Have you ever wondered why there are some times when things seem easy and you can stretch to meet challenges while at others it takes a lot less to get you feeling frustrated, angry, or overwhelmed? A lot of this comes down to the impact different pressures can have on our lives. As the number of pressures increase our ability to bounce back and cope or tolerate change most often becomes less. We call this the ‘Window of Tolerance’. Psychologists have long discussed the impact of different types of stress. As you would expect, major events like the loss of a job, bereavement, illness or moving house can impact on our ability to cope with new challenges. Interestingly, it isn’t just negative events that can be stressful for us. Christmas (we all love our in-laws …), the birth of a child or a new job role also have the ability to create ongoing stress. The impact of these stressors often effects how well we manage our day-to-day activities. The demands of getting tired children ready for school, managing the bills, getting feedback from our boss and all the other noise of life play a role in how we cope. Finally, when we think about stress it’s important to not just look at now. Think about what’s happened over the past 3-6 months. Often we forget what happened last week but stress builds over time and we need to take a long view of how we got to where we currently are. When under prolonged pressure, it is common to find ourselves reacting to situations differently to when our stress tolerance is greater. Discussion Point: Think about the past 6 months and the types of stressors you have had to cope with over that time. How would you rate yourself and you as a couple in terms of how much you have had to deal with?

Read below and discuss how these strategies could be helpful, maybe add one or two and discuss how you can support each other in developing one of them The ‘Window of Tolerance’ is about being aware of our capacity to tolerate and manage ourselves under different pressures. Being aware of where we are at in our capacity to tolerate different life situations and having some strategies to build our tolerance threshold to manage busyness, heightened stress and as we said earlier, “the noise of life” can be helpful. Some useful strategies:

1. Pause… be aware of where you are – what can you hear, see, feel

2. Remember to breathe – in for 5 and out for 5

3. Gauge where you are at with things – especially at this time of year

4. Take things a step at a time

5. Connect with your partner and/or supportive friends

6. Be kind to yourself

7. Know your boundaries – what is ok and not ok for you, including the use of your time.


Excerpt from* Siegel, D. (1999), “The Developing Mind” Dr Jamie Scott and Dr Bec Loundar