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Widen the Window: Training Your Brain and Body to Thrive During Stress and Recover from Trauma

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"I don't think I've ever read a book that paints such a complex and accurate landscape of what it is like to live with the legacy of trauma as this book does, while offering a comprehensive approach to healing." --from the foreword by Bessel van der Kolk A pioneering researcher gives us a new understanding of stress and trauma, as well as the tools to heal and thrive Stress "I don't think I've ever read a book that paints such a complex and accurate landscape of what it is like to live with the legacy of trauma as this book does, while offering a comprehensive approach to healing." --from the foreword by Bessel van der Kolk A pioneering researcher gives us a new understanding of stress and trauma, as well as the tools to heal and thrive Stress is our internal response to an experience that our brain perceives as threatening or challenging. Trauma is our response to an experience in which we feel powerless or lacking agency. Until now, researchers have treated these conditions as different, but they actually lie along a continuum. Dr. Elizabeth Stanley explains the significance of this continuum, how it affects our resilience in the face of challenge, and why an event that's stressful for one person can be traumatizing for another. This groundbreaking book examines the cultural norms that impede resilience in America, especially our collective tendency to disconnect stress from its potentially extreme consequences and override our need to recover. It explains the science of how to direct our attention to perform under stress and recover from trauma. With training, we can access agency, even in extreme-stress environments. In fact, any maladaptive behavior or response conditioned through stress or trauma can, with intentionality and understanding, be reconditioned and healed. The key is to use strategies that access not just the thinking brain but also the survival brain. By directing our attention in particular ways, we can widen the window within which our thinking brain and survival brain work together cooperatively. When we use awareness to regulate our biology this way, we can access our best, uniquely human qualities: our compassion, courage, curiosity, creativity, and connection with others. By building our resilience, we can train ourselves to make wise decisions and access choice--even during times of incredible stress, uncertainty, and change. With stories from men and women Dr. Stanley has trained in settings as varied as military bases, healthcare facilities, and Capitol Hill, as well as her own striking experiences with stress and trauma, she gives readers hands-on strategies they can use themselves, whether they want to perform under pressure or heal from traumatic experience, while at the same time pointing our understanding in a new direction.


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"I don't think I've ever read a book that paints such a complex and accurate landscape of what it is like to live with the legacy of trauma as this book does, while offering a comprehensive approach to healing." --from the foreword by Bessel van der Kolk A pioneering researcher gives us a new understanding of stress and trauma, as well as the tools to heal and thrive Stress "I don't think I've ever read a book that paints such a complex and accurate landscape of what it is like to live with the legacy of trauma as this book does, while offering a comprehensive approach to healing." --from the foreword by Bessel van der Kolk A pioneering researcher gives us a new understanding of stress and trauma, as well as the tools to heal and thrive Stress is our internal response to an experience that our brain perceives as threatening or challenging. Trauma is our response to an experience in which we feel powerless or lacking agency. Until now, researchers have treated these conditions as different, but they actually lie along a continuum. Dr. Elizabeth Stanley explains the significance of this continuum, how it affects our resilience in the face of challenge, and why an event that's stressful for one person can be traumatizing for another. This groundbreaking book examines the cultural norms that impede resilience in America, especially our collective tendency to disconnect stress from its potentially extreme consequences and override our need to recover. It explains the science of how to direct our attention to perform under stress and recover from trauma. With training, we can access agency, even in extreme-stress environments. In fact, any maladaptive behavior or response conditioned through stress or trauma can, with intentionality and understanding, be reconditioned and healed. The key is to use strategies that access not just the thinking brain but also the survival brain. By directing our attention in particular ways, we can widen the window within which our thinking brain and survival brain work together cooperatively. When we use awareness to regulate our biology this way, we can access our best, uniquely human qualities: our compassion, courage, curiosity, creativity, and connection with others. By building our resilience, we can train ourselves to make wise decisions and access choice--even during times of incredible stress, uncertainty, and change. With stories from men and women Dr. Stanley has trained in settings as varied as military bases, healthcare facilities, and Capitol Hill, as well as her own striking experiences with stress and trauma, she gives readers hands-on strategies they can use themselves, whether they want to perform under pressure or heal from traumatic experience, while at the same time pointing our understanding in a new direction.

30 review for Widen the Window: Training Your Brain and Body to Thrive During Stress and Recover from Trauma

  1. 5 out of 5

    Heidi The Reader

    Managing stress and recovering from past traumas are some of the many challenges facing humanity in the modern era. Widen the Window addresses both those problems. Elizabeth Stanley explains how individuals handle stress and trauma varies widely from person to person. It is first affected by your biology, then your unique childhood experiences making everyone's responses different. What is incredibly stressful to one person may to a cakewalk to the next, and vise versa. She describes the ability t Managing stress and recovering from past traumas are some of the many challenges facing humanity in the modern era. Widen the Window addresses both those problems. Elizabeth Stanley explains how individuals handle stress and trauma varies widely from person to person. It is first affected by your biology, then your unique childhood experiences making everyone's responses different. What is incredibly stressful to one person may to a cakewalk to the next, and vise versa. She describes the ability to manage responses to stress as a window. Through a variety of mindfulness techniques, healthy eating, maintaining a large social network, and getting plenty of rest, Stanley guides the reader through ways to "widen the window" or increase your ability to manage stress. I am always on the lookout for ideas on how to appropriately manage stress. If I manage my stress responses when they're small, it prevents something more serious from building up and coming out in other, perhaps more dysfunctional, ways. I could see this book being useful to every reader who picks it up. Everybody has something they're dealing with - from current work to family to friends issues or traumatic past experiences that push themselves into the present. We're all in this together, even if your mind is telling you otherwise.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Morgan Blackledge

    EXCELLENT book on stress and trauma. Written by a military psychologist and trauma/stress resilience training researcher, Dr Elizabeth A. Stanley. The book is field tested, sensible and designed to be useful and inoffensive to high achieving, hard driving, high functioning people. It’s not about boo-hooing. It’s about managing your life and training your body and mind so that you can keep doing what needs to get done. But here’s the deal. You can’t just keep taking on stress. It’s bad for you. It’s EXCELLENT book on stress and trauma. Written by a military psychologist and trauma/stress resilience training researcher, Dr Elizabeth A. Stanley. The book is field tested, sensible and designed to be useful and inoffensive to high achieving, hard driving, high functioning people. It’s not about boo-hooing. It’s about managing your life and training your body and mind so that you can keep doing what needs to get done. But here’s the deal. You can’t just keep taking on stress. It’s bad for you. It’s for your body. And it’s bad for the people around you. It’s particularly bad if you have been exposed to stressful and/or traumatic shit in the past. Trauma and stress make you more susceptible to trauma and stress. It’s a bad downward spiral to burnout our worse. The NUMBER ONE best thing about the book is the way it removes the false distinction between unhealthy stress and trauma. According to the author, all unhealthy stress and trauma deal in the same currency i.e. in the activation and accumulation of energy (stress hormones and nervous system readiness to take action in the form of fight, flight or freeze). If you have a history of trauma, your brain and body’s emergency response may have a hair trigger. This leaves you more susceptible to stress activation and accumulation. This stress/trauma activation and accumulation is referred to throughout the book as ‘alostatic load’. And carrying a heavy alostatic load is awful for your brain, body and life. Particularly over the protracted long term. The book warns against ‘stuff it down and soldier on’ ways of dealing with stress. The rule of thumb is, you can stuff your feelings down into the basement, but then they get together lift weights and eventually come upstairs and kick your ass. So if you think about cops and soldiers and first responders, dealing with high stress work, probably many of them coming from messed up childhood situations, or previous trauma, you can see how they may be at elevated risk for some pretty nasty, and potentially EXPLOSIVE problems. The book recommends a regimen of mental fitness training that helps us (a) identify when we’re carrying a heavy alostatic load, and (b) choose and use the appropriate ‘ground and regulate’ strategies for ‘discharging’ that energy in healthy and adaptive ways. NOTE: although the book recommends mindfulness, the book does not tout it as a panacea. In fact, this maybe the best book I have read addressing the contraindications of traditional mindfulness for stress and trauma. In a nut shell: the author recommends sleep, exercise, healthy diet and supportive relationships to ground and regulate stress/trauma accumulation. The author recommends using mindfulness in addition to all that basic stuff (as opposed to instead of). Otherwise, mindfulness can become just another mechanism of blowing off your feelings and stuffing them down in the basement. Same goes with cognitive therapy and positive psychology ‘thinking brain’ type interventions. They can also become part of the emotional stuffing machine. According to the author (and I completely agree) the first line of stress/trauma defense should always be, sleep, exercise, healthy diet, supportive relationships and time out of the meat grinder. The cognitive and mindfulness based practices should only be utilized in the service of all that. Anyway. I fucking LOVE this book. One of my favorites of 2019 for sure. 🦅👍😬🔥☠️🧠

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alice Smithe

    Lessons Included Demand Amounts of Leisure Time Most Working People Don't Have I was REALLY looking forward to this book, unfortunately it offered very little of the MMFT. What it did offer required that you set aside amounts of time that most working class people simply do not have. If I was wealthy, on a retreat or without many responsibilities in life, this book would be wonderful. I could devote hours of every day to "widening my window" and fully recovering from a very stressful and traumatic Lessons Included Demand Amounts of Leisure Time Most Working People Don't Have I was REALLY looking forward to this book, unfortunately it offered very little of the MMFT. What it did offer required that you set aside amounts of time that most working class people simply do not have. If I was wealthy, on a retreat or without many responsibilities in life, this book would be wonderful. I could devote hours of every day to "widening my window" and fully recovering from a very stressful and traumatic life. But then, if I had the amounts of time and physical ability the author assumes everyone has, I probably wouldn't need her book to begin with. Her suggestions for free time you should absolutely have include: "One day each week without any work, errands or household tasks (absolutely impossible if you have a family!), schedule time for long-term goals and window widening each day, build a few hours into each week's plan for attending to squeeky wheels in your environment, build plenty of white space into your schedule for unexpected challenges and opportunities, 15 to 30 minutes of pratice every morning, aim for one awareness and one reflective practice every morning and evening, aim to finish working etc a few hours before bedtime..." I am lucky if I can get 6 hours of sleep. I wake up, immediately tend to my family, get them fed and taken care of before I rush off to a very stressful job, then rush home and again begin caring for family. I don't have the luxury of a "few hours" before bed with NO work. Working class people don't live like that. Then there's the fact that she assumes everyone is able-bodied. I am partially disabled and the condition I have prevents me from much of the exercise she prescribes for stress reduction. So, if you are able-bodied and have hours of free time each day and can spend and entire day of every week on "me-time", this book is definitely for you....but then, if that's your situation, I'm guessing you don't need this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dogukaan Satir

    My summary: We all have our own capacity to handle stress (the author uses an analogy of "stress window" to explain this. Survival brain(unconscious - below the surface) regulates response to stress. It constantly scans for internal and external threats in a process called neuroception. Sympathetic Nervous System(SNS, a branch of survival brain) has three lines of defense for responding to stress that exceeds our window: 1. social engagement system(seeking help from others) 2. fight-or-flight respons My summary: We all have our own capacity to handle stress (the author uses an analogy of "stress window" to explain this. Survival brain(unconscious - below the surface) regulates response to stress. It constantly scans for internal and external threats in a process called neuroception. Sympathetic Nervous System(SNS, a branch of survival brain) has three lines of defense for responding to stress that exceeds our window: 1. social engagement system(seeking help from others) 2. fight-or-flight response. 3. freezing. (expressed as trauma in common language) Traumas are personal; Even a tooth removal can cause trauma to a person. Recovery from Stress also managed by Survival Brain(allostasis), hence we are not able to control the process; until your survival brain perceives safety recovery process doesn't start. Chronic stress impedes the recovery because they don’t allow your survival brain to feel safe. This builds allostatic load in the system in the longterm this causes dysregulation. Dysregulation negatively affects cognitive performance, decision-making process, and causes stress-related diseases such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, insomnia, sleep apnea, diabetes, asthma, alcoholism, migraines, and eating disorders, etc. There are 4 big things for reducing stress: Having an active social life, getting enough sleep(lack of sleep causes stress), eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly. Other than these, author recommends journaling and MMFT( Mindfulness-based Mind Fitness Training, a program created by the author) instead of harmful coping mechanisms(smoking, drinking, binge eating, compulsive actions). MMFT is like improved Samatha meditation. You can look for it on the Internet.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Meredith

    This book is one of my all-time self-help favorites. It discusses the physiological similarities between stress and trauma and also makes the distinction that the difference is whether or not the person experiencing the stressful situation perceives a sense of agency (stress) or not (trauma). She also talks about the importance of the ‘thinking brain’ (conscious, analysis, verbal) and ‘survival brain’ (unconscious, perceiving, feeling) working together and the dangers of when they start working This book is one of my all-time self-help favorites. It discusses the physiological similarities between stress and trauma and also makes the distinction that the difference is whether or not the person experiencing the stressful situation perceives a sense of agency (stress) or not (trauma). She also talks about the importance of the ‘thinking brain’ (conscious, analysis, verbal) and ‘survival brain’ (unconscious, perceiving, feeling) working together and the dangers of when they start working against each other (which she refers to as disregulation) when we are not as equipped to healthily handle stressful situations. She talked specifically about when the survival brain perceives a threat and the thinking brain (as a coping mechanism) minimizes/doesn’t acknowledge that threat, then the survival brain feels the need to assert its sense of threat even more strongly since the thinking brain is ignoring it. Which is something that I do a lot. The book spends the first 2/3rds on the scientific/research evidence for the above and the final 1/3rd covers practical things we can all do to ‘widen the window’ of experiences/contexts in which the survival and thinking brains are working together. I appreciated the practical nature of it all, although I don’t feel fully empowered to implement all these things. On the author’s website, it says they are starting an online course of Mindfulness-based Mind Fitness Training (MMFT) is going to be available on Sounds True beginning in Oct 2020 which I plan to sign up for to experience the theory in practice. All that being said, it took me 4 months to get through this book and I ended up re-reading much of it since it is very dense.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa Princessa

    The key message in these blinks: Stress arousal is a natural response of your survival brain, designed to help you deal with a short-term threat and then recover afterwards. Chronic stress and trauma impede recovery because they prevent your survival brain from perceiving safety. The dysregulation that results from this affects your health, performance, and decision-making. By practicing mindfulness and developing healthy habits to replace unskillful coping tools, you can bring down your overall The key message in these blinks: Stress arousal is a natural response of your survival brain, designed to help you deal with a short-term threat and then recover afterwards. Chronic stress and trauma impede recovery because they prevent your survival brain from perceiving safety. The dysregulation that results from this affects your health, performance, and decision-making. By practicing mindfulness and developing healthy habits to replace unskillful coping tools, you can bring down your overall stress level and aid survival brain recovery, thereby widening the window of stress in which you can optimally function.  What to read next: It Didn’t Start With You, by Mark Wollyn   In Widen the Window, you already got an overview of how genes and childhood trauma shape our relationship to stress. In It Didn’t Start With You, psychologist Mark Wollyn dives even deeper into how our family history affects your mental and emotional health, and what you can do to reclaim agency. If you want to learn more about how trauma is handed down from generation to generation, and what you can do to break the cycle, check out our blinks for It Didn’t Start With You. 

