Making a Difference: Volunteering

A simple way to make a difference in a hands-on kind of way is to volunteer. And the good news is that no matter what’s important to you, you can find an opportunity to help that meets your priorities. Many groups and organizations use volunteers to get things done and meet their goals, from political groups to health organizations.

Volunteer opportunities will vary widely. Some groups may need help organizing an event. Some may need help with phone calls or paperwork. Others may need help with physical work such as construction, landscaping, moving, etc. You can find an opportunity that suits you, no matter what your strengths may be.

You can find a group to help via several methods: online, cold calls, or even ads.

Online you’ll find several sites to help you find opportunities. Below are a few to get you started:

You can also check out an organization’s website to get information about the organization and any volunteer opportunities they may have.

If there’s a specific group or organization you’re interested in helping, your best bet may be to just call the organization. If they have a need for volunteers, they will let you know, or at least direct you to the person to speak with. You can also discuss with the volunteer coordinator exactly what you’re interested in doing. An organization may have different needs that you can choose from.

Some organizations will advertise when they need volunteers, either in general or for a specific event or activity. You can find these ads in local newspapers or in the organization’s newsletter or website. Some may even advertise around the community via signage. Keep your eyes open to find opportunities.


Your Health: Stress Relief

Few, if any, of us can say that we live stress-free. It’s part of life, and it does have a purpose. The results of stress can help us deal with moments of crisis and stir us to action. But too much stress can negatively impact our health, encouraging problems from heart issues to gastrointestinal concerns. So how do we take control of our health and cut back our stress levels? It can be easier said than done, however, here are some ideas that may help you.

The first step is to figure out what’s causing you the stress. If a particular situation, person, or item on your to-do list is creating your stress, identifying it and dealing with it can be the most effective solution. This means you’re taking care of the cause, not just the symptoms. If the cause cannot be taken care of, however, there are ways to deal with the symptoms that may bring you relief.

Massage is a popular choice, as is any method of pampering: manicures and pedicures, salon and spa treatments such as facials, relaxing in a hot tub. These can help loosen your muscles and get you to breathe easier, leaving your mind free to deal with the stressful situation.

Along the same lines is physical activity. Getting your body active can also let your mind clear. Take a walk, go for a hike, or ride a bike. Go to the gym. Play a sport with friends. Dance. Sing. Do yoga. The more muscles the activity uses, the better. Then, after you’ve exerted yourself, take a warm shower to soothe your muscles and let your body unwind.

You can also try simply taking deep breaths. Sit in a comfortable chair with your hands on your lap. Close your eyes and take deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Focus only on your breathing. Let your shoulders sag, your muscles relax. Roll your neck. The longer you’re able to focus on your breathing, the better. Let the stress melt off you.

Sometimes the best cure for stress is getting your mind off it. Participate in an activity that brings you joy. Do you have a hobby you enjoy? Are there friends you like to socialize with? Is there a food or activity that gets your mind off everything else? Go out to the movies (and pick an upbeat comedy rather than that dramatic downer). Read a book. Listen to music.

To really get your mind off your own problems, try helping others who are less fortunate. Doing volunteer work can make your situation seem a whole lot simpler. Check out VolunteerMatch for ideas and opportunities or call your local social services department to find out where you can help.

Last but not least, don’t forget taking action. I find that if I’m stressed about a situation, taking actions to improve that situation brings me the greatest relief. Then I feel like I’m actually doing something, instead of avoiding it. Even if the solution has not been found, and the cause is not completely dealt with, at least I know I’m getting there. And that can help relieve stress in the long-term, not just the present.

Your Relationships: Online Help

When you think of “online” and “relationships,” you probably think about online dating sites. They certainly put their names out there, and it’s hard to ignore them. If you’re looking for a new romantic relationships, this may be a good place to start. Heck, I met my husband online, so I can’t say they’re a bad thing! But the internet has many relationships resources beyond dating sites, from advice to quizzes to forums — for all kind of relationships, not just romantic. If you’re looking for help, there are plenty of places to find it.

General Information
When it comes to general relationship advice, tips, and ideas, articles abound. Below are some sites dedicated to relationships that can help guide you in your life.

Articles can inform you of the latest studies, offer suggestions and guidance, and encourage you in your quest to improve your relationships. There’s certainly no shortage of information! But keep in mind that every relationship is different, and that articles and advice are not the be-all and end-all when it comes to determining your course of action. What they can do, however, is offer valuable information that can help if you’re stuck or need some motivation.

Sometimes it can help to have objective people offer their insight on your current situation. This can help you get ideas or look at things from a different point of view. It can also help to weigh in on others’ situations — you can help others and possibly gain new perspective on your own relationships. Below are some places that can help get you started with connecting with others online:

You can also find forums by going to your favorite search engine and searching for “forum: topic” (obviously replace “topic” with the actual topic you want to discuss!).

Other Electronic Help
I think at this pint we’re all pretty familiar with electronic methods of communication: cell phones, texting, e-mails, social media. They can be great tools when it comes to keeping in touch and staying connected. But just remember that relationships are often about the human touch, and electronic methods will only get you so far. There’s a lot to be said for face-to-face interaction, and if you’re not getting enough, that can lead to its own set of problems. So get out there and see people!

