Page published on 21st May 2024
Page last modified on 21st May 2024


On 25 April 2024, during Stress Awareness Month, IP Inclusive and Jonathan’s Voice co-hosted a webinar “Workable Ranges: A map and method for better balance and wellbeing”. The speakers were Dr Sally Rose and Nicola Neath, workplace counsellors and experts in workplace mental health.

They introduced the workable ranges visual model for mapping healthy balance and two different types of stress reactions (drawing on the psychophysiology of our nervous systems and the impact on how we feel and function). The model was researched by Sally and was developed by them both with higher education staff and corporate teams to support and improve wellbeing, daily functioning and sustainable work performance. As well as enabling you to recognise your own signs of balance and imbalance or stress, they demonstrated how the model can help us to self-regulate and harness our variations in energy and capacity.

You can access a recording of the webinar here and the speaker slides here. Read on for our summary of the highlights.



The workable ranges model describes three states of ‘arousal’ or stimulation:

  1. Our workable range, in which we are able to function effectively in everyday life, and relate well to ourselves and others. We are in healthy balance.
  2. A hyper-aroused state, in which we are stressed and respond by mobilising to a high energy state.
  3. A hypo-aroused state, in which we are stressed and respond by immobilising to a low energy state.


A diagram showing the hyper-aroused state at the top in red, the workable range in middle in green and the hypo-aroused state at the bottom in blue.


Each of these states is normal and at times each is needed and can serve us. But noticing which state we’re in and whether it’s serving us can be helpful. We can also learn tools to help us cope better in an aroused state and restore balance.



It is just as important to notice what it’s like for us when things are going well – when we are in our ‘workable range’ – as it is notice what it’s like when things are not going well. Our ‘workable range’ is a bandwidth of tolerable energy and emotion. We are ‘managing’ when we’re in this range. We can think effectively. Our emotions are manageable. We can reflect and take perspective. We can take wise decisions. We feel calm.


What is it like for you when you’re functioning well? What is it like in your body and mind? How does it feel? How does it support your work? What do others see?



When things are not going so well, we may become ‘stressed’. This may happen in response to a particular stimulus or build up slowly over time. When this happens our body responds as if it has perceived threat. At one end of the range our body responds by mobilising to a high energy ‘fight or flight’ state. This is hyper-arousal. We feel panic or overwhelm. Our thoughts race and we’re unable to focus. We feel agitated and like things are too much. We might be angry or hyper vigilant.


What is it like for you in a mobilised state (hyper aroused)? What is it like in your body and mind? How does it feel? How does it impact on you at work? What do others see?


At the other end of the range, our body responds to perceived threat by immobilising or freezing. This low energy state is hypo arousal. We can’t think or have critical or pessimistic thoughts. We feel numb or passive. We shut down or give in. It can be harder to notice when we’re in this state.


What is it like for you in an immobilised state (hypo aroused)? What is it like in your body and mind? How does it feel? How does it impact on you at work? What do others see?



We can plot a map to show which state we’re in over time. We might be working in our workable range, then move up to a mobilised state to meet a deadline, or perhaps drop to an immobilised state when we receive some difficult news. We may move within or outside of our workable range but we will return to balance.

If our trajectories are more extreme – like a roller coaster – we may become dysregulated at a bodily level or behaviourally. Our workable range becomes narrow and we feel out of balance a lot of the time, feeling constantly wired or tired. This can lead to burnout and other health conditions.


Can you track where you are on this map over a period of time (a day / week / month)?



  • Notice your tell-signs when you’re in your workable range – bodily signs, behaviours, etc.
  • And your tell-signs that you might be heading towards stress.
  • Notice your tendencies to head to hyper- or hypo-arousal.
  • Have people who can point out to you when you’re in a stressed state.
  • Notice your threats, destabilisers and balancers. For example, I need to give an online presentation which I know I will find a ‘threat’. I know that being in a noisy public space will destabilise me, so I can prepare (or ‘balance’) by ensuring I have a quiet private space to give the presentation.


Knowing which state you’re in has advantages:

  • You can choose what activities you engage in.
  • You can avoid making big decisions when you’re in a stressed state.
  • When you’re not in balance, know you will return to balance.



We can also learn tools to help us cope when we’re not in balance. For example, focussing on breathing out and letting go can help to calm us when we’re hyper-aroused. And focussing on breathing in or moving gently can help us to energise and move up from a low energy state. Perhaps music is helpful to you. Or noticing what your body needs in that moment. Maybe you need social engagement; maybe you need time alone.


What will help you to stabilise when you’re in a stressed state in order to restore balance?



Please see the penultimate slide for sources of support. Jonathan’s Voice have a range of free downloadable resources on their website.



Jonathan’s Voice would be delighted to hear from you if you’d like to discuss your own organisation’s needs in more detail. They can provide free advice, seminars, workshops, talks and other forms of support and are happy to visit you in person: contact them via their website or email [email protected].

You can contact IP Inclusive by email at [email protected].

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