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Resilience in this atypical Christmas

Christmas is a time for us to connect with our loved ones, friends and acquaintances. It is also a time for us to count our blessings and feel loved. We also take this opportunity to show our love and care to our loved ones. The Christmas in 2020 is an atypical one, as the pandemic may probably be going on in the first half of 2021. The number of new cases per day is still very high in many countries. Social distancing measures are still tight in many places. Given the restriction, people may not be able to celebrate Christmas as usual. Many may feel disconnected or isolated due to the lockdown. How can we face this special circumstance with resilience?

One of the factors that contribute to our level of resilience is how well we stay connected with others. In fact, the feeling of isolation and loneliness is detrimental to our mental and physical well-being. We, as human beings, are driven by our need to connect. In fact, social connections activate the reward center of our brain. The level of dopamine will be increased in the reward circuit of our brain when we engage in positive social interactions.

Research showed that when we experienced social rejection or isolation, our brains react similarly as we faced physical or mental threats. The fear circuit, including the amygdala, dorsal anterior cingulate, dorsal medial prefrontal cortex, and the sympathetic nervous system, becomes activated. On the contrary, when we are socially connected, the fear circuit calms down. As a result, positive social connections have an impact on our sense of safety and security. It also increases our resilience in the face of adversities.

Bonding with our loved ones will also increase the level of oxytocin in our brain. Simply connecting with your family and friends and show them your love and care will usually lead to receiving their love and care in return. The increase in oxytocin level enhances our feeling of affiliation and promote prosocial behaviour. In fact, oxytocin also reduce the activation of amygdala so that it can reduce our negative responses to stress.

In light of the neuroscientific evidence, it is beyond dispute that a strong and supportive social network can strengthen our resilience in the face of adversities. It is also a protective factor for our mental and physical health. Despite that we need to follow the social distancing measures during the pandemic, we should try to keep our connections with others using a variety of means. With the current technological advancement, we are now able to stay connected with our family members or friends through the Internet. Even without physical parties, we still can be creative in organising virtual Christmas gatherings with our loved ones in any locations.

For those under stress due to the pandemic, such as job loss, physical illness or financial problem, obtaining love and support from their family members or friends is beneficial for them to build resilience. No matter whether you are the blessed ones or suffering from stress related to adversities, reach out to your family members and friends and connect with them can warm our hearts in this atypical Christmas. Either receiving or giving love and support to others makes us a stronger person with resilience.

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