  7. 5 out of 5

    Peter Ball

    Good book that can apply to anyone's lives. Although the author repeats herself often throughout the book, there are many things I took away from it. Survival brain has a large effect on our physiological well-being. Stressors add up during our lifetime which, if not dealt with properly, create allostatic load, and cause health effects like anxiety, eating disorders, cardiovascular disease and so on. Proper recovery time is needed to allow the body to not be in high-stress mode all the time. Prope Good book that can apply to anyone's lives. Although the author repeats herself often throughout the book, there are many things I took away from it. Survival brain has a large effect on our physiological well-being. Stressors add up during our lifetime which, if not dealt with properly, create allostatic load, and cause health effects like anxiety, eating disorders, cardiovascular disease and so on. Proper recovery time is needed to allow the body to not be in high-stress mode all the time. Proper recovery includes most things that you've heard before - meditation, journaling, exercise. Her ground and release exercise was the new thing that I learned: Think of something that creates stress for you. While still comfortable enough that you are not in flight or flight or freeze mode, become aware of the physiological changes that are occurring. This is your survival (unconscious) brain thinking there will be an attack and focusing on what it thinks is necessary for it to survive. Then, while you have activated your stress but haven't gone too far, bring your attention to the points of contact that are supporting you. The idea to is train your brain that just thinking of or seeing these things doesn't mean you're in danger. I learned a couple handy and interesting things from this book and would recommend it for anyone. Especially in this day in age, we never give time to ourselves to recover from our stress.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda Hanna

    I was unable to slog through all the medical jargon to get to the practical parts of coping with stress. This book actually caused me stress by repeating the same information over and over for the 100 pages I made myself read to try to get to the point of the book. Disappointing after hearing her speak on a podcast so concisely about her program.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Very important read with practical tips on how to widen our window and function at our best self. Really liked some of the techniques and impressed with the rigor of this book. It was the most in-depth book I ever read on how to activate there parasympathetic nervous system. Very timely as well with what’s happening in our nation, with the benefit if more were operating within our windows, it would be a more peaceful world. Points of connection, ground and release, the three different kinds of p Very important read with practical tips on how to widen our window and function at our best self. Really liked some of the techniques and impressed with the rigor of this book. It was the most in-depth book I ever read on how to activate there parasympathetic nervous system. Very timely as well with what’s happening in our nation, with the benefit if more were operating within our windows, it would be a more peaceful world. Points of connection, ground and release, the three different kinds of plans, and the exercise tips are all key take-always. Also like the second half of the book focused on what’s in our control, even if we are starting from a narrower window. The only thing this needs are end of chapter take-always to help retain as we go. There is a lot of good material here and it would help synthesize.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Souder

    Excellent. A more practical overview of the mind/body relationship than The Body Keeps the Score. And a book that I wish I read years ago.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jay Collins

    3.5 Stars, pretty good, not my normal read but I think this is a good book for anyone that is interested in this topic.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    One of the best books I’ve ever read on stress and trauma. A fantastic array of information to understand ourselves and others. The tools provided are simple, unbelievably helpful, and easy to implement into daily life.

