Struggling During the COVID Holidays? Giving Will Uplift Your Spirit!
12 Ways to Reach Out and Bring Back the Magic of the Holiday Season
The holidays are different this year. Because of the pandemic, many families are not gathering together in person like they usually do. Social distancing is strongly encouraged in most places for safety, and no one knows when masks won’t be required to interact in public. People are realizing the things they took for granted in a pre-COVID-19 world. We have replaced simple ways of connecting through human touch like hugging and shaking hands with bottles of sanitizer and reminder signs to wash hands and stay six feet away. Everyone is wondering when things will go back to normal. It’s easy to get discouraged when it feels like there’s no end in sight.
We need each other more than ever. A recent study from the National Institutes of Health showed loneliness and depression have increased in young adults during the pandemic. The British Medical Journal recently reported that suicidal thoughts in teens increased during the first COVID-19 lockdown. As lockdowns continue across the nation, young adults aren’t the only ones feeling the impact. A Boston University School of Public Health study recently reported that COVID-19 has tripled the depression rate in U.S. adults.
What’s the good news in all of this? The Journal of Hospital Medicine conducted a study showing reduced fatality rates in New York, initially one of the hardest hit areas. As medical experts learn more about this virus, we hope our world will become healthy and back to normal again. Until then, it’s vital that we do our part to connect with loved ones and give as much as we can during this challenging time.
Here are 12 Powerful Ways We Can Give During this Pandemic Holiday Season:
1. Involve family members who can’t be there in person on Christmas Day to enjoy the celebration virtually. Because the elderly are more vulnerable to this virus, some families are hosting their regular celebrations and including grandparents through Zoom or other virtual platforms. You can do the same for family members that are immune-compromised or who don’t feel safe traveling. It’s not the same, but it’s still a way to include family through technology.
2. Donate your time, food, gifts, and money. According to a recent article in the Bradenton Herald, demand is up and donations are down. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, many charity fundraising events have been cancelled. Now, more than ever, people are in need. Charities are also desperate for volunteers. The Salvation Army’s Rescue Christmas program aims to help communities in need during the holidays. Volunteers, food, and gifts are desperately needed. Donating to Meals on Wheels also helps homebound seniors, the disabled, and chronically ill. Since 1947, Toys for Tots, a charity run by U.S. Marines, has given toys to children who might not get them otherwise. Toys for Tots is a top-rated charity, with 96% of donations going toward toys for needy children. You can donate here. Wherever you decide to give, every little bit helps. Even donating $5 to a local charity makes a difference! Do what you can, and you might notice your spirits lifting.
3. Check up on an elderly neighbor, or someone who lives alone. Many elderly couples have been stranded in their homes since the beginning of the virus and are afraid to get out and risk exposure. A quick phone call to check up on them doesn’t take much time, but makes a world of difference. Though human touch is limited, hearing the caring voice of someone on the phone is the next best thing.
4. Give the gift of life by donating blood. Many blood drives have been cancelled because of the pandemic. As a result, blood donations have hit critically low levels. Local blood banks are easy to find, and many offer rewards for regular donors. Check out blood banks with locations near you, like OneBlood.org and Suncoast Blood Bank. You can also make an appointment to donate blood by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or go to redcross.org for a donation center near you. Giving blood is one of the most life-changing gifts you can give. Sign up to donate today!
5. Support small business whenever possible! While Amazon.com and Starbucks are convenient, small businesses are struggling to stay open during Coronavirus restrictions. Buy your favorite latte at a local shop and invite your friends to do the same. Again, every little bit makes a difference. The same goes for restaurants—shopping and buying local matters now more than ever! Your support could help decide whether some small businesses keep their doors open or not. If possible, be extra generous with your tips too. Baristas and restaurant servers are struggling to make ends meet right now because of COVID-19 reduced capacity requirements.
6. Encourage people and aim to make a connection every chance you get. Just asking a stranger, “how’s your day going so far?” can open up conversation and remind you of the power of human interaction. A kind and encouraging conversation can be a gift to someone (and to you). Even at the grocery store. You never know what people are going through, and what difference a caring word can make.
7. Get outside, even if it’s cold. Talk to your neighbors, work in the yard, stay active. This is a gift to you and people who might cross your path.
8. Set up a weekly FaceTime/Google Duo/Zoom call with elderly or isolated family members. This goes along with the suggestion to invite family members who can’t be involved in person to gather virtually. But it’s worth noting that regular, intentional contact with family is vital to keeping spirits up during this time. Also, reach out to the young adults in your life. They may not communicate they’re suffering from loneliness, but as we mentioned in the studies above—this age group is struggling too.
9. Show your smile! Add some warmth to the impersonal feel of face masks. Purchase a clear see-through mask that shows your smile. It will do wonders for others around you, and for you too. You’ll probably get a few laughs because of how comical you might look. Somehow, knowing people can see you smile makes you feel happier. A simple Amazon or Google search will help you find affordable smile-showing masks. This is an easy way to give!
10. Focus on gratitude. A recent study from Harvard Health showed those who journaled regularly about gratitude noticed a boost in their mental health and outlook. Another study showed delivering a letter of gratitude to someone had a significant impact on happiness levels, with positive results lasting for as long as a month after sending the letter.
11. Send letters to family members and friends in assisted living or retirement homes. It takes about 30 minutes to write a letter, address, stamp it, and stick it in the mailbox with the flag up. Take a few minutes to brighten someone’s day and see how good it makes you feel as a result.
12. One more bonus way to give? Turn off the news! There’s so much negative out there. Not listening to negativity or giving fear-based information airtime is one of the best ways to stay positive. Doing this will allow you to give more of yourself to the loved ones in your life.
Not every gift that matters has to have wrapping paper and bows. Many of the gifts listed above are gifts of time, money, and reaching out. Because so many of us are struggling with our own loneliness and frustration that comes with a pandemic—it’s easy to forget others may have it worse. Just by making an intentional effort, we can flip our outlook and create a ripple effect around ourselves.
Even after the holidays are over, don’t forget people will still be in need. Loneliness and depression are at high levels right now, and that will be an ongoing issue until Coronavirus fears are over. Make it a regular part of your life to give. We all need each other through these difficult times!