Holiday Series Part Two: Support System and Resilience

By Miasha Ahmed

NY Project Hope is a crisis counseling program that provides support and resources to help people cope with the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic

rainy day illustration

In our last blog we briefly mentioned the importance of communicating and having a social support to help us process through grief. To continue with the holiday series, this week’s blog will go more in-depth about the significance of having social support, how it builds up resiliency, and how both pertains to holidays.

The Importance of Social Support

Social support often includes a connection of people such as family, friends, and coworkers who are able to provide both emotional and physical comfort as well as make one feel valued, loved, and cared for. Support can come in different forms. The most common type of support is emotional support in which the other person provides comfort through active listening, showing empathy, and just expressing how much they care about you. In addition, support can also be encompassed by sharing points of views such as words of encouragement and sharing information such as how to budget money wisely for an upcoming event. Of course, we cannot forget about physical support such as caring for a family member or helping out financial needs. Why is having social support so important?

  • Poor social support has been linked to depression, loneliness, and has shown to alter brain function
  • A strong social support can be influential in behaviors such as eating a healthy diet, exercising, and reducing or evading substance abuses.
  • It’s a phenomenal method of reducing stress which, in turn, increases mental well-being by decreasing anxiety, depression, and even symptoms of PTSD.
  • Social support is a great source of motivation. For example, my brother has been my biggest support in terms of losing weight. He always gives me encouragement and praise whenever I am able to meet a certain goal. This kind of support makes me want to continue to work harder to achieve my overall weight loss goal.

Resiliency: How Do We Do It?

person rolling ball uphill

Social support is also beneficial in the sense that it helps build resiliency. What is resiliency? Resiliency is our ability to overcome all sorts of challenges and traumas in our lives and bounce back as strong as ever. It may seem impossible in some situations, right? I’m sure many of you might already know but there is a famous saying that goes “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.  I always thought of myself as a rather weak person because I am very sensitive. This was also ingrained into me when I was younger. I was made to believe that to be considered strong, a person should not cry but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I realized how much inner strength I had after my father passed away. I felt like my whole life was falling apart. In addition, right after he passed away, I had to take seven classes to graduate early and try to find a job to provide for my family. I didn’t think I would manage to survive but somehow thanks to the love and support of my mom, brother and friends, I got right back up on my feet and managed to get through each day. All of us have this inner strength inside even under the direst circumstances; sometimes, it’s difficult to bring it out and other times we might have to hone it a bit. Below are some tips to develop resiliency:

  • Building connections-Again this reiterates the importance of having a strong support system. Connecting with those who are understanding, caring, and empathetic will leave you to feel less lonely and learning how to accept help and support others will help build strength to overcome any sort of challenges. Regardless of how busy I am, I try to meet up with my friends at least once a week and if we can’t meet in person, we make plans to video call. In turn, I know I have people to turn to or be the person that others can turn to in midst of challenging times.
  • Fostering wellness-I can’t emphasize the value of self-care enough. Stress isn’t only something that’s considered in the emotional realm; it can have many physical after-effects as well. I actually developed a medical condition from stress for a few months and only realized how stress can completely destroy a person inside and out. Having a healthy life style such as getting adequate amount of sleep, eating proper nutritious meal, practicing mindfulness, and exercising can go a long way not only in terms of mentally preparation but also physical ability to conquer whatever life throws.
  • Finding purpose-This might seem more of a life-long philosophical question that one might ponder about but it really does help foster resilience. Whether it’s volunteering at organizations, being more proactive about making decisions, setting goals, or embracing self-discovery, it’s all a journey that helps shape certain qualities in a person that can make them stronger and more confident.

Social Support and Resiliency During the Holidays

Holidays are often portrayed as having a festive, jolly, and a jovial atmosphere yet it can also be a time of stress for those making plans to have people over or those who are spending the holidays without their loved ones. Holidays are actually the perfect method of fostering social support in that its very essence is to remind us and celebrate the support we have by spending time with others whether it’s friends or family or even other strangers. I like to consider myself a homebody and don’t care particularly too much for the holidays but even I cannot deny that I usually have a great time just socializing and catching up when I spend it with another person. In regards to resiliency, holidays can be a great way to self-reflect whether we spend time talking about all the craziness in the world with our loved ones or writing in our journals about goals we promise to achieve in the upcoming New Year just like we promised ourselves in the previous five years or so. Why not even specifically set some resiliency goals? I hope this blog and Project Hope could provide some support and foster resiliency to our readers and consumers. We talked a lot about coping resources for the general public; in our next blog, we will have a more specific target that seems to be often overlooked: children!

As always, Project Hope is also here to help you! Sometimes it can be helpful to talk to someone you don’t know! Want to know more about how we can help? Give us a call at 845-762-2275. Talking to us is always free, anonymous, and confidential.

Maisha Ahmed is a crisis counselor from Independent Living, Inc. working on with the NY Project Hope program. 

Further Reading and References: