings. When you find yourself outside of your window of tolerance, try to name and understand what pushes you outside of your window. Then try to practice a stress management or mindfulness skill to moderate your level of arousal.

Join a Counseling Center group to learn more. The Critical Skills Coping group can teach you more about the window of tolerance, emotion regulation, and other key components of symptom management that can help you deal with anxiety, trauma, and life in general. It is open to all Hopkins students from all schools, and is available Monday evenings and Thursday afternoons. In addition to the critical skills group, there are other mental health workshops and drop-in groups too.

As always, seek professional help if you need it. Some key Hopkins resources are available below. You can also reach out to SHWB staff at