COVID-19/Mental Health Coping Toolkit

COVID-19/mental health coping toolkit from Mental Health @ Home

2020 has been the year that turned the world upside down. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that life is unpredictable (and you never know when there might be a run on toilet paper). What remains constant, though, is the importance of taking care of ourselves and having effective tools to help keep us going.

This coping toolkit includes a range of free options to help you take better care of yourself and find balance to help keep you steadier in the storm. While it was inspired by the pandemic, the vast majority of these resources are not specifically COVID-oriented.

This page is a living documented, and will be updated regularly as I come across new resources.

Connect with peer support section of the COVID-19/mental health coping toolkit

Peer support groups and other programs provide an opportunity to connect with others with similar experiences.

Exercise your brain section of the COVID-19/mental health coping toolkit

Learning new things gives you something purposeful to do, but it’s also the mental equivalent of physical exercise, helping your brain to build new neural connections. Neuroplasticity is a wonderful thing.

Take courses online

Public libraries sometimes offer access to free learning programs, so have a look to see what yours has to offer.

  • Academic courses:
    • Khan Academy free courses at high school-ish level
    • Coursera and edX: courses on a variety of topics from multiple universities; some are free to take without a completion certificate.
    • Future Learn has courses offered by universities on a wide variety of topics.  Many short courses are available for free.
    • Ivy League Courses from Brown, Columbia, Harvard, etc., available free
    • OpenLearn offers a broad selection of free courses
  • Alison has free courses on a number of topics, many of which are job skills-related.
  • iTunesU is available on iOS and has a wide variety of courses.
  • Skillshare and Udemy have courses in areas like business, technology, creative areas, and lifestyle.  Most are paid, but some are free. 

Brain training apps

Brain-training apps can challenge your mind but in the format of a game.  Cognitive remediation is a specific form of brain training that’s shown benefits in chronic mental illness, and while there aren’t apps available for that, it’s still an indicator that exercising your brain is good for you. A few examples of available apps are:


TED Talks

TED Talks are another great way to learn new things, and often be inspired at the same time.  Here are a couple of my favourites, and you can find more TED Talk picks here.

Susan David, the author of Emotional Agility, talks about The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage. 
Brené Brown on the power of vulnerability.
Get your read on section of the COVID-19/mental health coping toolkit

Reading can be a great way to learn new things and escape to different worlds.

Book suggestions

  • The MH@H book reviews index has a list of all the mental health books I’ve reviewed. 
  • If fiction is more your thing, Books and Bakes has lots of great book reviews.
  • Goodreads is a great way to get social with your reading and find book recommendations.

Libraries

Did you know that local public libraries often have ebooks that you can check out? 

  • The Libby App is connected with the Overdrive system used by most public libraries so you can access free ebooks and audiobooks.
  • Hoopla Digital has partnered with libraries in the U.S. and Canada to offer videos, music, audiobooks, and ebooks.

Other free book options

Where to find free books

There are also free trial periods available from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited and Audible, as well as Scribd.

Therapy-based self-help section of the COVID-19/mental health coping toolkit

There are lots of resources available to do your own work using concepts from evidence-based therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).  Here’s a selection of free resources that I’ve found. For more, visit the post on Free Mental Health Workbooks.


Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)


Other forms of therapy

Other resources

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Edmonton has put together a Winter Mental Health Guide.

The Wellness Society has a guide on How to Beat the Winter Blues, a Coronavirus Anxiety Workbook, and lots of other free resources.

Feeling suicidal? A workbook for the COVID-19 era from Mental Health @ Home

There are more free mental health resources available from the MH@H Store, including Feeling Suicidal? A Workbook for the COVID-19 Era.

Get your write on section of the COVID-19/mental health coping toolkit

Have you thought in the back of your head about maybe writing a book someday?  That time is now!  Too mentally scattered to write effectively?  That’s okay.  Do an outline.  Just start a word processing file on your computer.  Take some step that moves you from thinking about a book to working on a book. Need more info on how to become an author? I’ve written a Beginner’s Guide to Self-Publishing that will tell you everything you need to know..

Have you thought about branching out with your writing, and maybe trying to write fiction or poetry?  Try that out now!


