I write a whole lot about fear. This is because I spent much of my life mired in it – anxious, afraid, feeling like I didn’t have what it takes to survive in this world. A hefty part of my fear has always been tangled up in anxiety, depression, and perfectionism.
There is no shame in experiencing fear or anger or any other emotion – we are simply human in a messy world. For wholeness we need to identify and acknowledge our emotions and then move on through them to learn we have what it takes. Learning to tell the truth about what we feel is a critical step toward wholeness and freedom.
Perhaps, like me, you don’t identify with the folks that write about living “fearless” – instead, what I learned, what I still practice daily, is to show up through fear (or sorrow or discomfort…) to build the life I want. I don’t have to wait until life feels fear-less, stress-free, or smooth sailing to show up fully to this imperfect and beautiful life of mine.
WHAT’S A WINDOW OF CAPACITY AND how do i expand my capacity?
When I speak of expanding our capacity I’m referring to expanding our window of capacity (oftentimes called window of tolerance).
“Each of us has a specific threshold for stress and trauma. Stephen Porges, PhD and founder of Polyvagal Theory, describes this threshold as our Window of Tolerance. The wider your window, the greater tolerance you have for stressful events and demanding situations. The narrower your window, the lower tolerance you have for stressful situations and hardship. The width of your window is not fixed, though, and it’s been shown that persistent stress and trauma shrink your window, while safe connection and healing widen your window of tolerance” (source).
I’m not only interested in enlarging my capacity for stress and trauma. I want to widen my capacity for JOY, excitement, delight, curiosity, for stretching and risking and becoming my healthiest and most integrated self. This is the crux of what I help others do through my work – open up to the truth that joy and pain live tangled up together in a messy and beautiful life, learn to love ourselves well and feel safe in our bodies and our lives so that we show up wholeheartedly to life, engaged and on purpose, in every season.
We all have limitations, boundaries, and an emotional and energetic bank account. We can’t pour out if we’re dry/spent/burnt out. We have seasons of life where our window of capacity is smaller or broader. This is part of the human experience.
Regardless of personal preference, though, a healthy nervous system is not always calm or serene. We’re meant to be able to mobilize in the face of danger, to feel enough activation to motivate us to go to work and feed our bodies, we’re supposed to get angry when a boundary is violated or in the face of injustice. We are wired for resilience, to be able to adapt, flex, and respond appropriately to stimuli and then rest, replenish, and return once more to our optimal zone of arousal – our safe and social place where we thrive and show up as our true selves.
If we try to avoid all stress, to never challenge ourselves, to create a safe and orderly bubble for ourselves (which really doesn’t work anyway), we decrease our window of capacity. We become more rigid, less able to respond to life’s stressors, less resilient when the big storms of life come. Likewise, if we’re always in a state of activation or chronic stress, we’re always pushing, hustling, striving, or we’ve been navigating trauma, loss, or major transition, our window of capacity will be smaller with good reason.
feel calmer in your body + mind
Being perpetually calm isn’t the goal – life is messy. But when you feel stressed or anxious, you can pull out this list and try one of the 30 ideas to shift yourself back into a calmer and more empowered state.
This signs you up for my Monday email. Watch for a welcome email + a separate email with your PDF.
we heal at the speed of safety
As we expand our capacity for joy or the full gamut of human experience, then, we focus on gentle stretching not stressing of the nervous system. We take it slow and steady, mindfully, compassionately, to increase a felt sense of safety. When we stress our window of capacity we tip right back into our self-protective mechanisms.
We heal at the speed of safety.
We learn to feel safe by practicing self-compassion and curiosity and/or finding brave and empathetic community in which we can learn and grow with others.
The only way to get from here to freedom and joy is through the messy, soul-stretching, hard work. And when we say YES to this journey we come face to face with our strength, our wisdom, our capacity to face our deepest fears and show up fully and in integrity, not easily rocked, to our messy and beautiful life.
Showing up through fear – like all growth and becoming – requires both vision and practice. We build this muscle like any other. One stubborn step and then another. We’re all simply practicing.
