For many people, the holiday season is a time of spiritual reflection and joyful togetherness. While wrapped presents are often a traditional part of celebrations, the best gift you can give is helping lighten the load of those who are struggling. Plus, it will lift your spirits, too.
Here are 10 ways you can safely make your community a better place this holiday season.
Connect and Communicate
Physical distancing is helping the country slow the spread of COVID-19, but distancing can also lead to isolation and loneliness. Staying in touch with friends, family and neighbors has never been more important. If you know anyone who has lost a loved one this year, a thoughtful note or phone call can be comforting.
By making a plan to regularly stay in touch and sticking to it, you can brighten someone’s day. Talk on the phone or visit at a safe distance to ask how a friend is doing or simply catch up. You can also share experiences by watching the same TV show, reading the same book or playing a virtual game together.
Thank Emergency and Essential Workers
Not everyone gets time off at the holidays to be with loved ones. Showing your appreciation with cards or treats will bring cheer to your local firefighters, health care workers, paramedics, police officers and service members. Learn more about how to give back to caregiver heroes here.
When you donate blood, you’re providing a lifesaving service, like health care providers, first responders and other essential workers, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If you’ve recently recovered from COVID-19, your blood is also needed because it might help someone else who is critically ill to fight the disease. And, you can rest assured that all blood and plasma centers follow strict Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to keep you safe.
Make Deliveries to Seniors and Others in Need
You can help keep more vulnerable people, like older adults and those with disabilities, safe by volunteering to deliver meals or other necessary items, such as prescription medications. Check with local churches and service groups to find out what they need and what you can do to help. If organizations in your community aren’t relying on volunteers because of pandemic precautions, consider donating nonperishable items or money.
Like seniors, there are many children who are going without essential items or services during the pandemic, and the holidays can make the situation worse. Some ways you can help include:
Donating new, unwrapped gifts or asking if local charities accept used toys or clothing
Finding out if any of your regular purchases or activities can benefit children: For example, you can go to a charity’s Amazon wish list of items that they need and order them, or donate your frequent flier miles to the Make-A-Wish Foundation
Providing virtual tutoring for students or donating money, equipment or time to close the gap between technology and students who need it for virtual or in-person schooling
Organize a Food Drive
Money can be especially tight at the holidays, especially with this year’s economic downturn. Collect nonperishable foods — like peanut butter, canned vegetables, dried beans, cereal, dried fruit, pasta or rice — from friends and family and deliver them to a food bank. Check with local charities to see if they need other items such as toiletries, blankets or household items.
You can also volunteer to sort food and pack it into boxes. Even if it’s a solo effort rather than a group project with family and friends, what you’ve done will matter if you can help keep one person fed this season.
Raise Money for a Charity
If you normally exchange presents with family and friends, consider asking them to instead make a gift to charity. You can suggest a charity dear to your heart or let the gift-giver choose the organization. This will make the holiday more meaningful and set a good example, particularly if you have children, by demonstrating the importance of giving.
Help the Homeless
While others are enjoying the warmth and cheer of the holidays, there are people in your community who have no loved ones nearby and no food or shelter. Fill stockings with personal hygiene items, socks, hats, gloves, snacks and more to deliver to a homeless shelter. This is a good project for the entire family that will make an immediate difference in someone’s life.
Remember Four-Legged Friends
You can help your local animal shelter by donating dog or cat food, used towels or blankets and supplies such as cat litter, treats and leashes. Another way to give back is to adopt an animal or foster one, which helps reduce overcrowding in shelters, opens up space for other animals and helps prepare them to successfully transition to permanent homes.
Donate Your Talent
Volunteering your talent may be the most precious gift you can give. If you’re good at sewing, for example, you could seek out opportunities to work with organizations making face masks. Consider volunteering for a crisis hotline or text line to help people who are struggling with domestic violence or depression.
Give Yourself the Gift of Wellness
In order to help others, you first have to be sure to take care of yourself. Keep your holidays merry and bright with these strategies for well-being:
Get a flu shot, which will lower your likelihood of catching the flu
Make hand hygiene a priority by washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
Eat healthy foods, which will boost your immune system
Sleep a recommended 7 to 9 hours nightly; our bodies make more immune cells when we’re asleep than when we’re awake
Stay active, which releases endorphins that can help manage stress and relieve inflammation and irritability
Wear a face mask over your mouth and nose when you can’t be at least 6 feet away from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses such as colds and the flu
Avoid close contact with people who don’t live in your house
Make time for yourself to focus on your whole health in body, mind and spirit
Together, we’re healing from the pandemic — and we’ll be there for you all through the holiday season, too. If you or someone you love needs health care, rest assured that you can get virtual care or in-person care safely. Find the latest information you need to stay safe, and if you need a little extra support coping with holiday blues, AdventHealth behavioral health specialists can help.