COVID-19/Mental Health Coping Toolkit

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

The year 2020 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 deal with whatever comes along. That’s where this coping toolkit comes in.

The toolkit includes a range of options, most of which are free, to help you find balance to stay steadier in the storm. While this collection was inspired by the pandemic, most of these resources are not specifically COVID-oriented.

This page is a living document and will be updated regularly with new resources.

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

Peer Support

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


Therapy workbooks, part of the COVID-19/mental health coping toolkit

Therapy-Based 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.

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.


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

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


Mental Health Tools

The stress bucket is a great model for conceptualizing how stress pours in and coping mechanisms allow it to pour out. Your mental health will benefit the most if you can both reduce the stress going in and decrease the stress going out.

The Stress bucket model: stressors fill up the bucket, coping skills release stress out of the bucket
Diagram of the worry tree tool for deciding how to respond to worry

The worry tree helps with evaluating your worry and deciding what to do with it.

The dive reflex to slow heart rate and calm the body - graphic of dolphin with paisley design

The dive reflex is something we all have, and you can take advantage of it to slow things down physiclaly when you’re anxious.

The acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) life compass for examining different life domains

The ACT life compass helps you to assess whether you’re following your values in the major areas of your life.

vicious flower diagram

The vicious flower can help you see where you’re self-reinforcing negative patterns.


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

Self-Compassion

Self-compassion involves:

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

You’re just as human as everybody else, just as prone to messing up, and just as deserving of compassion. For further reading, Dr. Kristin Neff’s book Self-Compassion is a great resource.

The mindful RAIN acronym (recognize what's happening, allow it to just be, investigate kindly, and not identify), with graphic of rainbow, rain, and umbrella

Meditations

Other Resources


Self-soothing stimuli for taste, hearing, sight, smell, and touch

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:

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

Wellness Practices

list of gratitude prompts

Cultivate Gratitude

Gratitude doesn’t make the bad stuff go away, but it’s a way to bring mindful awareness to the good stuff. Here are a few ideas on how to practice gratitude:

  • daily journal entry, either on paper or using an app
  • use prompts:
    • A to Z prompt: identify things you’re grateful for starting with each letter of the alphabet
    • Pinterest is a great source of prompts; here’s a link to my collection

Art

People experience greater reductions in anxiety when colouring complex geometric patterns, such as mandalas, compared to unstructured colouring (source: Art Therapy).

blue and pink mandala

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


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 some free options
  • 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.


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

Contemplative practices are about creating more space between what’s happening and your response. Find out more in this post on contemplative practices.

Stillness is one of the branches on the contemplative tree, and a lovely way to find stillness is watching episodes of Joy of Painting with Bob Ross, the mellowest painter with the most soothing voice you will ever find. There are lots of videos on the Youtube channel devoted to his work.


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

The Lighter Side

Life really sucks some of the time, but there’s still usually a lighter side to things. We’re not talking toxic positivity, and it doesn’t make the hard stuff go away, but it does ease 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 throw them, or imagine throwing them, at things you don’t want to give any more fucks about

Funny Animals Videos or 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. I’m a big fan of “he took it out” from Seinfeld and “pivot” from Friends.


MH@H Download Centre: therapy collection and other mini-ebooks, guided journals, and suicide safety plans
Visit the MH@H Download Centre for more mental health resources.

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