  13. 5 out of 5

    David Fringer

    On my all-time top 10 list! Elizabeth Stanley nails the science in an easy to understand way. The topics are complex but easy to comprehend with relatable examples. This could (should) be a must read for everyone who is interested in how our brain reacts to and discharges stress and trauma! Highly Recommend!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Oh dear, lots of notes for this one. It will take me awhile to upload all of them. Here goes: All research is me-search. Mindfulness based training helps us learn how to direct and sustain our attention - and thereby stabilize awareness - so that we can become aware of, learn from, and modulate these different mind-body experiences. Without adequate recovery after chronic stress and/or trauma, the mind-body system remains activated and doesn't return to its regulated equilibrium. Systems become dysr Oh dear, lots of notes for this one. It will take me awhile to upload all of them. Here goes: All research is me-search. Mindfulness based training helps us learn how to direct and sustain our attention - and thereby stabilize awareness - so that we can become aware of, learn from, and modulate these different mind-body experiences. Without adequate recovery after chronic stress and/or trauma, the mind-body system remains activated and doesn't return to its regulated equilibrium. Systems become dysregulated. Extreme behavior is usually linked to extreme dysregulation - the hallmark of someone masking, suppressing, denying, self-medicating, or coping with extreme dysregulation the best way they know how. The effects from being a stressed-out office worker are more closely related to those experienced by a combat veteran with PTSD than the usual societal narrative would have us believe. The US is one of the most violent, stressed, and traumatized countries in the world. About 1/4 of American adults currently have a mental illness, and nearly half will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime - such that mental illnesses account for more disability than any other group of illnesses, including cancer and CVD. While Americans constitute only 4% of the world's population, we consume 75% of the world's prescriptions. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, with opiods causing 2/3 of them. 1 in 5 Americans report overeating/eating unhealthy foods frequently because of stress. Suffering comes in many flavors, but it's still suffering. Discrimination, prejudice, and harassment - from any -ism - don't have to actually be experienced to create toxic effects in our mind-body systems. We can experience toxic effects through learning, remembering, and/or anticipating. Capitalism also feeds our society-wide mixed messaging: It tends to value and incentivize productivity and profits, while disregarding, denying, and ignoring many costs and consequences of these profits. When any of us experience stress, trauma, negative emotions, cravings, 'irrational' impulses, or the urge to make violent or harmful choices, it's really nothing more than our past conditioning playing out. It doesn't actually say anything about who we really are. Rather than self-improvement, the most direct path to feeling better, thriving during stress and trauma, and making effective choices is actually self-understanding. Neuroplasticity - the brain constantly rewiring itself in response to our repeated experiences, with every sensory input, body movement, reward signal, thought, emotion, stress arousal, and association between stimulus and response. The brain can be changed and rewired without any input from the outside world. In fact, the brain changes simply from repetitive thought patterns and/or chronic stress arousal. Over time, worrying can become a habit, and the amygdalae can actually thicken, becoming hypersensitive to worry, prompting even more anxiety. Vicious cycle. The repetition of any experience makes it easier to do - and harder not to do - again in the future. This is the basis of neuroplasticity. This is why habits are hard to start/stop. Greater physical activity and higher cardio-respiratory fitness levels are linked with better brain oxygenation, healthier brain activity patterns, and greater gray matter volume in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, brain regions involved in executive functioning and explicit memory. Since many of use spend a lot of time on autopilot, we're actually choosing to allow our unconscious habits and patterns to drive most of our repeated experiences. For activities that require thinking brain attention, there's really no such thing as multitasking - instead, we're actually task-switching and dividing our attention. College students using instant messenger while reading a textbook took 25% longer to read the passage - not including IM time - compared with students who simply read. Drivers talking on their cell phones were more than twice as likely to fail to stop appropriately at intersections. Researchers concluded that 'a person who drives while talking on a cell phone...is a worse driver than an individual at the legal limit of alcohol intoxication. While we may have genetic tendency toward a particular trait, whether that tendency actually manifests through gene expression is strongly influenced by our environment and our habits. One of the most common epigenetic changes from chronic stress or trauma, without adequate recovery, shows up in immune system functioning. Chronic stress arousal, especially during childhood, programs the macrophages in a dysregulated way. This alters inflammatory response. After an hour, sustained stress arousal suppresses immunity, down to 40 to 70% below our normal baseline. Because the ventral PSNS is deeply involved with both social engagement and recovery functions, one important implication is that if we experience difficulty regulating our stress arousal, we're also likely to have trouble creating and maintaining workable, supportive, and satisfying relationships, in both personal and professional settings. Well-being mode is available only when the survival brain neurocepts safety and the body is releasing oxytocin, the social-bonding hormone. Executive functioning is like a credit bank: We can deplete it through heavy use in 2 ways. 1) We might deplete it through what are called 'cold' cognitive tasks - mental tasks that require detailed attention and focus - such as reading dense text, writing a report, or completing detailed calculations. 2) We might deplete it through 'hot' regulatory tasks - conscious, top-down efforts to curb cravings, re-frame or compartmentalize negative emotions, and manage or suppress stress arousal. Because nerve fibers in the hippocampus don't develop the fatty sheath that allows them to conduct electricity until we're about 2 years old (myelination), it's rare to have explicit memories from ou earliest years. Executive functioning and explicit memory functions may be impaired or damaged with prolonged or high stress levels. Tedious or familiar tasks may require greater stress arousal to create focus and motivation. This is actually one of the reasons why people procrastinate with unpleasant tasks: As the deadline looms, their stress arousal increases, eventually creating enough stress to motivate them to handle it. Until the survival brain, nervous system, and body have an opportunity to finish the incomplete defensive strategy and discharge its associated stress activation, the survival brain continues to perceive the event as ongoing. The thinking brain often unwittingly serves as one of the primary obstacles to a complete recovery ever happening. Instead, to manage increasing symptoms of dysregulation, most traumatized humans cope with a range of behaviors that are socially acceptable - while tragically only narrowing the window further. Colic, which affects roughly 1 in 5 babies - may be a sign that the infant's ventral PSNS circuit is having difficulty learning how to regulate parasympathetic processes, including sucking swallowing, and bonding with mother. Attachment style is more related to parental (especially maternal) sensitivity and attunement. Infants may be predisposed to attend to their mothers' heightened-arousal states, such as reactions to negative, threatening, or angering events. Hyperactive macrophages also continue to release inflammatory cytokines to turn inflammation on, long after physical trauma that triggered them is