With COVID-19 spreading across the United States and the world, many of us are asking how we can make a difference.

Surely, if you're a doctor, nurse, or epidemiologist, how you can make a difference may seem obvious. But for the rest of us, it's much less clear.

Here are 5 ideas on ways to make a tangible difference during this unprecedented time:

Stay Home

Social distancing is the best way we can help ensure that our healthcare system doesn’t get overwhelmed by a sudden influx of new patients. By limiting the people we interact with, we limit opportunities for the virus to spread.

Choose video calls over IRL hangs. Download cocktail recipe apps instead of going out for drinks. Try a new recipe instead of going out to eat. And pick up a new at-home hobby instead of going out to the movies.

If you have to go outside, practice social distancing by staying 6 feet away from others.

Donate to Feeding America

30.3 million children receive free or reduced-price lunches at their public schools each year. We have the opportunity to make sure kids have enough to eat as schools across the country are closing.

The number one way you can help provide food to children in need is to donate money to food banks. (Food banks can get way better deals on groceries than you can. So they make a dollar go way farther.)

Your donation to Feeding America will make a difference in food banks across the country. You can make a donation today.

Buy Gift Cards

As more and more cities are encouraging people to self-distance and avoid public spaces, this could have a devastating effect on small businesses that may not have the cash to weather the storm.

Buy a gift card from their website to give them the cash they need to weather the storm. Then redeem it in a few months. They'll be grateful for your support and it's a great way to pay it forward.

Tip Really Well

Healthcare professionals are encouraging everybody to stay home and not congregate in public spaces.

This is important advice to follow — but unfortunately, it’s going to have a huge impact on independent restaurants, bars, salons, coffee shops, and more. Business owners and part-time employees are going to be hit hard by this.

If you order delivery or takeout, consider giving an extra-generous tip.

If you have appointments with a hairdresser, counselor, massage therapist, or anyone else — consider finding a way to still pay them for their services or send them the money you would have tipped.

Support Artists, Speakers, Musicians, Freelancers, Etc...

Art, creativity, and inspiration are going to be what help us get through this difficult time.

But artists and creators who work independently are going to be disproportionately affected by coronavirus and its economic fallout as conferences and events are canceled, people spend less money, and less art is enjoyed outside the home.

Think about the creators who have made a difference for you and buy something from their online shop, become a supporter on Patreon, or just ask them for their Venmo. They’ll be grateful for the support.

Volunteer Online With Crisis Text Line

If you’re suddenly finding yourself with more time on your hands — put it to good use by volunteering as a Crisis Text Line counselor.

Crisis Text Line is the free, 24/7 text line for people in crisis in the United States. The service is powered by volunteer Crisis Counselors who work remotely — anywhere with a computer and secure internet connection works.

They'll provide you with free training — and you'll be able to support people who are struggling during this difficult time. You can apply today.

Be Kind

Smile at the garbage man.

Call your family.

Check on your friends who are part-time.

Only buy what you need.

Send long emails to people you love.

Help people feel less lonely.

Share positive posts on social media.