top of page

The Science of Resilience: 5 Ways Our Brain and Body Adapt to Stress

a resilient woman

Through my encounter with adversity: losing a husband at the tender age of 23, losing my Dad, mother and other challenges, I've become unwittingly drawn to the subject of building resilience. Now, I am fascinated by the concept, particularly in mental health, well-being and thriving.

Without resilience, I wouldn't be here. We need resilience to overcome obstacles in life. However, it is not enough to build resilience; we need to take things further and use that resilience to thrive. Because that is what life is all about - building purposeful resilience.

The power to bounce back after facing challenging situations is within us all. By building resilience, we can harness this power and use it to overcome obstacles, manage stress and emotions, and learn from our experiences. With resilience, we can adapt to change, grow, and develop as individuals.

But to fully understand the concept of resilience, it is important to look at it from various angles, including how it relates to our brain mechanisms and body. So, in this blog, I'm exploring the science of resilience and the ways our brain and body adapt to stress.

Definition of Resilience

After reading various definitions, resilience is the ability of a person to adapt to stress and adversity, and it is crucial in determining how well we can navigate life's challenging situations and, overcome obstacles and thrive.

So, What is The Science of Resilience And The 5 Ways Our Brain and Body Adapt to Stress?


Listening to Dr Tara Swart, a neuroscientist who champions neuroplasticity, I learned that our brain and body have evolved several complex mechanisms to cope with stress and build resilience. I've learnt that neuroplasticity is one of the most remarkable of these mechanisms. Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to rewire itself and create new neural pathways in response to stress. Different sources reveal that this process enables us to learn from our experiences, adapt to new situations, and develop new skills and coping strategies.

Hormonal Response

The hormonal response is another powerful tool our body employs to adapt to stress. When a person encounters a stressful situation, their body releases chemicals, cortisol and adrenaline, which help kick-start a response to that situation. Over time, the body adapts to these hormonal changes, allowing us to better cope with stress and build greater resilience.

A Strong Support System

How often have you heard someone say, 'You're my rock'? I know I have. And I've even uttered those words myself. It proves we all need someone in our corner, especially during tough times - friends, family, co-workers, community.

Social support, therefore, is another crucial factor in building resilience. Having strong social connections and a supportive network are solid components that provide us with a sense of belonging, purpose, and meaning, which helps us cope with stress and build greater resilience.

I have found that when life gets tough, and nothing makes sense, having someone to turn to helps me stay grounded, see the light at the end of the tunnel and give me a reason to keep going and not lose hope and faith.

Research has also shown that social support improves our overall well-being and strengthens our immune system.

Practicing Mindfulness

Practising mindfulness is a phrase that is often thrown around when addressing mental health and wellness issues. For some, it may seem too abstract. But that is not the case. Practising mindfulness is a powerful technique for building resilience. I only understood this concept once I found myself in hard times.

Discovering mindfulness opened me up to a new world of self-awareness and inner peace. By deeply focusing on my senses and surroundings, I tune out distractions, become in tune with my body, mind and soul, regulate my emotions and find clarity and tranquillity.

Other ways to practise mindfulness are inhaling and exhaling slowly and setting a positive intention for the day ahead. When you eat, take your time to savour each bite, paying attention to your food's taste, texture, and aroma. As you take walks, soak up your surroundings, noticing the sights, sounds, and sensations you encounter.

Listen attentively to others without judgment, giving them your undivided attention. At the end of each day, take a few moments to reflect on what you are grateful for. Gratitude sets a chain of events that facilitates our ability to find pleasure and fulfilment in the smallest things.

It is important to remember that developing mindfulness does not happen overnight. The practice takes time and requires practice. With courage, patience and commitment, we can enhance our ability to live in the present moment and experience greater peace and fulfilment in life.

Regular Physical Exercise

Regular physical exercise is an essential tool for building resilience. When we exercise, our body releases hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, which are crucial in regulating our mood and reducing stress levels.

Exercise also helps to improve the quality of our sleep, which makes us feel well-rested, which is crucial for our mental and physical well-being.

Moreover, regular exercise also helps us build physical strength and endurance, making us more equipped to handle the demands of everyday life. It also helps us develop a sense of discipline and focus, which is essential in building resilience.

Incorporating exercise into our daily routine doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Simple activities such as walking, jogging, cycling, or dancing can significantly benefit our physical and mental well-being.


By understanding the five ways our brain and body adapt to stress, we can understand ourselves better and use what we know to master the art of building resilience and improving our overall well-being and quality of life.


bottom of page