Although news reports of hoarding and panic-buying might make it hard to believe, research shows that natural disasters, like the novel coronavirus pandemic, can actually bring out the best in people. Although times of significant threat or crisis can cause post-traumatic stress, research shows that so-called "adversarial growth" is just as common as a response. This is our capacity to not only overcome a crisis, but to actually grow stronger, wiser and more resilient.
When people experience adversity – such as life-changing illness or loss – research shows their relationship with the world changes. Often, adversity may help us experience a new appreciation of life, improve our relationships with others, and help us gain personal strength. In other words, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.
• Sign up to our daily Covid-19 newsletter for essential advice and a full summary of the day's news and developments. Register or sign in here and select Top News Stories
In situations of social stress, our primal instincts kick in. These innate survival responses protect us against unwanted threats, and can both help and hinder how we cope. Though we may not be able to choose our stress response, there are ways that we can train it.
The most common response to threats in humans is the "fight, flight or freeze" response, whereby stress triggers a hormonal response that prepares the body to either fight or run from a threat.
But more recent research shows we also have a "tend and befriend" response. When faced with a threat, this response releases hormones – like oxytocin – that encourage us to build and maintain our social network to reduce stress and anxiety, and build empathy.