Increase your window of tolerance

We should all be looking to contantly keep learning and bettering ourselves throughout our lives. There is always opportunity for self-reflection and growth, with the big things life throws our way, and also in the everyday. Something so prevalent in our busy lives and busy workplaces is stress and our ability to manage it and show resilience. This is often a key area of growth many of us should be reflecting on. Let’s explore the science behind stress and how we can tackle it from a scientific perspective.

Dr Daniel Siegel, renowned clinical professor of psychiatry and author is an expert in interpersonal neurobiology; the study of how the brain and mind are shaped by relationships and experiences. He works with patients who have experienced brain trauma and shares how chronic stress and trauma can lead to a dysregulation of the nervous system, resulting in a state of heightened arousal leading to increased heart rate, high blood pressure, hypervigilance, difficulty sleeping and emotional reactivity. The great news is though, that the brain can be rewired through experiences of mindfulness and other types of mental exercises. Through daily practices, it is suggested by Seigal that with a greater awareness of bodily sensations, emotions, and thoughts, we all can develop greater levels of resilience when life does throw us curve balls. We can thereby reduce our vulnerability to the state of hyperarousal.

Seigal refers to the ‘window of tolerance’ and encourages his patients to increase the window of tolerance in an effort to improve their resilience, emotional regulation and overall well-being.

Daily Practices to expand your window of tolerance:

  1. Practice mindfulness:
    Even ten minutes a day of concentrated mindfulness can work wonders to creating greater awareness of your thoughts, feelings and their physical symptoms without judgment. You’ll become more aware of your triggers for stress and help you gauge when you are becoming overwhelmed, leading to a greater ability to regulate your emotions; a vital skill in the workplace and for life in general.
  2. Have a self-care routine:
    Looking after your emotional and mental health can help increase your resilience and ability to cope with stress. Likewise, daily exercise helps immensely. In particular we need to take greater care in performing daily physical activities, healthy eating, getting enough sleep, spending time in nature, and pursuing things that encourage us to disconnect from our worries and bring us joy. Workplaces these days need to support and encourage everyone int their team having time to disconnect from work and practice good self-care every day.
  3. Get grounded:
    A bit of zen in some situations definitely helps. And it has a cumulative effect, the more you practice it, the more it becomes part of you.

    With some good grounding techniques under your belt, you can use them in the heat of the moment situations to keep cool, calm and collected. Deep breathing, meditation, yoga; anything that helps you stay in the present moment is a great way to reduce feelings of anxiety or overwhelm. Stress also has a trickle-down effect.

    Stressed leaders can lead to stressed employees. Grounded leaders instill a sense of control and calm and resilience in times of change and challenge. As a leader, try to improve your radar of sensing when your team may need some guidance is being more grounded.

    Do certain situations make them visibly stressed? Let them know it’s OK to have a break, to take some time out. Sometimes, leaders need to know when to let conflict run it’s course (because conflict can be really healthy and lead us to great outcomes) and when to jump in a break the tension. Being more emotionally aware yourself will give you greater confidence to lead others in this way.
  4. Stay connected:
    Those people who feel like they belong have a greater sense of wellbeing. Having a support network of friends, and family can provide a sense of belonging and reduce feelings of isolation or loneliness. It can also provide opportunities for healthy emotional regulation through shared experiences and conversations. At work, feeling valued and heard is essential. As a leader providing opportunities for everyone to feel connected is important. This can be challenging for remote workplaces. Many businesses have introduced a hybrid work model so teams can come together for some time each week. Use these opportunities to get together and connect in meaningful ways – go for lunch, grab a coffee, start a lunchtime walking group. Great opportunities to get to know our team on more than just a work level, to build a greater sense of belonging and rapport.
  5. Be positive:
    Sometimes we think the worst. Identify and challenge negative thoughts that may be contributing to emotional dysregulation. This can involve examining evidence for and against negative thoughts and reframing them in a more positive or realistic way. As a leader, you can help your employees fight off negativity by reassuring they are valued, their work is doing well, offering them an open door to talk through their concerns or worries and feel supported.

By implementing these practices, you will quickly notice greater emotional resilience. What are some other meaningful ways you can increase your window of tolerance; I’d love to hear?

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