All of us need to take time out from the stress. This includes the possible triggers of being around people. This is particularly important when we have experienced childhood trauma. That’s because people who were traumatised as a child often find it difficult to regulate their levels of arousal, and their emotions.
We call the place where we’re feeling okay the Window of Tolerance. This is the arousal zone in which we can tolerate our feelings without ‘flipping our lid’. When we 'flip our lids' we are moving above or below our Window of Tolerance. Doing so is a biological response. It is to be expected.
When it is a fight or flight response, it is above our Window of Tolerance (hyper-arousal) or below our Window into a freeze response (hypo-arousal). Both of these can be expected as a response to childhood trauma.
Trauma survivors often have a tiny Window of Tolerance. This is because our brain is used to threat. It is prepared for danger. We feel easily overwhelmed and triggered. Little things can set us off. While sometimes we can’t help it because it’s a biological reaction, we can learn to change it. Time out to help us regulate and return to our Window of Tolerance. One way of doing that is through using anchors.
Just as an anchor of a boat stops the boat being washed away with the currents – positive images of places can “anchor” our thoughts and feelings. These can be places to which we have been, or places to which we would like to go. The place doesn’t have to be anywhere fancy - just somewhere you feel calm and safe.
You could remember a part of your house, a favourite coffee shop, a park, a friend’s house or even a hospital or health centre. Or you could imagine a place that you have seen in a magazine, book, TV or movie. As you imagine this place, use your senses.
- What it looks like, things you'd see there
- Any sounds you'd hear there
- Any textures, things you'd touch there
- Any smells
- Any tastes
- How does it feel being there?
- What do you really like about it?
Notice how your body feels as you think about this place.
You can think of this place when you feel you are leaving your Window of Tolerance to help you feel calm again.