Chief Innovation Officer, Dr. George James, Featured on CNBC: Helping Others During the Covid-19 Crisis Can Help Your Own Emotional, Financial Well-Being

July 16, 2020 | As Covid-19 cases continue to rise and businesses struggle to adapt to their new normal, many Americans are stepping up to help people in their communities. From personal gestures to financial contributions, experts say giving back in many ways — big and small — can have a significant impact on your own well-being, emotionally and financially.

“It gives people a sense of purpose, feeling that even though in these difficult times, there’s something I can do about it, that I have some sense of, some feeling of control, even when everything else feels out of control,” says Dr. George James, a licensed marriage and family therapist and chief innovation officer at the Council for Relationships, a nonprofit behavioral health organization in Philadelphia.

Alleviating stress and anxiety

Research shows helping others in a crisis can be an effective way to alleviate stress and anxiety. In this pandemic, psychologists say turning our attention away from rising coronavirus cases, daily death tolls, job losses and economic turmoil to ways we can help others get through this crisis can make it easier for us to cope as well.

“If we can distract ourselves, we move away from the constant thought, the worry, the overthinking, and one of the best ways to distract yourself is to help somebody else,” said Dr. James, a member of the CNBC Financial Wellness Council. 

Sewing masks, creating personal protective equipment, feeding frontline workers, coordinating rides to appointments for cancer patients and raising money for charities, shuttered businesses, as well as families and individuals in need are just some of the ways people have found to uplift their communities.

“People’s needs aren’t two dimensional for just getting or needing money. People need food, supplies, help around the house. Hardships are very complex and change over time,” said Nicholas Emerson Mazzone, founder of Supportful.com, a digital platform that connects people who want to give with people in need of help — whether it’s errands and tasks, getting groceries and supplies, financing medical treatment or paying for other bills.

“It’s heartbreaking reading these stories and trying to detach yourself from it,” he said. “It’s also inspiring to see the rallying of support from different parts of the country with people showing they care from afar.”

Improving your financial well-being

In addition to the emotional benefits, giving to others can also help your financial well-being, experts say. “What giving can teach you is that ultimately finance is a lot more than just about money. Money is simply a tool to help you achieve your goals, and the way you use your money should align with your values, including supporting the causes and issues that you care about,” said author and certified financial planner Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz.

Before you give, do your research to make sure you understand how the money, time or resources you are donating will be used. The Federal Trade Commission warns that fake charities and fundraisers use the same tactics to reach donors as legitimate charities, whether face-to-face, by email, phone or social media. It’s especially important to do your research before giving out any personal information or making a donation. Go to Charity Navigator and GuideStar to get information about a charity’s mission, track record and financial stability.

Consider the tax breaks on your charitable contributions, too. Donating money to a charity could result in additional tax savings in light of new provisions under federal coronavirus relief provisions. The CARES Act provides a new “above the line” charitable contribution deduction of up to $300 if you claim the standard deduction in 2020. If you itemize deductions, limits on charitable contributions are raised from from 60% up to 100% of 2020 adjusted gross income.

Read the full article on CNBC.com

George James, Jr., PsyD, LMFT is a Senior Staff Therapist at our University City and Blue Bell Offices. He currently sees clients via online therapy. To set up an appointment, you can reach him at gjames@councilforrelationships.org or 215-382-6680 ext. 4128.

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