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Stress & Your Window of Tolerance


One area in the brain, called the amygdala, decides if something is a stressor or not. The amygdala is the emotional centre, part of the brain’s limbic system. This is where emotions are given meaning, remembered, and attached to associations and responds to them (emotional memories).

Once your amygdala says this is a perceived threat, on an unconscious level, it is taking information from all our senses and using this information to make these quick judgements to decide if this is a perceived threat or not. This starts a hormone cascade.

Imagine your body is a vehicle, if you know how it functions, you have been practicing and training with it, you will be able to navigate it. So your breaking system is your frontal lobes. If your breaking system is working well, you have been practicing calming your nervous system, you can stop the flood of hormone cascade. If you have a history of chronic stress, inflammation and/or history of trauma, your breaking system will be impacted. It moves to your other hormone systems.


In a normal stress response, you perceive a threat and your cortisol levels will help mitigate that and it will return to normal. What is different for someone who has a history of PTSD, chronic stress or trauma, is that they will constantly shoot out cortisol because of their reduced sensitivity in their your ability to use it, it puts them in a constant activated nervous system response.

How do you know if you had an activation in the amygdala that there is a threat?

How you do know that you are starting the cascading of hormones?


What does it feel like?


What does it feel like to leave your window of tolerance of stress?


WELL, the more connected you are to your breath and your body the more you are able to pay attention to your mind body cues.

Here’s how your can identify your window of tolerance and things you can do to build the window of tolerance:

  1. Learn when you can tolerate the stress and when you cannot tolerate stress. When you are constantly activated, it is harder to get out. As you do the work, as you start practicing nervous system regulation, you start to learn how to regain control when your stress response is activated. As your tolerance grows, the less you view stressors. It is all about building your resource kit, each persons kit will be different and unique to them.

  2. Learning how to regulate your nervous system. It is the key to mental, emotional and physical health. Do a daily practice at least 10 minutes to regulate your nervous system. If you have a history of trauma, inflammation, of chronic stress, do a minimum of 30 minutes daily. Part of trauma is to disconnect from your body, and you want to reconnect to your body so you can create a strong window of tolerance. Reconnection won’t take place unless you are regulating your nervous system. Put in your calendar maybe complete three, ten minute increments of whatever you can to start with (yoga, breath work, singing, humming, cold showers, self holds). Ex: practice breathing with your belly, not with your chest, it takes practice to retrain your body to breath through the belly and not the chest.

  3. Connect with your breath and your body during the experience. The more you are connected to your body and breath, the more you are able to pay attention to the cues. EX: some people feel a tightening in their chest, heat in the body, agitation in the brain. What is important is you listen to your own cues and what your signals are. Do not ignore it, state out loud if you need to. What you are feeling and where you are feeling it? Say out loud, I need to pause and use a resource. The easiest, free, quickest thing is breath work. Do a 4-7-8 breathing, breath in for 4, hold for 7, breath out for 8.

  4. Set boundaries. Your boundaries are boundaries for your nervous system, your window of tolerance. Boundaries are not selfish, you are helping other people and yourself be putting them in place. Example: you go to bed at 9:30pm because if you don’t have amazing sleep you aren’t your best self, so you set the boundary and leave a gathering so you can respect your body.

The reconnection, retraining, and rewiring of the nervous system, especially after trauma, needs to be an intentional, conscious daily practice. This is a lifestyle, not just a one time thing. Healing means taking an honest look at the role you play in your own suffering. Make the time for this, for you, for your health, for your body. No matter what you experienced, I want you to know that you deserve this, you are important, you are loved, you are so worthy of taking care of yourself. You have to create your safe space. There will be a whole new world of radiance, peace, joy that trauma keeps away from you. I want you to know that things will get better. You are resilient. If you are looking for someone to support you, guide you and hold you accountable for integrating a daily practice for building your window of tolerance, book a free clarity call to see if we are a good fit!

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