COVID-19/Mental Health Coping Toolkit

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

Why a coping toolkit, and why now? While the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, restrictions are easinge, and the world needs to collectively try to figure out what a new normal will look like.

One thing that the pandemic has shown us is that life isn’t predictable, and everything can change very quickly and in strange ways (like the run on toilet paper). What remains constant, though, is the importance of taking care of ourselves.

This 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.

COVID-19 mental health coping toolkit section: Exercise your brain

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. Neuroplasticity is a wonderful thing.

Take courses online

  • 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

Brain-training apps can challenge your mind but in the format of a game.  A few examples:


TED Talks

TED Talks are another great way to learn new things, and often be inspired at the same time.  I’ve posted TED Talk recommendations before on the topic of mental wellbeing, mental health & illness, suicide & depression, stigma, and trauma.

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. 

Another great TED Talk pick is Brené Brown’s talk on the power of vulnerability.


Get your read on section of the coping toolkit – graphic of an open book with coloured fog coming out

Get Your Read On

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

Book suggestions

  • The 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.
  • Goodreads is a good way to get social with your reading and find book suggestions.

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

You can also find free ebooks on:


Do a little self-help, part of the COVID-19/mental health coping toolkit from Mental Health @ Home

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)


Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)


Other

  • 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.

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

There’s also an assortment of free mental health resources available on the MH@H Store, including Feeling Suicidal? A Workbook for the COVID-19 Era.


COVID-19 mental health coping toolkit section: Get your write on

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. Need more info on become an author? I’ve written a Beginner’s Guide to Self-Publishing.

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 on Spread Your Writing Wings – Share Your Mental Health Story, but here are some to get you started:


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 variety of different prompts that I’ve discovered.

Surviving Childhood Trauma site logo

Surviving Childhood Trauma has a 14-day writing prompt challenge for self-reflection and a 7-day writing prompt challenge for processing trauma.

Reflecting on Powerful Words guided journal cover 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.


Wellness practices, with wellness-related clip art, part of the COVID-19/mental health coping toolkit from Mental Health @ Home

Wellness Practices

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.

The Wellness Society has a variety of free wellness resources, including worksheets, colouring sheets, a gratitude log, and tips for nourishing activities.


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. I’ve collected a variety of gratitude journal prompts on Pinterest, which you can find here: https://www.pinterest.ca/MHathome/mindfulness-gratitude/gratitude/


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.

mandala coloured in pink and blue

You can find free printable mandala designs from:

There are also trauma recovery-oriented colouring sheets available from Surviving Childhood Trauma.


Meditation apps

  • 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


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.

Actions For Happiness calendar for June 2020

Create a 5-senses 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 that engages 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 you can physically put in your kit, you can write out the names of songs or a playlist that you think would be helpful in different kinds of challenging situations
  • Taste: e.g. teabags of your favourite kind of tea, candies
  • Smell: e.g. essential oils
  • Touch: e.g. fuzzy socks, a cozy blanket

The International Self-Care Foundation has come up with a seven pillars framework for self-care to promote overall health, which includes:

  • Knowledge & health literacy: accessing information in order to make informed health decisions
  • Mental wellbeing, self-awareness, and agency
  • Physical activity
  • Healthy eating
  • Risk avoidance: avoiding/limiting harmful substances, practicing safe sex, getting vaccines
  • Good hygiene
  • Rational use of products & services: this refers to products and services to prevent and treat health conditions

The description on the ISCF’s site for mental wellbeing was very much lacking, the framework still gives a good overview of what can fall under the umbrella of self-care.

These resources can give you inspiration for your self-care:

I’ve also collected a lot of great self-care tips on my Pinterest self-care board.


Semi-mindless tasks, part of the COVID-19/mental health coping toolkit from Mental Health @ Home

Semi-Mindless Tasks

Mindless tasks can be a great way to burn off some nervous energy.  Semi-mindless tasks can keep your brain engaged in a positive way, without getting dragged off into uncomfortable territory. Here are a few ideas for some of both:

  • cleaning
  • decluttering
  • 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
  • get crafty, e.g. knit or crochet
  • jigsaw puzzles
  • puzzles like crosswords and sudoku
  • backup your computer files and/or clear out unwanted files from your hard drive

COVID-19 coping toolkit: Bucket list planning

Bucket List Planning

When we come out of this pandemic 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.

Where would you like to go and what would you like to do when the world is fully open for business again?

Spread Virtual Hugs

In-person hugs aren’t necessarily easy to come by with social distancing, but that doesn’t mean we can’t share hugs online.

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13 thoughts on “COVID-19/Mental Health Coping Toolkit”

  1. Wow, Ashley, you’ve really put some thought into this post – thank you for the resources/ideas you’ve listed. https://www.open.edu/openlearn/ (OpenLearn) from the Open University is one of my favourite learning places. I’ve bookmarked ActMindfully because I can do with some help with managing my stress.

    These past weeks I’ve been casually decoupaging matchboxes! It’s very calming.

    Wishing you the best, keep well my friend, Faith xo

  2. Wow, Ashley, you’ve really put some thought into this post – thank you for the resources/ideas you’ve listed. OpenLearn from the Open University is one of my favourite learning places. I’ve bookmarked ActMindfully because I can do with some help with managing my stress.

    These past weeks I’ve been casually decoupaging matchboxes! It’s very calming.

    Wishing you the best, keep well my friend, Faith xo

    (Re-posting this in case the url of OpenLearn wasn’t accepted).

  3. Hi Ashley,
    Thank you for being so thorough. I don’t know that I’d add anything here – getting through this quarantine really does seem to be about distress tolerance / coping and staying future focused. I’m kind of new to this blogging thing and to being online more often, but this post and your post about ‘how to start blogging’ have been super motivating. I’m an LMFT in Sac CA and the past few weeks have been really tough for my clients, and myself – mommy, wife, therapist … lots of responsibility with switching my entire practice to online therapy and getting my home office running. This post was definitely informative for anyone reading it and you’ve given a ton of resources – for me personally in my practice and for your other readers! I’m grateful, because now that I’m seeing clients online I don’t have them in front of me to give them handouts, so with the sites you’ve provided I’ll have plenty of resources to direct them to or email them. I’ve got plenty of workbooks, but then I have to spend so much time scanning everything. Looking forward to getting familiar with the online WP community. Thanks again!
    Take care,
    Seija Z.

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