Contribute mental health guest posts

Want to write about your mental health?  Many of the major mental health-related websites publish readers’ personal stories.  Even if now isn’t the time to submit a story, there’s no reason why you can’t prepare one to submit later.  There are more ideas here in the coping toolkit, and there are more in ways to share your mental health story.


Journal prompts

Journalling can be very therapeutic. Here are a few resources to guide you. The journal prompt section of my Pinterest journaling board also contains a collection of prompts that I’ve discovered.

Reflecting on Powerful Words journal prompts from Mental Health @ Home

The Reflecting on Powerful Words guided journal matches amazing quotes from people like Maya Angelou and Winston Churchill with prompt questions that relate to each quote as well as beautiful images.  It’s available free on the MH@H Store.

Creating a bullet journal to support mental health: A how-to guide

The MH@H Store has a free how-to guide on creating a bullet journal to support mental health.  My approach isn’t about artistry; the key is functionality.

Bring self-compassion section of the COVID-19/mental health coping toolkit

Self-compassion involves:

  • Self-kindness when we make mistakes
  • recognizing our shared humanity
  • nonjudgmental mindful awareness

Dr. Kristin Neff is a leading self-compassion researcher, and her book Self-Compassion, which I’ve reviewed here, is a great resource.

Audio/video

Meditations

Worksheets

Coping toolkit: create a 5-sense self-soothing box

Self-Soothing & Self-Care

Grounding yourself in your senses can be helpful in getting through difficult moments. During those difficult moments, thinking probably isn’t at its clearest, so having a pre-assembled self-soothing kit can make things much easier. You can also put together a more compact kit for use on the go.

You’ll want to include one or more things to engage each of your senses:

  • Sight: e.g. favourite photos, a book of nature photos, a guidebook of places you want to go
  • Sound: even if you can’t think of anything to physically put in your kit, you can write out the names of songs or a playlist that could help
  • Taste: e.g. teabags of your favourite kind of tea, candies
  • Smell: e.g. essential oils
  • Touch: e.g. fuzzy socks, a cozy blanket

Self-care

Self-care isn’t a luxury; it’s an essential part of maintaining your mental wellbeing. These resources can give you inspiration for your self-care:

Wellness practices section of the COVID-19/mental health coping toolkit

Wellness Practices

Greater Good Magazine from Berkeley University has quizzes to check in on how you’re doing with the keys to wellbeing that they’ve identified.

Cultivate gratitude

Gratitude doesn’t fix everything, but cultivating an attitude of awareness can be very helpful. You could do a daily journal entry in either a paper journal or an app (such as Gratitude: Personal Growth & Affirmations Journal).

You can also use prompts, such as the A to Z prompt where you identify something you’re grateful for starting with each letter of the alphabet. Pinterest is a great place to look for gratitude prompts, and you can find my gratitude collection here.

List of gratitude prompts
List of gratitude prompts

Mandala colouring

A paper in Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association found that people who coloured relatively complex geometric patterns, such as mandalas, experienced greater reductions in anxiety than people who did unstructured colouring.

blue and pink mandala

You can find free printable mandala designs from:


Meditation apps

rainbow coloured rocks with a cutout in the shape of lotus position
  • Headspace: meditations in their Weathering the Storm collection are currently free, and Headspace Plus is currently free for people who are unemployed, health care workers, and educators
  • Insight Timer: free
  • Simple Habit: has a collection of free guided meditations related to the coronavirus pandemic
  • Smiling Mind: free 

Online yoga


Simple activities

Life can be complicated so sometimes it’s nice to slow things right down.

  • get crafty, e.g. knit or crochet
  • jigsaw puzzles
  • puzzles like crosswords and sudoku
  • visual art — paint by numbers makes a nice option
  • board games
  • Marie Kondo-style fold some laundry that’s hot and straight out of the dryer (trust me on this, her folding method is life-changing)
  • do a bucket list for post-corona life — try it in collage form with the help of Adobe Spark or Dream It Alive

More resources

Actionsforhappiness.org publishes monthly calendars with positive action ideas for each day of the month. Below is a recent example.

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has loads of ideas on how to spread kindness in your world.

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