Your Money: Online Help

When it comes to money, there is a plethora of information out there — both online and in real life. Online resources, in particular, can be valuable tools. They can help with both general information and specific tools such as mortgage and retirement calculators. You can even get advice when it comes to your specific needs.

General Information
The sites below can offer general information on financial topics, as well as articles on the latest money and business news. Each site offers different categories, depending on your informational needs. Keep in mind that unless you’re business- or financially-inclined, some of the terminology may be advanced, requiring additional research:

The great thing about these sites is that whether you’re looking for personal finance information or information for your business’s finances, resources are available. So no matter what your goals are, you can get the help and information you need.

Depending on your goal, you may be wondering what you have to do to meet your end result. Luckily there are many resources out there that suit exactly this purpose, whether it’s for a mortgage, retirement, auto loan or more. Click the links below for instant access:

These are just a few — there are many other calculators out there as well. If you’re looking for a specific type of calculator, you can also search for it using your favorite search engine.

Experts and other consumers can often help with specific questions or issues. To take advantage of this, check out money forums. These can either be general forums or specific forums that deal with the area of your money life that needs guidance. Below are some general money forums to get you started. You can also search for forums regarding a specific topic by heading to your favorite search engine and searching for forum: topic. (Obviously replace “topic” with the actual topic you’re searching for!)

Other Resources
In addition to websites and forums, there are other electronic tools that can offer help and inspiration. You can also check out podcasts, online magazines, apps, and more. Search your favorite electronic device to get ideas.

If you don’t know where to start, or need guidance with the basics, check out my own site-in-progress All About the Money for articles and links.

Your Career: Get Experience

With so much competition in the job market these days, it’s important to do everything you can to set yourself apart. Assuming you have the education required for the position you’re going for, the next step is to gain relevant experience.

It can be a bit of a conundrum to look at job postings; everyone wants experienced workers, but you can’t get experience without getting a job — right? Not necessarily.

Opportunities exist beyond the workplace. If you’re still in school or recently graduated, you can look for internship opportunities. Some may be paid, but even if they aren’t, you’ll gain the experience necessary to put on your resume and get real-world application of your skills. Depending on where you intern, you may even be able to get a job after the internship is over. Or, at the very least, gain valuable contacts that can help you find another position.

If internships are not a viable option — or even if they are — you can also look into volunteering at non-profit organizations. Many smaller groups and organizations don’t have the funds to hire a professional. You can volunteer to do the job for a nominal fee, or even for free. They get the job done, and you gain experience. Regardless of what you need experience in, there is likely an organization who could use the help.

Another option is letting friends and family know you’re looking for experience. Perhaps someone knows a person who could hire you. Or perhaps a friend of member of your family could use help themselves. As with an organization, even if you’re not charging much, if anything, you’ll still gain that valuable experience you need.

Don’t underestimate going out on your own. Advertise your services in the local paper or online. Be upfront and honest about looking for experience. Many people are willing to take a chance if it’ll be a lot cheaper for them. It’s a win-win.

Inspiration From Richard L. Evans

“Don’t let life discourage you; everyone who got where they are had to begin where they were.” ~Richard L. Evans

We all come into this world the same way: naked with nothing. Now, given, some of us have some advantages that soon become apparent: money, brains, looks. These advantages can make it easier to succeed in life. But despite advantages, however abundant they may seem, everyone has to build themselves up from this initial, naked beginning. Will we end up how we started? Or will we take whatever advantages we may have, build our resolve, and make something of ourselves?

Regardless of whatever advantages you may or may not have, life happens. I’ve said it before: Things get in the way. Plans don’t work out the way we’d like them to. Our goals seem too far out of reach to be achievable. As easy as it can be to let these disappointments bring us down, it can be helpful to think that all of the people we look up to — all the people we admire for having done great things — have had to deal with the same stuff. They had to make the decision to rise past it, to build themselves up beyond the hardships of life to become successful. They all started the same as we did: staring a difficult future in the face, having to make the decision to succumb to it or rise above it.

Will you let life get the better of you, or will you rise to the occasion?

Making a Difference: Online Help

Helping others can be as local or as broad as you’d like it to be. And online resources can help you in your quest, whether it’s locating organizations to help or researching a charity before donating. While many individual organizations or charities have their own websites, you can also find general sites that will guide you in your goals.

Where to Help
If you’re unsure where to start, these sites can help. You can find charities and organizations and get matched with the right ones for you.

Charity Ratings
It’s an unfortunate reality that in this day and age not all organizations are reputable. Some scammers will post as charitable organizations, looking to pilfer your money. Before donating, check out the following sites that will give you the info n the charities you’re looking to invest in:

These sites can also help guide you in finding a charity if you haven’t yet selected one.

Helping the World
In this global community, it’s easier than ever to connect with people around the world. And that means it’s also easier to help people around the world. If this is your goal, the internet is here to help. The sites below are just some of the many that can link you to organizations helping our global neighbors.:

Obviously this is just a beginning when it comes to making a difference online. You’re only limited by your imagination and resources! If you’re interested in a specific type of organization, using your favorite search engine can bring up several excellent choices. Just be sure to check them out before donating.