10 POSTS that will help you embrace your inner work and expand your capacity for the fullness of life
REMEMBER: We heal/grow/become at the speed of safety*: name and process stress and grief, regulate your nervous system, and expand your window of capacity to love yourself well and so that you feel more empowered to show up fully even in the hardest seasons of life.
CELEBRATING LIFE, CHOOSING TRUST, AND FINDING JOY IN THE WILD
The way to be okay is not for life to be all one thing and not the other, but to practice opening ourselves up to joy in the middle of the storm. Or the wildfire. Read this post.
What You Need to Know About Stress to Feel More Empowered
Pandemic fatigue, war, income insecurity, dealing with loss, relationship conflict from political differences, etc. all take their toll. Both “big T trauma” and “little t trauma” need to be acknowledged and processed or else they lead to nervous system dysregulation and find ways to manifest in our bodies in order to be heard. Read the full post.
RECLAIM YOUR AGENCY: 7 EMPOWERING WAYS TO NAVIGATE STRESS
Learning empowering ways of navigating stress puts us back into the driver’s seat when our life feels unmoored or shaken. We can continue building our resilience toolbox so we can show up brave, whole, and on purpose in every season (even the hardest of them). Read the post.
Grief Support: Tools For Suicide or Child Loss
Grief can be both traumatic and transformative. Both are true in my experience. We live in a grief-illiterate and avoidant society and many of us feel isolated, and even judged or shamed, as we navigate deep grief and pain. We need to change this story. Here are some tools for child or suicide loss.
WHEN THE WORLD IS SPINNING WILDLY – JUST BREATHE
When you have witnessed the suffering of someone you love and helped bury them deep in the soil. And your soul feels like it is being rent in two. Wail. Release the deep guttural groans that speak what a thousand sermons never could. Then remind yourself to breathe again. Read the full post.
30 THINGS TO DECLUTTER FOR MORE MIDLIFE JOY
To really embrace midlife joy we must choose to do the hard (and brave) work of stripping away all the noise and clutter of our lives. Then we can step into greater freedom, wholeness, and joy. Read the full post here.
DO HARD THINGS IF YOU WANT TO LIVE A PURPOSEFUL LIFE
Unless we want to spend life in hiding, mired in fear, or numbed out – we need to learn to show up afraid and move toward discomfort and practice doing things that feel hard. Read the full post here.
40 Interesting Ways You Can Take action to Get Unstuck
Feeling stuck can be a signal that you’re listening in enough to realize you are being called into deeper self-awareness, toward growth or shedding what no longer serves. If you’re feeling stuck, you have work to do. You’re being called to wake up and pay attention. Read the full post.
SUSTAINABLE GROWTH TAKES TIME: DON’T RUSH WHO YOU’RE BECOMING
Sustainable growth or becoming takes time. Not only time of course, but deliberate, conscious, values-aligned choice after choice within the time that we have. One step, one breath, one practice at a time. Slow and steady. This is how we heal, how we grieve, how we become. Read the full post.
the midlife crossroad: 10 tips for (re)claiming freedom, health and joy
Whether you’re 35 and wisely (and hopefully excitedly) preparing yourself for what’s next, you’re in your 40s navigating significant change and stripping away, or you’re post-menopause and ready to feel more empowered and joyful in your body and life, here are 10 important ways to value yourself and honour what you want and need. Read more and get the free gift.
NOW WHAT? resources TO HELP YOU expand your capacity for joy and pain
Take your next step.
holistic mind-body coaching + education for a brave + joyful life
The journey of “becoming” more fully ourselves can feel messy and vulnerable. Life is complex and there are no magic pills – but we can take responsibility for what we can control and dive in fully to the life in front of us. We can bring compassion and deeper understanding to our current behavioural and emotional patterns and narratives while expanding our capacity for new ways of being and engaging in the world. Learn more here.
the FEEL MORE EMPOWERED WORKSHOP: Just $7
In the Discharge Stress + Feel More Empowered Workshop, I offer education and practices to help you live with joy in a stressful world and move stress through your body, rather than suppressing, bypassing, or existing in a chronically stressed state. Enjoy the free workshop here.