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Emotional regulation skills – the practical edition

Emotional regulation skills – the practical edition

Last week we introduced some of the basic concepts around emotional regulation and within that the idea of our ‘Window of Tolerance’.  As a bit of a recap, the window of tolerance is the zone where big emotions can be processed in a healthy way, allowing us to function and react to stress, anxiety, and fear effectively. 

It’s the comfort-zone where we have the ability to self-soothe and self-regulate.  We also learned that when we’ve experienced trauma our window of tolerance can get adversely affected, and so we can find our body responding defensively when we don’t need or want it to, causing us to leave our window of tolerance and the end result is some form of emotional dysregulation.  If you missed it, click HERE for all the juicy background bits. This week we wanted to add some practical steps to working on our emotional regulation in order to spend more of our time within our ‘window’!

If we can understand how something makes us feel both physically and emotionally, it gives us an understanding of where we are in our window of tolerance.  If we can learn to recognise our symptoms of both regulation and dysregulation we are better placed to take actionable steps when we’re drifting outside of it.  If we don’t know it’s happening – we can’t do anything about it! There are four steps to recognising our window of tolerance:

  1. Pay attention to our symptoms

When you recognise that your experience isn’t quite ‘right’, take a minute to pause.  Focus on what is happening to your body and how it is reacting, alongside the feelings that are accompanying the bodily responses. [HINTS: are you feeling suddenly hot and flushed, or shivery and shaking, is your voice quivering or getting louder or quitter?  Are you drawn to eat mindlessly or maybe feel nauseated?  Do you feel numb or like you can’t focus on what is happening around you?]

  1. Identify the symptoms we experience

The next step is to start to become aware of the symptoms you experience in response to everyday stress, anxiety and pressure.  We want to categorise them into either hyperarousal (fight/flight) or hypoarousal (freeze) symptoms.  This takes a bit of practice so use the worksheet below to help.

  1. Rank the distress level

We then want to identify the distress level for each of the symptoms by ranking each symptom from 1 to 5 (1 = least severe, 5 = extremely severe).  This helps us know when to take action because it’s a lot easier to take action towards emotional regulation when we’re at a level 1 vs when we’re at a level 5.

  1. Identify the cause

This is all about learning our triggers in order to be better prepared next time around.  Once we’re able to identify our triggers, we’re able to take actionable steps to learn how to bring ourselves back into our window of tolerance when it happens.

So now we know how to recognise and identify symptoms our own unique symptoms of emotional dysregulation.  Next week, we’ll explore what practical steps we can take to improve our emotional regulation skills and spend more time within our window of tolerance.



If you’d like to explore your own emotional regulation skills and would like a safe space to talk about your mental health, please get in touch with us: / / 03 9077 8194.


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