8 Things You Can Do If You Feel Helpless During The Coronavirus Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has turned our world upside-down, leaving people lost, scared, overwhelmed and — at times — defeated. 

Feeling helpless right now is totally normal. As humans, we like to think we have power over our lives. When we’re robbed of that, it can be unsettling.

“When we lose control over any significant aspect of our lives, as is happening right now, it is natural to want to find opportunities to exert control over something else,” Utpal Dholakia, professor of marketing at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, told HuffPost. “Doing so makes us feel less helpless.” 

While it’s easy to get hung up on the things you can’t change right now, try to focus on the small ways you can make a difference in your community and beyond. Below, eight things you can do if you’re feeling helpless during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

1. Stay home and encourage your loved ones to do the same 

Hopefully, you’ve already been doing this in accordance with the government guidelines, but digging into the “why” may shift your perspective. 

“The smallest action that can make the biggest impact for the greater good is to stay home,” said clinical psychologist Aarti Gupta, founder and clinical director of TherapyNest. “Self-quarantine can feel isolating, but reframing it as social solidarity can be a reminder that everyone else is making the same sacrifice at this time.” 

Committing to other health practices like washing your hands thoroughly and frequently, not touching your face, limiting or avoiding use of public transportation and eating nourishing, immune-boosting foods can help, too.

If you have loved ones who refuse to follow proper social distancing protocols, express your concerns in a nonjudgmental way (hard, we know!). Come prepared with facts that might help them reconsider their behavior. 

“Talk to your friends and family who are not practicing social distancing and help them see why it is important to follow stay-at-home orders to slow the transmission of the disease,” said Alison Holman, associate professor of nursing at the University of California, Irvine. “Be a role model for socially responsible behavior by practicing behaviors that decrease the likelihood of spreading the virus.”

2. Resist the urge to panic-buy

In the face of so much unpredictability, the temptation to stockpile necessities like food, toilet paper and other household goods is understandable. But know that overbuying makes it hard for more vulnerable populations — like the elderly and lower-income folks — to get the essential supplies they need. And seeing empty shelves only fuels more of this behavior. 

Help your community by resisting the urge to stockpile groceries and other household goods,  (Photo: dowell via Getty Images)

“Panic-buying is one way we try to gain control over our disrupted lives,“ Dholakia said. “However, it is unplanned, often wasteful and can lead to financial harm, making us feel guilty and selfish afterward.” 

You can help by buying no more than one to two weeks of goods at a time ― whether that’s at the grocery store or via a delivery service.

“We also help our communities, the retailers and their supply chains by giving them some breathing room to acclimate to these new circumstances,” Dholakia said.  

3. Support local businesses hit hard by the pandemic

To the extent that you’re able, keep buying from the restaurants, bars, bakeries, shops and salons in your neighborhood. You can order takeout food and drinks or buy gift cards to use at those establishments when they open again. 

“Now is the time to show support to these businesses and their staff and delivery people,” Dholakia said. “We can do this by patronizing the businesses as we would any other time and tipping service staff as well as we can afford.”

If money is tight, consider writing an online review for some of your favorite spots. 

4. Donate to a food bank

Many nonprofits have had to cancel fundraising events because of social distancing, so they’re cash-strapped at a time when people are relying on them most

“Not everyone has the luxury of extra income at this time, but if you do, consider donating to your local food bank or soup kitchen,” Gupta said.

5. Adopt or foster a pet 

Many shelters across the U.S. have had to close their doors to the public and cancel adoption events, while also dealing with staffing shortages. During times of economic hardship, shelters often see an uptick in the number of pet surrenders and strays, so getting more furry friends into homes now is important. 

If you're working from home anyway, now might be a good time to adopt or foster a pet.  (Photo: Sally Anscombe via Getty Images)

“Adopting or fostering a dog during this pandemic would be a great support to a strained system, and can bring a much needed and welcomed distraction from all the bad news,” said Erin Stanton, founder of Susie’s Senior Dogs

Or, you can offer to buy pet food or medications for a friend, relative or neighbor who wants to keep their dog but is struggling financially, Stanton added. 

6. Write messages of encouragement to people on the front lines

Doctors, nurses, grocery store employees, pharmacists, garbage collectors and delivery workers are just some of the people who have put their own health on the line to help others during the outbreak. Let them know how grateful you are for their service. 