gone. Cortisol overproduction has been linked with depression, type 2 diabetes, active alcoholism, anorexia, hyperthyroidism, panic disorder, and OCD. Conversely, cortisol underproduction has been linked with PTSD, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, hypothyroid, allergies, asthma, RA, and other autoimmune diseases. Too conveniently, we judge their choices from a place of ignorance - not fully recognizing that each of us has the potential to exhibit the same behavior, given appropriate conditions. The more we collectively deny the understandable reasons for their behavior - and the more we condemn them for that behavior - the more we trap them into their current patterns and stifle their efforts to change. In Robert Scaer's practice, the most powerful predictors of prolonged and/or severe post-accident whiplash symptoms include having experienced physical and sexual abuse, a difficult birth, intense medical treatment, or and alcoholic parent during childhood, or having experienced discrimination, harassment, or other relational trauma during adulthood. Possible the single most important choice we make in daily life affecting the width of our window is how much high-quality sleep we get on a regular basis. It is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT to maintain normal weight or lose weight when we're not getting adequate sleep. People who are chronically lacking in social contacts are more likely to experience elevated levels of stress hormones and chronic inflammation. Not enough quality friendships is linked with CVD, HTN, autoimmune disorders, cancer, and slowed would healing. Social media, junk food, alcohol, drugs, etc. usually make us feel better in the short term, which is why we're drawn to them when we're stressed. In fact, when we feel their pull, it's a clue that our mind-body system is activated and needs some recovery. By the time salmon lay and fertilize their eggs, their chronically high levels of stress hormones have exhausted their energy stores and devastated their immune systems. As a result, after breeding, the salmon die. In other words, while their stress hormones help them mobilize enormous amounts of energy for their trek, chronic exposure to toxic tress levels eventually kills them. We generally have little influence over our stressors. However, if we can eliminate, change, or influence a stressor without jeopardizing our goals or values, we probably should. You might redirect your attention away from any stressed thinking brain habits that amp up stress arousal - such as rationalizing the distress away, judging ourselves for being stressed, ruminating about the stressor, catasrophizing about what-if worst-case scenarios, or comparing our experience to someone else's. For instance. you might redirect your attention instead to pleasant sounds or attractive colors in your surroundings. Or notice how your body is in contact with and supported by your surroundings, such as a chair, a bed, or the grass outside. The first form of mental training that does provide domain-general learning is visualization of a physical skill, such as visualizing yourself running a race, performing surgery, or playing piano. Mental practice of the skill doesn't just improve muscle memory, as physical practice does. It also strengthens a more generalized understanding of the physical skill. Focused attention and open monitoring are two forms of mindfulness meditation that have been shown to confer domain general learning. You may neither think of yourself as a warrior nor feel particularly connected to this archetype, but anytime you speak out against an injustice, protect someone else from harm, risk your life or your livelihood to stand up for a principle, you are calling on the Warrior. Warrior traditions throughout the ages, from the Tibetan warriors and Japanese samurai in the East to the Spartans and Native American tribes in the West, have offered different practices to train the mind body system to embody the qualities of wisdom and courage with a wide window. Although the list of specific warrior qualities varies somewhat by tradition, wisdom and courage show up consistently as the most important. All warrior traditions shared a common understanding of the goal of practice - to follow the path consistently and thereby cultivate self-mastery. The path isn't about making progress or striving to get somewhere. Such striving can actually work against cultivating warrior qualities. In fact the more compulsively a warrior struggles for a particular achievement, such as winning martial arts belts or attaining particular mind states, the more attached her ego becomes to that outcome - and the less likely she can access wisdom and courage. The strength from weight training is fungible, which means it can be employed in every facet of our lives. We can't simply muscle the thinking brain into setting aside its expectations, comparisons, opinions, and judgments. We can only train the mind by directing the attention so that, over time, it builds the capacity to set these things aside naturally. Wisdom requires trusting that when we fully arrive in the present moment and see it clearly, from this awareness will emerge the most perfectly appropriate response for this exact situation. When we operate from this place, it can even feel like we're not doing anything at all. Since the survival brain is not verbal, the way that it communicates with us is through emotions and physical sensations. Whether we receive the survival brain's transmission correctly, however, depends on our capacity to notice, tolerate, and accurately interpret the message being conveyed by emotions and physical sensations. This capacity is called interoceptive awareness. For people with narrowed windows, mindfulness practice by itself has the potential to make their dysregulation worse. In particular, a mindfulness-only training regimen increases the risk that someone with a narrowed window will become more aware of their dysregulation - but not understand how to work with it effectively. Thus, it's ethically imperative, in order not to cause harm, that the introduction of mindfulness practices in a any high-stress environment - and among people with narrowed windows - needs to be paired with skills for nervous system self-regulation. Mindfulness alone, w/o skills to regulate the nervous system, may actually flood our mind-body system with heightened attention on the stress response, which often worsens our ability to self-regulate and exacerbates symptoms. That is, if you're extremely aware of your mind-body system and you're feeling stressed, all you may be able to do is focus on the stress, which could actually amplify the stress arousal and its cognitive, emotional, and physiological effects. Dr. Willoughby Britton argues that Western scientific research about mindfulness has been biased toward over-representing positive results and examining potential benefits, w/o adequate attention to potential harms or risks.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    I found Widen the Window a fascinating study on how the brain responds to trauma and stress (both of which have a much wider definition that I previously realized). I find myself able to think more critically as I analyze true-crime stories (and trashy TV hah!) and observe the lives of my friends/family members/coworkers. This book helped me grow a greater understanding for myself and others as well as contemplate my stress-recovery in a way that will remain with me for a long time. I was especi I found Widen the Window a fascinating study on how the brain responds to trauma and stress (both of which have a much wider definition that I previously realized). I find myself able to think more critically as I analyze true-crime stories (and trashy TV hah!) and observe the lives of my friends/family members/coworkers. This book helped me grow a greater understanding for myself and others as well as contemplate my stress-recovery in a way that will remain with me for a long time. I was especially humbled by her military service and the work she does with our armed forces. I hope her work continues to impact more and more of our active forces as well as our veterans who so deserve and need mental health care. That being said, she gets on her high horse at the beginning and end of the book. I'm glad I pushed through the beginning to get to her content and that I knew better by the end to skip around.

