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Understanding Your Window of Tolerance to Help Manage Grief

Understanding your window of tolerance to help manage grief is an important part of your emotional health. 


When you are operating within your window of tolerance you could say you are in a serene state. More specifically you are feeling calm and aware. You are able to recognize that life is not perfect but are confident and able to handle whatever comes your way. You feel a handful of different emotions but have the capability to interpret them. In this state you can self soothe and regulate the emotions that arise. 


 When you are experiencing grief it may feel as though that window of tolerance is shrinking. When you are battling grief, those moments of freaking out may seem to come more often. 


Everyone experiences grief differently. It is not uncommon though, that grief makes it harder to manage emotions. The emotions you experience from grief can be very energy draining. The amount of emotional energy you have may be exhausted by grief and can affect your window of tolerance. It is important to understand your own window of tolerance to help manage your grief.


Understanding Your Window of Tolerance to Help Manage Grief

There are a variety of things that can push you outside of your window of tolerance. Both conscious and unconscious thoughts, physical feelings in your body as well as feelings of rejection or abandonment. If you are feeling alone in your grief. If you are feeling that you haven’t had the chance to process your grief.


Once you step outside of your window of tolerance you may start to feel emotional and physical clues that can help you manage yourself. When you have moved outside your W.O.T it could go one of two ways. One way can lead to totally disengagement and lethargy and numbness. The other way leads more to the proverbial “freak out”. This may climax with an angry explosion and feelings of loss of control.



The first step out is dysregulation. Here you may feel agitated, uncomfortable and a variety of other strong emotions. You aren’t out of control yet but it is starting to get worse. 


The other side of dysregulation causes withdrawal. You may feel tired and out of it. 



When you reach hyperarousal you are now feeling stressed and out of control. You may want to fight or run away. In this state you feel like you lack control over your emotions. It does not feel good. 


It could also turn into full withdrawal and lethargy. I feel absent from my body and don’t want to participate in life. 



Choose your adventure

An example of dysregulation and hyperarousal could include the following scenario.  A woman has been grieving the loss of her Mother. She did not sleep well last night. Today she is in a shopping mall getting the last of her holiday gifts. The lines are long, the holiday cheer is depressing and her kids are pushing her buttons. She starts to feel as though she is losing patience. Her anxiety kicks in and she feels as though she doesn’t want to be at the mall anymore.


 Now it is time to “choose your adventure”, she could continue to shop and be inundated with holiday madness as she slowly but surely moves outside of her window of tolerance into dysregulation and eventually makes her way to hyperarousal.


 In this scenario she screams at her kids, cusses out the mall Santa and gets a triple scoop of extra sugary chocolate ice cream that is out of her budget and outside her healthy eating values. Or she could recognize that her grief is exhausting her emotional energy, she has moved outside her W.O.T and is feeling dysregulated. She decides to get a single scoop of ice cream and head home.


Being aware of your emotions as well as when you become dysregulated can be a large benefit to your overall emotional health. If you need further grief support you can find it here. 


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