The Montfort Group

Strategies To Self Regulate

On any given day we may experience a range of emotions which can vary in intensity and illicit a variety of reactions.

Dr. Dan Siegel describes the window of tolerance as “the optimal zone of arousal”. It is basically the space where we can most effectively manage life’s stressors and respond to our emotional experiences in healthy, appropriate ways using coping strategies. When we are inside our individual range we feel calm, relaxed and in control. There is a sense of safety and connection. When we are outside of our window of tolerance, we can find ourselves off balance, overwhelmed, or disconnected. This is where the body’s alarm system takes over and fight, flight, freeze responses occur.

Most of us have the capacity to tolerate the ebb and flow of emotions and have strategies to self-regulate. However, trauma, chronic stress, and adverse childhood experiences can narrow the window of tolerance and limit that capacity. Daily life events can seem like huge challenges and illicit outsized reactions.

The good news is that we don’t have to live outside our window of tolerance. Self awareness, self care, and the ability to self soothe can all help expand our optimal arousal level.

Before we can engage our coping strategies, however, we need to recognize when we are bumping up against the edges of our window of tolerance. Below is a 2-5 min daily practice to connect with the body and tune into inner experiences.

FIVE POINT CHECK-IN

Checking in with yourself helps you connect with your inner experience, notice where you are and then decide what to do with that information. Coping strategies often are helpful when you take a few moments to notice what is happening internally; simply observe; there is no right or wrong, no judgment, just notice…

  1. Start by noticing your breath:  Is it flowing? Does it feel easy? Are you holding your breath? Is it restricted in any way?
  2. Check in with your energy level: Do you feel energized? Fatigued? Is your energy level rising?
    Perhaps it’s dropping?
  3. Next check in with your emotions: Notice what you are feeling in this moment. Can you identify the emotion and label it with just one word?
  4. Check your thoughts, not the content but rather your pattern of thinking: Is your mind jumping from thought to thought? Are your thoughts flowing rapidly? Do you have trouble focusing? Is there clarity or do you feel foggy?
  5. Finally, check in with your body: Start from the top of your head and gently scan your way down. Notice areas that need attention. Notice sensations. Are there parts of the body that carry tension, discomfort? Does your body feel relaxed? Maybe some places just feel neutral? Just notice with no expectations and no judgments.


Now that you’ve taken some time to check in with yourself and notice your internal experience, do anything you need at this moment to help you restore comfort and peace.

Picture of Gergana Markov, MBA, MS, LPC

Gergana Markov, MBA, MS, LPC

I am a National Certified Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Texas. I received my Masters of Science in Counseling from Southern Methodist University and also hold a Masters in Business Administration from Georgia State University. I had a successful career in real estate acquisitions, corporate marketing, and advertising prior to becoming a counselor. My clinical training and experiences include counseling individuals, couples, and groups in various treatment settings, including private practice, community clinics, and hospitals. I am an EMDR trained therapist and utilize trauma-informed interventions in my practice. Additionally, I have specialized training in parent-child dynamics, gender and sexuality issues, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, and Safe Conversations for couples and communities. I am also a passionate LGBTQ+ ally.

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