  16. 5 out of 5

    L

    This book is fantastic. She offers an extremely clear and accessible overview of the survival versus the thinking brain and the impact of stress and trauma. She then outlines two key practices to use to help the body release stress that it has been holding onto, as well as broader guidance about lifestyle and planing. Highly recommend this to anyone working through stress or trauma.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Aileen Noura Vitarelli

    Book that I read during my postnatal. Being conceived again at late age of 46 and nervous during my last semester, I practiced the Contact Points Exercise (CPE) It was not trauma that I had, it was just regulated stress ignited by my own condition and surrounding. I was heavy, worried but several tips in the book about MMFT really helped me.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Hend AlEssa

    Much needed reminder of a lot of common knowledge that is taking for granted. I find it useful to write with the author bullet point to go back in times of stress. This book needs an interactive reading, not the mere passive reading nor highlighting is enough. go for it, and reconnect with your inner self.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Soul

    A Good book to direct you to recover from past traumatic experiences. How to overcome stress and train your brain and body to be better with time. key take away would be how to ground yourself and relieve the stress in body, also using exercise and meditation to Widen the Window! Be Awesome :)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Batool Nasser

    Coming from an Islamic background, praying and listening to Quran recitation can relieve both your stress or trauma. It even helps you to accept your fate and life destiny with an unforgettable smile drawn up on your face.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    Widen the Window is about trauma. I found it really helpful to better understandhow it happens that we get overwhelmed and how we can learn to live more freely again. The authors background in the military made me quite uncomfortable though.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Doris Raines

    YES AND YES THIS IS A TRUE BOOK THANKS 🤙

  23. 5 out of 5

    Felipe CZ

    By practicing mindfulness and developing healthy habits, we can diminish our stress levels. This book is a guide to healing trauma and living in the present.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    In my recent search to learn more about the psychology of trauma, I was glad to find this comprehensive research heavy book that dives into the intricacies of trauma, stress, and its effect on the body. Widening one's window is the metaphor referring to the optimal state in which one is regulated, feels safe, and can access higher brain functions. If you're pushed outside your window then it'll lead into the lower brain responses of fight or flight, and if pressed further then we'll enter the fr In my recent search to learn more about the psychology of trauma, I was glad to find this comprehensive research heavy book that dives into the intricacies of trauma, stress, and its effect on the body. Widening one's window is the metaphor referring to the optimal state in which one is regulated, feels safe, and can access higher brain functions. If you're pushed outside your window then it'll lead into the lower brain responses of fight or flight, and if pressed further then we'll enter the freeze response. Chronic stressors and ongoing trauma can narrow our windows and prevent us from recovering from the stress response, so we exist in a a state of dysregulation. Ideally in trauma therapy (or in general), we'd like to widen our windows of tolerance and become more resilient. Stanley begins by discussing the dynamics of stone age physiology with modern life as well as outlining the difference between stress and trauma (they are on a continuum rather than separate concepts). She then explores the science, beginning with how stress affects the mind and body. She also discusses factors like childhood attachment, adverse childhood experiences, shock trauma, and every day life affect our disposition and reactivity to trauma. Finally, Stanley weaves in her military background to deconstruct American's "suck it up" mentality and it adverse effects on peoples' health. For warriors courage and wisdom entail seeing and confronting reality as it is, and moving forward despite the discomfort. As for developing a wider window, she talks about how to work with both the thinking and survival brain. Since our survival brain can only communicate indirectly via emotions and physiology, we have to listen to our bodies and internal states. From there she provides some nifty exercises like Contact Points and Ground and Release to demonstrate how we can come back from dysregulation. As with any new habit, we must practice and it's important to do these when in our windows so we can apply them when we are dysregulated. From a therapist's perspective, it's a pretty ACT congruent view (one could say widening our windows is developing more psychological flexibility). Accept the discomfort and be with it considering we can't always apply CBT when our thinking brains go offline (though there is a chapter with CBT heavy content). I liked how she spoke about mindfulness, but pointed out it can be detrimental to those with trauma to focus on meditation or their breath. Instead focusing on the environment and the body's contact to their surroundings is a more neutral alternative. Finally Stanley closes with the idealistic vision of a society where we can have if we operated from a place of optimal regulation rather than the survival brain we're often caught in. I appreciated her inclusion of contextual factors throughout the book and it's saddening to see how culture influences systems which perpetuate trauma for marginalized groups or workplace expectations where we devalue self-care. As for a solution, it's difficult to find one, but it sparks a motivation to, as an individual, widen one's window so we can be that secure base for those around us. Overall, while the book could've been shorter and less redundant, this was a fantastic book to help us better understand trauma's effects on our mind, bodies, relationships, and society.

