As winter rolls along, it's important for everyone to stay warm.

Throughout this season, much of the United States has been buried under "crippling" amounts of snow and ice.


Meteorologist Louis Uccellini showing how little chance we have of escaping winter. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

So when one of those storms hits, stock up on hot chocolate, get under a blanket, and get ready to wait it out while you finally catch up on "Mad Men" (seriously, it ended ages ago what are you doing with your life?).

Just remember, while you're wrapped up all cozy and planning your best snowstorm Instagram post, there are other creatures out there who need to stay warm too.

Here are some things you can do to help your pets and other animals survive yet another winter wonderland.

1. Keep your pets indoors as much as possible.

The quickest, easiest way to make sure your pets are safe and warm during wintry weather is to keep them inside.

Outdoor cats will throw you some serious shade, and you'll obviously still have to walk your dog, but make sure all members of your family are inside while the worst of the winter apocalypse bellows through.

"Do ... do you think it's like this on the other side of the house?" Photo via iStock.

2. Dog sweaters! They're cute AND practical.

Who doesn't love a dog in a sweater? If a dog in a sweater were president, there'd be no more war. That's just a fact. Besides being adorable, dressing your dog up a little for their walk helps them avoid injury and hypothermia. Not to mention, it's just not fair for you to put on seven layers of clothing and then march your dog outside naked.

Short-haired dogs are especially sensitive to cold air, and wind chill can cause frostbite, which can lead to permanent damage. So dress your pup up beforehand.

This knitted pullover is perfect for all pup-ccasions, both casual and formal. Don't be caught playing dead without this chic little number. Photo by Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

3. Build an outdoor shelter for your pet.

If your pet spends most of their time outside and simply can't stand the thought of staying indoors all day, its important to have a winter-proof outdoor shelter for them.

Make sure it's dry and big enough for your pet to lie down comfortably. Also make sure it's raised a few inches above the ground for protection from the snow.


4. Don't forget about the stray cats in your neighborhood.

It's always a good idea to keep an eye out for neighborhood cats that spend most of their time outside. They may be feral or owned and just wandering.

If you see one, and can do so, offer them shelter in your home (if you have a screened-in porch and a box and some blankets, or even just a box and some towels to put out for them) and some food and water.

Stray cats may talk big, but even they can't entirely fend for themselves in winter storms.

"I'm not kidding, Steve. Tell them to let us in." "I'm barking, Marge. Don't you see me barking?!" Photo by Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images.

5. If you're driving anywhere, check under the hood of your car before you turn it on.

Your car's engine is a warm, dry place where small animals might seek shelter. Small cats, chipmunks, and squirrels have been known to crawl up under the hoods of cars and fall asleep while checking your oil.

To avoid hurting them, check under your hood and bang around a bit to scare them off before starting the car.

"Your PSI is a little low. Also your rear taillight is broken. I'll let you off with a warning." Photo via iStock.

6. Protect your dog's paws from salt.

The salt used to melt ice and snow can be harmful to your pets. If it gets on their paws, it might sting, and if they attempt to lick it off, it can be dangerous if ingested.

Make sure you wipe your pet's paws with a damp towel if they've been around salt.

Booties can also protect your dogs paws, with the advantage of being cute as hell. Plus you get to say the word "booty" as much as you want. Photo by David Hecker/AFP/Getty Images.

7. Build a brush pile for wild animals to shelter in.

If you have a yard that isn't buried in snow yet, get out there and build a brush pile out of leaves and sticks. Believe it or not, small animals and insects will find it and use it as shelter from the cold.

Think about it this way: Your lawn is a place where trees and bushes used to be. So when the snow comes, the animals in the area have fewer places to take refuge. Help them out by giving them a little bit of nature back.

See how stressed he is? Photo via iStock.

8. You may need to feed your pet more food than usual.

Of course your pets always need food and water, but in the winter when it's cold, they'll burn more calories to stay warm.

Keep them well fed and hydrated and they'll be a lot more comfortable.

"So he started drinking and before you know it, there was potato salad everywhere. I knew we shouldn't have invited him." Photo by Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images.