“Send emails, leave notes, or post signs letting them know you see them and you care,” said clinical psychologist Therese Mascardo, founder of Exploring Therapy. “Going out of your way with the smallest act can make a huge difference in someone’s entire outlook and week.”

You can do the same for people in industries like travel and tourism, entertainment and event planning whose livelihoods have been threatened by the pandemic, Mascardo added.  

7. If you can sew, make face masks and donate them

Health care professionals — and other essential workers — are in dire need of personal protective equipment like face masks. If you know how to sew, you can use online patterns to help create masks at home.

Before getting started, check to see if hospitals or other organizations in your area are accepting donated masks. If so, make sure the masks meet any requirements they may have for use in a medical setting. 

And if sewing isn’t your forte, you can still help out by writing or calling your elected representatives to “encourage them to prioritize getting businesses to safely manufacture the much-needed supplies, like N95 masks and gowns, that will protect our health care workers from harm,” Holman said.

8. Make a list of people you’ve been meaning to catch up with and call them

Now that you may have some extra time on your hands, reach out to friends or relatives you haven’t heard from in a while but want to reconnect with. 

“You can simply call to check in, or go the extra mile and take the opportunity to express to them just how much they have positively impacted your life,” Mascardo said. “Chances are, both of you will leave the conversation feeling more positive, seen and hopeful than you did before — it’s the magic of being around people that care about you.” 

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus


Love HuffPost? Become a founding member of HuffPost Plus today.

