We’re living in difficult times, and everyone’s stress levels are through the roof with the coronavirus pandemic. Unless you were already a hermit (like me), it’s been a difficult transition to social distancing and, in many places, full-on lock-down. That’s why I decided to put together this COVID-19 coping toolkit.
To get through this we need to follow the direction of public health officials, but we also need to support each other and take care of ourselves. This coping toolkit has ideas for things you can do to help you to manage. In addition to these ideas of things to try, consider setting limits around your news consumption and social media use.
Exercise Your Brain
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.
- Alison has free courses on a number of topics, many of which are job skills-related.
- Coursera offers courses on a variety of topics from multiple universities. Some are free to take without a completion certificate.
- edX offers courses from universities on a range of topics. There is a mix of paid content and content that’s free without a completion certificate.
- Future Learn has courses offered by universities on a wide variety of topics. Many short courses are available for free.
- Google Digital Garage has short courses on digital marketing
- iTunesU is available on iOS and has a wide variety of courses.
- Ivy League Courses from Brown, Columbia, Harvard, etc. are currently available free
- Khan Academy offers free courses at high school-ish level in the arts, sciences, and math.
- OpenLearn offers a broad selection of free courses.
- Skillshare has courses in business, technology, creative areas, and lifestyle. Most are paid, but some are free.
- Udemy is quite similar to Skillshare. Most courses are paid, but some are free.
Brain-training apps can challenge your mind but in the format of a game. A few examples:
TED Talks are another great way to learn new things, and often be inspired at the same time.
Here’s a favourite of mine to get you started – Susan David, the author of Emotional Agility, talks about The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage. There are some more recommendations for TED Talks related to mental wellbeing here.
Another great TED Talk pick is Brené Brown’s talk on the power of vulnerability.
Get Your Read On
Want some ideas for books to read? My book reviews index has a list of all the books I’ve reviewed here on Mental Health @ Home. If fiction is more your thing, Books and Bakes has lots of great book reviews.
All books on Scribd are currently available free for your first 30 days.
Did you know that local public libraries often have ebooks that you can check out? The National Emergency Library is also offering its collection to the public globally.
Goodreads is a good way to get social with your reading and find book suggestions.
Do a little self-help
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.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- Behavioural activation booklets (NHS South London and Maudsley): this series of booklets is focused on the behavioural activation aspect of CBT for depression
- CBT Group Program for Depression Adult Patient Manual (University of Michigan): This manual is intended to be used as part of a group program, but it’s clearly laid out and has exercises you can work on on your own. There’s also an anxiety group manual.
- CBT+ Notebook (Harborview Abuse & Trauma Center): CBT handouts and worksheets
- CBT Skills Training Workbook: this is from the NHS, and is focused on low mood and anxiety
- Centre for Clinical Interventions: this Australia-based organization has CBT-based workbooks and worksheets for a variety of mental health concerns
- Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression (CRUfAD): workbooks for generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, OCD, panic disorder, social phobia, and specific phobias
- Dr. Danny Gagnon (psychologist): CBT self-help resources
- Integrated CBT patient workbook: this resource comes from Dartmouth University
- Moodjuice: CBT-based self-help guides for anxiety, depression, obsessions and compulsions, panic PTSD, social phobia, and other topics
- Social Anxiety Group Participation Workbook (Hamilton Family Health Team): This is another patient manual for group therapy that’s laid out in a way that makes it pretty easy to use on your own
- Think CBT Workbook
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy
- DBT Peer Connections: DBT skills in a massively open online course format
- DBT Skills Application: a DBT self-help site with links to worksheets focused on various DBT skills
- ACT Mindfully: Russ Harris’s site has worksheets from all of his books on ACT. Like the name implies, ACT focuses on accepting emotions rather than avoiding/fighting them, and committing to actions that are consistent with our identified values. I found some of the worksheets on values clarification to be quite useful.
- GetSelfHelp: worksheets galore on a variety of topics
- Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook by Ken Lunn
- Oxford Clinical Psychology forms and worksheets: this site is designed for therapists and isn’t necessarily the most user-friendly to navigate through, but there are lots of resources here
- 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
- Queens University self-help workbooks: workbooks on improving mood, managing anxiety, and self-care
- Therapist Aid: has a wide variety of worksheets that are geared for therapists to use with their clients.
- ThinkCBT: has worksheets based on CBT, ACT, and Compassion-Focused Therapy, and includes resources for OCD
The MH@H Mental Health Websites & Apps page has some other suggestions you can check out.
Get Your Write On
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.
Consider writing some blog posts about non-pandemic-related topics to schedule for a later date.
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 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 on Spread Your Writing Wings – Share Your Mental Health Story, but here are some to get you started:
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Real Stories Blog: publishes posts that educate people about suicide and convey hope/healing/resilience
- Bring Change to Mind: share your personal story in writing or on video
- Buddy Project
- I am 1 in 4: provides prompts
- Mental Health Talk:
- The Mighty
- Mind: tell your story in blog or vlog format
- NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
- OC87 Recovery Diaries
- Outrun the Stigma: provides prompts
- Respect Yourself: publishes guest blog posts related to mental wellness in youth.
- SANE: this UK-based mental health charity has monthly blogging themes
- Stigma Fighters
- Time to Change
The MH@H Store has a free how-to guide on creating a bullet journal to support your mental health. My approach isn’t about artistry; the key is functionality.
The journal prompt section of my Pinterest journaling board contains a variety of different prompts that I’ve come across.
Here are some free ways to promote mind and body wellness.
Greater Good Magazine from Berkeley University has quizzes to check in on how you’re doing with the keys to wellbeing they’ve identified.
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.
I’ve collected a variety of gratitude journal prompts on Pinterest, which you can find here: https://www.pinterest.ca/MHathome/mindfulness-gratitude/gratitude/
- 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 edcutors
- Insight Timer: free
- Simple Habit: has a collection of free guided meditations related to the coronavirus pandemic
- Smiling Mind: free
- Core Power Yoga on Demand: free keeping up your practice classes
- Yoga Girl: offering a free 30-day community challenge
- Yoga with Adriene: free on Youtube
Actions For Happiness
Actionsforhappiness.org publishes monthly calendars with positive action ideas for each day of the month. Below is their calendar for June 2020.
Mindless tasks can be a great way to burn off some nervous energy. Here are a few ideas:
- Marie Kondo-ify your home, or just try her folding system, which is spectacular; her show Tidying Up With Marie Kondo is available on Netflix (although unfortunately not in Canada)
- if you have a Pinterest account, it’s a far less stressful place to hang out these days than other forms of social media
- speaking of Pinterest, create some graphics using Canva to go with some of your old blog posts
- use Canva to create graphics for inspirational quotes to use in your blog posts and on your social media
- mandala colouring – there are plenty of these available online, from sites like4 Monday Mandala, Super Coloring, and Free-mandalas.net.
- get crafty, e.g. knit or crochet
- jigsaw puzzles
- puzzles like crosswords and sudoku
Bucket List Planning
When we come out of this on the other side (which we will, eventually), what are you going to do with having your freedom back?
Want to make a collage to capture your ideas? Adobe Spark is a tool that can help with that. If you’re law of attraction inclined, you may like Dream It Alive. And of course, you can kick it old-school and do it on paper.
Travel is very much not happening right now, but where would you like to go when the world is open for business again?
Spread Virtual Hugs
In-person hugs may be hard to come by these days, but that doesn’t mean we can’t share hugs online.