Using Anchors

All of us need to take time out from stress. This includes the possible triggers of being around people. This is particularly important when we have experienced complex trauma, especially from childhood. 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 when we have experienced trauma is a biological response. It is to be expected.

With a fight or flight response, we move above our Window of Tolerance (hyper-arousal) and below our Window into a freeze response (hypo-arousal). These are both reactions to trauma.

Trauma survivors often have a tiny Window of Tolerance. This is because the traumatised brain is used to threat. It is prepared for danger. When we have experienced trauma we are easily overwhelmed and triggered. Little things can set us off. While sometimes we can’t help being triggered because it’s a biological reaction, we can learn to change it.

Island Surrounded With Blue Sea

Time out can 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 you choose doesn’t have to be anywhere fancy – just somewhere you feel calm and safe.

When choosing your anchor 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.

When you use your anchor imagine:

    • 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?

You can think of this place when you feel you are leaving your Window of Tolerance to help you feel calm again

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