How’s your tolerance window?

abstract painting

This painting has an exceptional background. It is not originally a work of art at all, but a tool for stress management.

Last autumn I was under a lot of stress and felt that life was a constant tiring and struggle to cope day to day. Even the smallest adversity felt almost impossible. At the same time, I couldn’t help but fulfill all the expectations (I invented myself) at work, at home, in my hobbies and in my relationships. I was constantly chasing myself down the barrel because I had no way to calm my mind and increase my own “tolerance window”.

Tolerance window was a new thing for me, taught to me by my highly skilled occupational therapist in psychophysical physiotherapy. She explained that the brain has different states of arousal; hypervigilance, hypovigilance and optimum arousal.

The state of arousal varies naturally, but but the range of optimal arousal can become narrower due to prolonged stress or depression. An over-vigilant state is like a “fight or flight” state – you are highly activated and your priority is survival. In this state, action is number one and learning or clear thinking take a back seat.

Even in an under-vigilant state, reasonable thinking dodges and concentration is impaired when the goal is mainly to conserve energy. This also explains why it is sometimes so difficult to get off the couch. On the other hand, there is no active recovery either in this stage.

Although you cannot directly control your own state of alertness, you can influence it. The key is to know when to activate and when to calm down. I got a lot of good advice on breathing exercises, physical movement sequences, tapping and the table exercise that inspired this art piece.

The table exercise

The table exercise uses a laser pointer attached to top of your head to follow a wave pattern from top to bottom and side to side. The exercise was surprisingly difficult at first, but gradually the concentration improved and the fine motor skills of the neck improved.

Since the exercise was to be done almost daily, I didn’t want to keep a jumbled mess drawn with a marker on the wall, but painted this Window of tolerance on a growth board, where the undulating movements also create the impression of Renaissance arched windows and colonnades.

The exercise is now partly over for me and I think my tolerance window has returned to normal through these exercises and other significant life changes. However, this board is still on my wall to remind me of the importance of my own well-being and the importance of looking after it.

PS. You can simply google tolerance window for more information or ask about it from health professionals.

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