Physiology of Resilience versus Stress


When we are resilient and face challenges we will still experience shifts in our emotional and physiological states and may become defensive from time to time. However, resiliency means we are able to return to a more regulated and open state of being when it is safe to do so.


This allows us to maintain homeostatic balance - stability in the body's internal functioning - which is essential for our long term health.

It is our autonomic nervous system that manages these shifts in our state of being and will mobilise us into defensive action when we feel threatened. This happens outside our conscious awareness. This process is meant to function as a short-term survival strategy. It is not meant to be a long-term mode of functioning.  


The problem is when our survival physiology is no longer time-limited, it ends up becoming our normal physiology and our defensive impulses start to work against us. This can manifest in physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms.


When we are trapped in this survival mode of functioning, we are not able to maintain homeostasis and make use of our higher brain capabilities. This taxes the body beyond its ideal level, resulting in more limited access to physiology that supports healthy immune and hormone responses, as well as healthy digestion and sleep


And our impaired ability to regulate our physiological state also limits our behavioural, psychological and social capacities, as well as our cognitive functioning. In contrast, when we feel safe and connected to our self and others, our physiology functions in a way that promotes long term health and wellbeing. 


Shifting our physiology and related emotional states out of survival mode of functioning is therefore the key as it not only promotes greater resilience, but in doing so makes us healthier, happier and more intelligent.