Also on HuffPost

"This is Stitch! We adopted him from Paws In The City in Dallas, and he has quickly become the best part of our little family." -- Hallie Noble, Stitch's mom (Follow Stitch on Instagram)
"Here's Dusty on his adoption day! This photo was taken the actual MOMENT I met him. Can you believe that!? When he was rescued by True North Rescue Mission, he was on his way to be a puppy mill dad and live his entire life in a cage." -- Jessie Ruane, Dusty's mom (Follow him on Instagram)
"Meet our beautiful boy, Benjamin (he's the one to the right). He is a year old. He is a pitbull mixed with a labrador. We rescued him about seven months ago. He was badly abused as a baby and would wet himself for no reason. Now he's a happy, playful, loveable sweetie. He's enjoying his life with his two pupper siblings!" -- Rossanne Van Schalkwyk, Benjamin's mom
"Here's our dog, Penny. This is the moment in the elevator at Bideawee's adoption center in New York when we knew we had found the perfect little girl." -- John Sechrist, Penny's dad (Follow Penny on Instagram)
"Henrietta (Henry) came into my life in January of this year, after she was found wandering on the streets in East Oakland. At first she was very nervous -- she hid in the bathroom for the first week! She's still shy around strangers, but now she loves cuddles, chasing squirrels, getting blow dried after baths, and her toy fox." -- Laura Alexandra, Henry's mom (Follow Henry on Instagram)
"Roxy is full of energy and love and brings us so many laughs. We've also met most of our friends through her! She keeps us social."- Sarah Brown Carter, Roxy's mom (Follow Roxy on Instagram)
"This is Rex. His previous owners told the rescue group they did not have the means to take care of him. He had trauma to his neck we think was from a shock collar, and more around his belly where we think he had been pulling out his fur. The group warned us he was afraid of strangers and very shy, and that we should expect several weeks before he warmed to us. But by the time we had filled out the paperwork, he was happy to leave with us. I don't know what it is. He really is standoffish to strangers, but he attached himself to my wife, son and I immediately. It's been almost two months now. He is all healed up, and still likes to chill upside down." -- Dan, Rex's dad
"Meet Fluke, a former rescue that was adopted by our family in November 2017!" -- Josh Patrick, Fluke's dad 
"We have had Zelda for just under one month. We went to a rescue event by Ruff House Rescue in New York, where we live, with the intention of just beginning to look at some dogs for adoption, thinking it would be a long process overall. Zelda wasn't as loud or playful when we first saw her in her crate, but as soon as we asked to take her for a walk, she opened up immediately, wagging her tail and licking our faces. The 'before' picture is what we have from when she was brought to the shelter. The 'after' photo was taken on the car ride back to her new home from the rescue adoption event." -- Alina Cote, Zelda's mom
"Adopting Dax is one of the best decisions I have ever made. He has been there through all of the ups and downs of my life. He is the best adventure partner and cuddle buddy. I keep him safe and he keeps me wild." --  Kelsi Keys, Dax's mom 
"This is Dandelion the dog! We adopted her at the Oregon Humane Society through their second chance program. Dandelion was transferred to the Humane Society from an overcrowded shelter in California." -- Úna Rose, Dandelion's mom
"This is Cora. We adopted her through the BISSELL Pet Foundation event in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She came there through Friends of Detroit Animal Care and Control. We don’t know much about her exact background except she’s had a litter or two. She has a playful, sweet energy. My fiancé, her dog and three cats, myself, and Cora are all settling in quite well!" -- Kasey Blauwkamp, Cora's dad
"This is Dex. He was found abandoned on the streets. The vet believed he had gone half his life untreated from demodectic mange and a heart murmur. All the credit goes to Pug Rescue Austin and those who donated to his cause for turning his life around. He is likely just over a year old, and is fully cured and happy in our home with our four other pug rescues."  -- Mark Shockley
"This is Terabyte (Tera for short) and our youngest son. Tera is a cattle dog, found dumped in a field. She’s super smart, sweet, snuggly, and also happens to be deaf. I took this photo right after we had signed the adoption papers and picked her up from her foster family." -- Kristin Cooper, Tera's mom
"This is Kai, who was brought into the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home when his owners could no longer cope with his care – he had reportedly been passed from home to home and had never known a stable, loving forever home. Kai was admitted to us on April 4 and was just taken home to his forever home last weekend. The photo on the left was when he was with us and the photo on the right was sent to us by his new owners, an hour after being re-homed." -- Julie Thomson, communications manager at the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home
"This is Hazel, a Husky-Alsatian living in Oakland. My family is quite obsessed with her!" -- Hannah Evans, Hazel's aunt (Follow Hazel on Instagram)
"The first time we took Oliver on a car ride, he was shaking and crying (we assume because the only time he had ever been in a car before was to take him to the shelter). Now he loves car rides because he knows he's going to get to see a new friend or go play somewhere!" -- Jenna Gunselman, Oliver's mom 
"This is Marty. We went to the shelter looking for a dog as a companion for our handicapped labrador, Zoe. We met a few puppies who were too high energy and stressful for her condition so we left, feeling defeated. As we were walking out, Zoe dragged us over to Marty's pen. Both their noses touched, tails wagging, and we knew they had to meet. They were instantly as ease around each other and Marty was even careful around her, almost aware that she needed special attention. He was a perfect fit for our family." -- Christina Haberkern, Marty's mom (Follow Marty and Zoe on Instagram)
"My dog Suki on adoption day and nine years later. I love that Suki has been a major support for me, especially for my mood disorders. Suki has been with me since freshman year of high school, all through college, and now my adult life. No matter what, she always provides the best cuddles I could have ever asked for." -- Martha Gutierrez, Suki's mom
"This is Kodak! He’s a four-month old black lab/shepherd mix. He came to ALIVE Rescue Memphis from Animal Rescue Corps. They had saved him from a hoarding case in Tennessee. I saw his picture and instantly fell in love! He looks just like my 14 year old lab/mix named Ocho did when she was a puppy." -- Candice Shearman, Kodak's mom (Follow Kodak and his siblings on Instagram)
"Otis is my best friend. He's a furry shoulder to cry on and he is my reason to smile again. When I first saw his little face a year ago, I knew he was the one for me and it was the best decision I ever made." -- Bethany Mitchell, Otis' mom (Follow Otis on Instagram)
"Meet my dogson, Wicket the Ewok dog!" -- Nicci See, Wicket's mom (Follow Wicket on Instagram)
"This is Bella. The photo on the left was taken as soon as we got to the shelter. She was a mess: coat matted and long, she couldn't even see, but we fell in love! We took her home, cleaned her up, and now she's a healthy, happy puppy. I love her little smile and how her tongue always sticks out of her mouth!" -- Krystal K., Bella's mom
"My wife Jen and I rescued Benny from CareTX in San Antonio, Texas. They saved him from a kill shelter in San Antonio. He and his litter were found on the street. Benny was shy and suffering from mange when we first met but those goofy ears and sweet eyes won us over. He is some mix of cattle dog, very active and has no trouble keeping up with me for hours on my mountain bike. We are a pretty active hiker, camper, fly fisherman family so having an active dog fits our lifestyle, despite the lack of cattle." -- Brandon Engen, Benny's dad 

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.