Debbie Zoller

From Darkness to Light

With the holidays behind us, people are spending more time in their homes which can feel isolating. I truly understand why those who are able may gravitate to a warmer climate for the winter. For most of us who don’t have this luxury, we have to be creative in order to find ways to help us cope.

The concept of the window of tolerance, developed by Dan Siegel, MD, is a way to recognize and talk about your current mental state. When a person is managing and coping well with their emotions they are operating within their window. This is the ideal place to be.

When someone is feeling anxious, overwhelmed and experiencing a traumatic-stress response they are outside their window of tolerance.

Every winter as we enter the dark, cold months of January and February, I look to expand my window of tolerance by developing creative coping skills. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can contribute to depression, social media overload, and losing interest in activities you once enjoyed.

A favorite quote of mine about this season comes from philosopher Albert Camus who said, “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” This philosophy tells me that we must recognize our inner strength and actively plan for the future.

Plan for the future while cherishing the present. Select an activity that you enjoy whether it be writing, reading, cooking, exercising, connecting, creating, playing games, praying, laughing… The possibilities are endless.

Whether you are doing something just for you or trying something new with a friend, be aware of how you are feeling. It can be helpful to communicate with others when you are feeling vulnerable and outside your window of tolerance.

By developing tools to stabilize your feelings you will increase your capacity to deal with difficult information, emotions, and physical sensations. This will expand your window and help you bring light into the darkness.

Believe that you deserve to indulge in something that makes you feel good.

Debbie Zoller, MSW, LCSW, JFSLV Executive Director