9. Provide water for wild animals whose usual water source may have frozen over.

Making sure your own pets have water during the storm is important, but it's also a good idea to have a fresh water source outside for other animals.

When it's freezing, water will ... well you know. This leaves birds and small creatures with much fewer reliable sources of water. Putting a water source outside with a safe heating element to make sure it doesn't freeze will save local animals a lot of grief.

"I swear there was a pond here two days ago." "Yeah well it's not here NOW, IS IT, TERRY?" Photo via iStock.

10. Always buy nontoxic antifreeze.

Antifreeze has a sweet smell and taste that can be very attractive to animals, especially hungry animals looking to escape the cold. However, it's highly poisonous if consumed, so buying a nontoxic brand is an easy way to make sure it won't harm a creature who just wanted a nice dinner.

You can also buy antifreeze with "denatonium benzoate" — a bittering agent that won't attract wildlife.

Looks like liquid bubblegum. Tastes like liquid poison. Photo via iStock.

11. Dry your pets off when they come in from outside.

Keeping your pet dry is a key way to make sure they don't freeze — especially after a long walk or when they come inside. When you and your dog come back from a walk or a quick run through the snow, dry them off with a towel and get all the snow out from between their toes.

You wouldn't want to be soaking wet in the freezing cold. Your pets probably don't like it either.

"This displeases me. My dad is the president. I shouldn't have to deal with this." Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

12. Let your pet's fur grow out for the winter.

If you regularly shave or cut your dog's hair, let them go au natural during the winter. It will help them stay insulated and warm. Plus, exposed skin on an animal can increase its chances of frostbite and hypothermia.

They call him Mr. Boombastic. Get it? Shaggy? Photo via iStock.

13. Combat your pet's skin's dryness with a humidifier.

If your pet is regularly coming in from the cold snow to your dry, heated home, they might get dry skin, which can be very irritating and cause a lot of discomfort.

A good way to combat against this is to keep a humidifier in your home. Just like you do for your own skin.

Steam: air with gravitas. Photo via iStock.

14. Regular grooming year-round can help when a winter storm hits.

Believe it or not, regularly brushing your pets and keeping them groomed can help keep them safe come blizzard time.

Brushing improves circulation, which helps keep them warm and combats the aforementioned skin dryness (in case you don't have a humidifier on hand) — not to mention that healthy clean fur helps your pets insulate better, which keeps them nice and toasty.

Fab. You. Lusssss. Photo by Hendrik Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images.

15. Don't leave your pets alone if you're traveling.

This might seem like an obvious one, but if it's below freezing, you really shouldn't leave your pets alone in the house while you ski for a week. Either take your pet with you or have someone else take care of them.

A pet left alone in a freezing house is susceptible to hypothermia and could freeze to death.

I swear I passed that tree before. Photo via iStock.

16. If you do brave the snow for a w-a-l-k, keep your dog on a leash.

Dogs rely on scents to help them get around — but when the ground is covered in snow, they can lose those familiar scents and are more likely to get lost.

When you take your dog for a walk, keep it business-only and don't let them wander too far away.

Wow. Much snow. Very winter. Photo by Patrick Domingo/AFP/Getty Images.

Finally. And most importantly:

17. Speak out if you see a pet left outside.

No pet deserves to be left out in the cold. If you see one, let their owner know that you're concerned. If nothing changes, get proactive and report it to your local animal control agency or the police. Document the date, time, and location and take pictures. Make no mistake: Animal abuse is a crime.

Don't be afraid to call 911 if that's your only option.


Winter can be tough for everyone. The best way to think about taking care of animals is this: Don't let your animal be subjected to anything you wouldn't want to be subjected to yourself.

You wouldn't go outside without a coat on, so don't let your dog. You wouldn't want all your water sources to freeze over, so don't let it happen to animals.

You have the luxury of a heated home and reliable food. Other animals might not have that, so once you've got your winter storm prep down, take a second to think about them.

For more information on how you can help animals during the winter, check out the Humane Society website as well as the ASPCA.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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