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Feeling Helpless? Here’s How You Can Help During This Crisis

Most of us have already spent at least several weeks at home, social distancing, and reducing errands and contact with those outside our household as much as we possibly can. In our house, our teens have begun distance learning, and we differentiate the weekdays from the weekends based on whether or not we have to wake up to Zoom with our teachers and colleagues. 

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As it has become clear that we’re all in this until at least the end of April and possibly even longer, our thoughts turn to what we can do for the long haul to stay mentally well and to help those who are suffering. 

Here’s what we came up with in my house.

5 Things to Take Care of:

1. Yourself

Research shows that we can do more for others when we take care of ourselves. Dr. Lucy McBride, a practicing physician in Washington, DC, offers practical tips for protecting our mental health during this stressful time. Top on the list are taking deep breaths when you notice your stress level rising; getting outside for sunshine, fresh air, and exercise (at a safe social distance of course); and downloading a meditation app on your phone. 

2. Your family members

Research also shows that thinking about the well-being of others makes us happier humans. I worry so much about being across the country from my parents, in-laws, and especially my 91-year-old grandmother who is confined to her room in an assisted living facility. Seeing them all right now is out of my control, but what I can do is call them daily, send cards and photos, and urge my teens to text, call, and FaceTime as well. 

In terms of your new 24/7 roommates—aka your spouse and kids—try to have some extra grace and patience as we all adjust to this new togetherness. And, that parenting mantra “choose your battles” has never been more relevant than right now.

3. Your neighborhood

Are there elderly neighbors who need grocery deliveries? Does your church have a food drive or outreach that you can participate in? A high school junior started a trading post in our neighborhood on which people share items with others who need or want them. So far, residents and local businesses have donated a thermometer to a dentist so he could keep seeing patients, masks to an immunocompromised resident so she could get to the grocery store, outgrown toys to younger kids, seeds for those who are starting spring gardens, and more. If your neighborhood doesn’t have a group like this, maybe you (or your teenager) can be the one to make it happen. 

Be extra kind and patient when you are out, and please thank the public servants, grocery workers, mail carriers, custodians, and garbage collectors who are working every day to keep our neighborhoods ticking along.

4. Your town

Your favorite restaurants would greatly appreciate your takeout orders, purchases of gift cards for future dining, and donations to any employee relief fund or virtual tip jars they have. This goes for gyms, hair and nail salons, and any other small businesses that you support. 

Food Banks and Meals on Wheels are working overtime to get food to all their usual clients, plus families who are newly food insecure because they are not getting school breakfasts and lunches or because they are recently unemployed. If you are healthy, you may also be able to volunteer as a driver or food bank worker during this time, because so many of their senior citizen volunteers must stay home to keep safe. 

Is there a charity you usually support? They can likely still use your help, even if it is in a different form. Reach out and see how you can be of service. We’ve come up with a dollar amount that is manageable for us as a family to sustain giving each week until this crisis has passed. Every week, one family member is in charge of coming up with a list of possible charities, and we vote on Sunday evenings for that week’s recipient. 

Are you an animal lover? Local shelters are looking for fosters for their pets so their employees can stay home. Here in Southern California, we’re coming up on kitten season and our local shelter has put out the call for kitten fosters. One of our other Your Teen staffers is fostering a dog for six weeks, and their new pup has brought much needed structure, love, and laughter into their household. 

5. Your health care HEROES

We don’t have the words to express our depth of thanks for the nurses, doctors, and hospital staff who are saving lives by the minute right now, but there are a few practical things you can do to show your thanks. 

The American Red Cross is experiencing great need for blood donations and they’ve stepped up their procedures to make sure nobody gets sick when donating. 

There’s still a shortage of personal protective equipment in hospitals. Many local hospitals are posting their needs online. If you have a stockpile, please consider sharing with your local hospital, or if you’re crafty, you can join Project Runway’s Christian Siriano and sew masks. Here are the details

A great way to take care of health care workers and your favorite local restaurants is to support a group like Feed the Fight or World Central Kitchen, which arrange for restaurants to provide meals to hospital workers. World Central Kitchen, the charity started by Jose Andres, is doing this work as well. 

No one needs to do it all–and we shouldn’t try to–but we just may find that reaching out to others will lift up our own families, too.

Emily Vitan is Special Projects Editor for Your Teen Magazine.  
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