  25. 4 out of 5

    heidi

    What a cathartic read. This is a great complement to The Body Keeps the Score. When viewed through the lens of individual and societal trauma, so much of the dysfunction that we see in the world today makes infinitely more sense. Stanley ties together so many critical concepts that contribute to our understanding of why we are so collectively stressed, what the ramifications of leaving our stresses unaddressed are, and how we can access the agency needed to change course. I especially appreciate What a cathartic read. This is a great complement to The Body Keeps the Score. When viewed through the lens of individual and societal trauma, so much of the dysfunction that we see in the world today makes infinitely more sense. Stanley ties together so many critical concepts that contribute to our understanding of why we are so collectively stressed, what the ramifications of leaving our stresses unaddressed are, and how we can access the agency needed to change course. I especially appreciate how she addresses individualism and compartmentalization as powerful cultural norms that contribute to our dysregulation. "We still see the Cartesian paradigm at work today. This is the cultural basis for our relative disregard for the emotional or physiological aspects of knowing — as well as for our bodies, sensations, and emotions." This overemphasis on rational objectivity within the highly subjective social realm, coupled with widely held assumptions about self-reliance, contribute to decisions that further undermine our well-being. "These beliefs frequently shame and blame both perpetrators and victims for a lack of moral character or self-control — fueling stigmatization that blunts our collective understanding. These beliefs feed societal divisions and shape our policies on a range of issues, such as education, healthcare, welfare, law enforcement, incarceration, and affirmative action." Fueling so much of our national illnesses are the lifestyle factors that undermine the ability to act from a (relatively) clear mind. Work cultures that reward sacrificing sleep or personal lives, diets characterized by convenience over nourishment, and technology that interferes with our ability to focus all interfere with our ability to meet challenges with grace. And of course, this is all exacerbated by a lack of material and institutional resources, making it significantly more difficult for marginalized groups to access self-regulation. That said, Stanley doesn't end on a cynical note. Peppered throughout the book are notes on how to rewire our physiology for the better, namely through mindfulness training and healthy lifestyle changes. People can feel more whole regardless of what they have experienced. Through intentional action at the personal and public level, we can create the conditions to live more fully.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    Training on how to recover from a lifetime of stress and trauma, and why your body reacts as it does. Stanley explains the difference between survival brain and thinking brain, and how the two systems talk to each other through the body system. She also frames how they can get out of sync with each other and what it takes to recover and bring them in line. Why I started this book: New Professional Reading title, look good and was available on audio. Why I finished it: Fascinating and insightful. S Training on how to recover from a lifetime of stress and trauma, and why your body reacts as it does. Stanley explains the difference between survival brain and thinking brain, and how the two systems talk to each other through the body system. She also frames how they can get out of sync with each other and what it takes to recover and bring them in line. Why I started this book: New Professional Reading title, look good and was available on audio. Why I finished it: Fascinating and insightful. Stanley situations stress and trauma on a continuum and postulates on why people can have such wide reactions to the same event. It all depends on prior experiences and the current load that we are carrying. She offers concrete ways to lighten the load, and strengthen resilience. But stresses that individuals should consult with trained psychologists and that this work is a supplement of her psychology program not a way to practice it on one's own. Exercise, getting enough sleep, and grounding oneself are her key ways to widen your window, with the acknowledgement that recovery takes time and cannot be rushed. She also talked about how generation trauma can be, and how to break the cycle.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Petro Kacur

    Ever faced a challenging situation? Felt emotionally threatened? Been in a situation in your life where you felt powerless? There is growing understanding that stress and trauma are not black and white events but fall along a spectrum. How each of us responds to chronic stress and the residues of trauma is different, but they effect us all. In her book, Stanley does an excellent job of showing a way out of the most unskillful modes of responding to those events. She illustrates how we can train Ever faced a challenging situation? Felt emotionally threatened? Been in a situation in your life where you felt powerless? There is growing understanding that stress and trauma are not black and white events but fall along a spectrum. How each of us responds to chronic stress and the residues of trauma is different, but they effect us all. In her book, Stanley does an excellent job of showing a way out of the most unskillful modes of responding to those events. She illustrates how we can train our "survival" and our "thinking" brains to work together cooperatively. Much of this book outlines the latest research on the process of how our mind-body system functions and how it can fall into patterns of dysregulation. The key take away is that we can "widen our window" of tolerance to these stressors and use awareness to find agency to function effectively in stressful situations and recover fully from traumatic experiences. We can rewire our highly adaptive brains as long as we learn to be aware of its habits without judgement. Stanley offers applicable ways to do so. As she writes, we can't go back and magically undo the assaults our mind-body have experienced, but we can find resolution and resilience. If that sounds like a useful recovery tool, give this book a read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ethan West

    This is a heavy book. I picked it up on recommendation of my counselor. He had read it and thought that the idea of having a narrow window applied to me and my life. He was absolutely right. Through reading this book I have been able to put into words what goes on daily in my head and in my inability to deal with even the most minor of stressors. This is a book I bought and I am glad for that because I will be going back to it again and again as a reference and also re-reading it from time to ti This is a heavy book. I picked it up on recommendation of my counselor. He had read it and thought that the idea of having a narrow window applied to me and my life. He was absolutely right. Through reading this book I have been able to put into words what goes on daily in my head and in my inability to deal with even the most minor of stressors. This is a book I bought and I am glad for that because I will be going back to it again and again as a reference and also re-reading it from time to time. I think that MMFT and other mindfulness techniques can help me to sort through some of the emotions I feel and also help me to find agency, wisdom, and courage during stressful times. Highly, highly, highly recommend.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Elena Berger

    I read this bit by bit over several months, because I found that I got pretty emotional reading some sections and wanted to absorb and recover instead of just zipping through it. But it was engaging enough to zip through if I wanted to... every chapter had some kind of nugget of wisdom that I wanted to talk to my friends about and seek to understand better. I often recommend it to complete strangers. It is incredibly liberating to understand the neuroscience behind stress and trauma. This book h I read this bit by bit over several months, because I found that I got pretty emotional reading some sections and wanted to absorb and recover instead of just zipping through it. But it was engaging enough to zip through if I wanted to... every chapter had some kind of nugget of wisdom that I wanted to talk to my friends about and seek to understand better. I often recommend it to complete strangers. It is incredibly liberating to understand the neuroscience behind stress and trauma. This book helped me forgive myself for things that aren't my fault and put real solutions into practice.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Probably one of the most useful books I've ever read. I had to take in the information slowly, over several months, because it's a lot to take in. It was extremely relevant to read while I was recovering from an injury, preparing for a huge change at work, and then living in what are still the beginning weeks of a pandemic. Probably one of the most useful books I've ever read. I had to take in the information slowly, over several months, because it's a lot to take in. It was extremely relevant to read while I was recovering from an injury, preparing for a huge change at work, and then living in what are still the beginning weeks of a pandemic.

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