by Andrew Yeaton
However cliché it may be, I have to start this blog with a definition from Websters…
1: the ability to accept, experience, or survive something harmful or unpleasant
2: capacity to endure pain or hardship
3: the allowable deviation from a standard
There are many different areas of tolerance in our lives: tolerance for others actions, for our own thoughts, for levels of physical pain or exertion, for various substances, and so on. For our purposes, we will stick to the arena of physical and emotional discomfort. As we mature, we learn how much physical and emotional discomfort we are willing, or able, to tolerate before a point of intervention or change. This point is different for each individual because our unique experiences, and interpretations of those experiences, begin to form a standard of tolerance as we mature.
If we are not monitoring our level of tolerance, there will certainly be some kind of failure, or overload, at some point.
You can think of tolerance the same way you think of air pressure inside a bicycle tire. In this image you would be the bicycle tire and you have a certain capacity to store air. If you are the tire and the air is your emotional and physical discomfort, you can see why it would be extremely important to monitor how much “air” you are storing at any particular time. What happens when you try to overfill a tire? There is always a point of failure. The same is true for our tolerance of physical and emotional pain; if we are not monitoring our level of tolerance, there will certainly be some kind of failure, or overload, at some point.
We each have various capacities for tolerating discomfort in our lives. The problem with this arises when we begin to ignore our “tolerance gauge” and eventually find ourselves reaching, or beyond, our tolerance limit. Some common things you may have heard before that contribute to this include…
If the feelings of being burnt out, consistently stressed, exhausted, or stretched too thin are common themes in your life, it may be helpful to ask how well you understand and monitor your tolerances for discomfort. Often, I hear that this is a foreign concept to folks. However, with a little work and understanding of ones own feelings, as well as some timely interventions strategies, it is indeed possible to lower your pain tolerance and not reach the point of overload as often.
Sometimes a simple check in of your emotional and physical well being can be enough to let you know that it is time to do something different.
Sometimes a simple check in of your emotional and physical well being can be enough to let you know that it is time to do something different or take something off of your plate. One way to do this is to create your own gauge, or scale, for discomfort; a 10 point scale can be helpful. Your 1.0 can be very low and tolerable levels of discomfort and your 10.0 can be the most you have ever felt. Every day find a time to check in with yourself and record how you are feeling. At some point on your scale it can be helpful to put an intervention in place. This could be going on a walk, exercising to relieve stress, talking with a friend, or even seeing a therapist to learn more about the feelings you have been having. The most important thing is that you know when it is time to intervene and do something different.