Often burnout is a common theme amongst many of my clients and when we are juggling so much we don’t always see the big curve up ahead – curves are inevitable, however the crash doesn’t have to be. To keep the crash from happening, it’s important to know the signs to look for, the warning lights that signal burnout.
A key concept in avoiding the crash is having a working insight in to your own ‘Window of Tolerance’ this is a term used to describe the zone of arousal in which we are able to function most effectively. When we are within this zone, we are typically able to readily receive, process, and integrate information and otherwise respond to the demands of everyday life without much difficulty. This optimal window was first named as such by Dan Siegel. .
This can be thought of as sailing within a river of well-being (Siegel & Bryson, 2012) where we are able to respond to all that comes our way without getting thrown off course. When we are outside of our window of tolerance, our nervous system responds by going into survival mode – fight, flight or freeze. We can either feel overwhelmed and go into hyper-arousal or we can shut down and go into hypo-arousal. Our window of tolerance can be narrow or wide and is different for all people and at different times in our lives.
“We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” – Thomas Monson
When we are able to widen our window of tolerance, we can enjoy more smooth sailing regardless of the waves, obstacles and adventures we encounter.
Mindfulness and The Window of Tolerance
Emotion regulation depends on our ability to be mindful of fluctuation in our level of arousal and to respond wisely. By becoming aware of body sensations, thoughts and emotions, we can learn to recognise when we are in our optimal zone of arousal or going into hyper or hypo-arousal.
Mindfulness gives us skills to:
• Enjoy when we our sailing within our river of well-being.
• Notice when we are heading into rough waters and steer us back on course.
• Recognise when we’re in the danger zone and bring ourselves back to safety through grounding skills.