COVID-19/Mental Health Coping Toolkit

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 strategies to help keep us going. That’s where this coping toolkit comes in.

This toolkit includes a range of options, many of which are free, 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 majority of these resources are not specifically COVID-oriented.

This page is a living document 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.


Therapy workbooks & worksheets, part 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.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)


Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

  • NHS inform: CBT-based self-help guides for anxiety, depression, and other topics

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

DBT is very skill-based, and while it’s used most often for borderline personality disorder, many of the skills can also be useful to people with other mental health issues.


free mental health workbooks

Large Collections of Worksheets

  • GetSelfHelp: worksheets galore on a variety of topics
  • PositivePsychology.com: info and worksheets based on a number of different therapy models, including CBT, DBT, and positive psychotherapy
  • Psychology Tools: has a wide variety of worksheets, including CBT and DBT-based
  • Therapist Aid: worksheets that are geared for therapists to use with their clients.

Other 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 Dowload Centre, 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.


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 guided journal 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 from the MH@H Store.


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

For more info, check out Dr. Kristin Neff’s book Self-Compassion.

Audio/video

Meditations

Reading & Worksheets


Create a 5-senses self-soothing box with stimuli for sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell

Self-Soothing & Self-Care

Grounding yourself in your senses can be helpful in 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:

Buddy Box and contents

If you’re looking for a self-care subscription box, the UK charitable organization Blurt offers BuddyBoxes, available as a one-off or monthly subscription.


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

Cultivate gratitude

Gratitude doesn’t fix everything, but cultivating an attitude of awareness can be very helpful. If you’d like to find out about its various benefits, The Gratitude Project by Jeremy Adam Smith and colleagues of the Greater Good Science Center will answer your questions.

How to do it? There are many ways.

List of gratitude prompts
List of gratitude prompts

Art

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

To explore more options, check out 100 Art Therapy Exercises, or my own experience doing paint by numbers.


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 

Music

Listening to music can benefit mental health (read more about how music affects the brain here), whether it’s something you do on your own or you work with a music therapist.


Online yoga


Finding Joy

Particularly for those of us with mental illness, happiness is not always available to choose. However, you can still take actions that will at least facilitate happiness.


Contemplative practices

Find out more in this post on contemplative practices.


Looking on the brighter side, part of the COVID-19/mental health coping toolkit

Life really sucks some of the time, but there’s still usually a lighter side to things. It doesn’t make the hard stuff go away, but it eases the load for a little bit.

The fuck-it bucket

There’s a fabulous post on Rebelle Society about the Fuck-It Bucket, a new philosophy of life.

the fuck-it bucket: blue bucket filled with dead fish

The fuck-it bucket is multi-purpose. You can:

  • throw shit in so you don’t have to give it any more fucks
  • have a 2-part bucket where you throw in things that aren’t worth any fucks and pull out things that are a much better use of your fucks
  • fill your bucket with something fun like a rubber chicken or two, a roll of toilet paper, or some dead fish, and either throw them, or imagine throwing them, at things you don’t want to give any more fucks about

Funny tv/movie clips

Whether it’s silly animals, your favourite stand-up comedian, or clips from a tv show or movies, there are probably a few things that will make you laugh every time, even if you’re feeling lousy. Some of my faves are comedy by Trevor Noah or Russell Peters, The Heat with Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock, and Seinfeld.

Here are “he took it out” from Seinfeld and “pivot” from Friends.

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