Regulating your nervous system with the window of tolerance

This is a tool I teach all my clients within the first session or two and continue to return to throughout the work.”What zone are you in?” I’ll ask clients if I see them zoning out during a conversation or speeding up while they’re talking. “Which activity feels greenest?” I’ll ask when offering a menu of exercises, or: “Do you feel ready to try something a little yellow?” Paying attention to our body’s cues helps us build safety, whether we’re alone or with a partner. Watch me explain the window of tolerance in more detail here. I created this version of the window of tolerance based on tools from somatic sex educators Caffyn Jesse and Corinne Diachuk.

Typically, we want to be in the green zone about sixty to seventy percent of the time in a session. This is pretty different than where most of us live day-to-day, given that many of us have to spend more time at our jobs than we’d like to, interact with people we don’t get along with, commute in traffic, wash dishes, pay bills, and lots of other activities that don’t bring us joy, so it can take a lot of practice to get the hang of choosing comfort and pleasure.

Once we’ve established a foundation of safety and presence, we consciously choose activities that bring us into the yellow zone — which is where we learn and grow. But we need to be self aware when we’re in the yellow zone, making sure we don’t edge into orange or red. Once we’re activated (orange and red zone), we’re re-training our body to repeat the same old nervous system patterns we’ve learned our whole lives. For most of us, that’s a fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response, and although that pattern has likely served us well in the past, it’s usually the very pattern clients come to me to unlearn.

The window of tolerance is a powerful tool for learning embodied consent. Consent is way more than getting a simple “yes” or “no” — it requires awareness of our body and attunement to our partner’s as well. You can learn more about what embodied consent feels like over on my Instagram.

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