Stress is an inevitable aspect of everyday life; thus, it is crucial to be informed about how stress can impact one’s body. Hans Selye, a prominent researcher, has identified three stages that the body goes through during stress, namely the alarm stage, the resistance stage, and the exhaustion stage. The resistance stage lies between the initial alarm stage and the exhaustion stage. It is an important phase where our bodies and minds try to cope with prolonged stress. In this article, we’ll explore the resistance stage in depth.

What Happens in the Resistance Stage?

The resistance stage is the second phase in our body’s response to stress. In this stage, the body actively works to counter the physiological changes that happen during the initial alarm stage. It can even be considered a repair stage after the initial shock of the stressful event. If the stressful event is no longer present, heart rate, hormone levels, etc. will slowly start returning to normal levels. 

However, if the stressor remains unresolved for a long time, the body is likely to remain in the alert stage for an extended period. Thus, the body will find it difficult to return to normal levels of functioning. It will keep producing high amounts of stress hormones, and the heart rate or blood pressure is likely to remain elevated as well. This prolonged exposure to stress will lead the body and mind towards the final stage of the response cycle, which is exhaustion.

Long-term high-stress levels can negatively impact the functioning of the immune, digestive, cardiovascular, sleep, and reproductive systems, leading to symptoms such as:

  • Consistent feelings of worry and frustration
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty in Concentration
  • Changes in Appetite
  • Low energy levels
  • Body aches or rashes
  • Sleeplessness or nightmares
  • Difficulties in decision-making

Let’s understand the resistance stage with an example: Imagine you have been dealing with work pressure for a long time. Initially, you try to manage the pressure by managing your time, getting help, and staying focused. Even though you might seem fine on the surface, your body is still handling stress behind the scenes. You might find it difficult to stay focused or manage your emotions, leading to irritability. You might also find it difficult to switch off from work to engage. These are a few indicators that the body is in the resistance stage of its stress response cycle.

Why is the Resistance Stage Important?

As discussed before, the resistance stage falls between the alarm and the exhaustion stage. It is a crucial stage in the stress response cycle, as the body begins to recover in this phase if the stressor is no longer present. Secondly, the resistance stage provides an opportunity for implementing healthy coping mechanisms. Engaging in activities such as exercise, taking breaks, and seeking support during this phase can help manage the negative effects of stress. Thus, effectively managing the resistance stage can help avoid exhaustion and promote overall health and well-being. 


The resistance stage is a stage where the body tries to recover from the effects of stress. This stage is crucial as it provides individuals with an opportunity to recognize the effects of stress and take steps to recover from it. One can manage the resistance stage by seeking help, taking a break, or implementing other stress management strategies. If the resistance stage is not managed well, the body can go to exhaustion, leading to burnout.

Want to read more about the stages of stress? Click here to read about the exhaustion stage of stress


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  2. General Adaptation Syndrome: Your Body’s Response to Stress. (2017b, May 1). Healthline.
  3. How the Body Reacts to Stress. (n.d.). Verywell Health. Retrieved January 19, 2024, from
  4. What Is General Adaptation Syndrome? (2023, August 28). Psych Central.
Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin