Improving mental well-being and resilience

Mental health and wellbeing is relevant for all of us, whether we have a mental health condition or not. Mental wellbeing is a continuum which we can move along depending on what is happening in our lives. Find guidance and tips here about how to maintain and improve your mental wellbeing and resilience at work.

Updated: 7 October 2020


What is mental wellbeing?

Mental wellbeing is relevant to everyone, just as physical wellbeing is, whether you have a mental health diagnosis or not. Mental wellbeing is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as:

"Mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder. It is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community"

When we are mentally healthy we can form positive relationships, cope with day to day challenges, and use our abilities to reach our potential. It is about much more than just the absence of mental ill health.

The evidence is clear and consistent in this area – the better your mental wellbeing, the better your health and the better your performance at work. Everyone experiences highs and lows in their sense of mental wellbeing and the information below will help you to look after your own mental wellbeing at work and the mental wellbeing of your teams.

How can I look after my own mental wellbeing?

  • Identify and try to remove / reduce your individual stressors – at work and home. It isn’t always possible, as sometimes things have happened or are going to happen which are unchangeable. However, there are often things that can be done to remove or at least reduce the root causes of stress – whether they are work or non-work related – so the more we can understand those stressors, the easier it is to do something about them. It’s important to acknowledge your sphere of influence as well, i.e. what you actually have the power to change. Often we can waste time, energy and worry on things that we simply can’t change but must learn to cope with in a healthy way.
  • Build psychological resilience - psychological resilience is about adapting and maintaining emotional strength in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or sources of stress. Building resilience helps us manage difficult experiences and maintain positive emotions. Resilience is partly determined by personality, but aspects can also be learned and developed and people are very capable of learning the skills that it takes to become more resilient. There are a number of key things that resilient people tend to do more of, which can be developed over time:-
  1. Healthy lifestyle – exercise, diet and sleep are the cornerstones of resilience – remaining fit and healthy is a key factor in combatting stress and staying well. It’s often the last thing we feel like focusing on when we’re under pressure, but it’s so important to keep an eye on this when the pressure’s on. Utilise the BBC’s online Wellbeing Portal iWill (developed by the BBC’s Occupational Health provider) – this portal provides a range of information and resources on various health and wellbeing topics, with the opportunity to set goals and monitor your progress (e.g. if you want to drink less alcohol, drink more water, give up smoking or do more exercise). The BBC also has a number of interactive Health Kiosks roaming around different locations and permanently in place at bigger BBC locations, (Salford, NBH and White City). This is a great way of keeping track of progress in relation to healthy lifestyle changes.
  2. Social Support is a key factor in promoting mental wellbeing, so seeking support from whoever you feel is appropriate during difficult times is really important. This might be family / friends, colleagues, health professionals or support groups.
  3. Develop a resilient thinking style – take a step back and consider how you are interpreting the situations that are causing you stress, as it’s often how we perceive and make sense of a situation that determines how we feel about it, rather than the situation itself. Sometimes we can develop ‘thinking errors’, especially when we’re under pressure, where negative thinking can spiral out of control and we’re not actually seeing the facts and evidence of the situation, but allowing our unhelpful (often unfounded) thoughts to drive an emotional stress response. If this is happening, then breaking down and re-evaluating a situation based on the actual evidence and facts can be helpful in minimising stress and improving how we feel about what’s going on. This technique is the basis for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which many people find useful in managing mental health problems.
  4. Develop an internal ‘Locus of Control’. Locus of control refers to the extent to which people feel that they have control over the events that influence their lives. When dealing with a challenge in life, if someone feels they have control over the outcome then they are said to have an internal locus of control. Whereas if someone feels that they are simply at the hands of external forces, that is known as an external locus of control. Locus of control is a continuum. People with more of an internal locus of control tend to take control of situations, problem solve more effectively and have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem which all drive resilience and wellbeing. Whilst personality and past experiences shape our locus of control, it can be developed and there are things that can be done to move towards a more internal locus of control (see Recommended Links below)
  • Personal Resilience in a Changing BBC - consider attending formal BBC training to develop tools and techniques to build your resilience and manage pressure effectively (see Recommended Links). This will help you understand your own responses to pressure and how to become more resilient when faced with adversity.
  • Attend BBC Health and Wellbeing events. Each year a number of health and wellbeing events are held across the business, with opportunities to attend seminars and stalls related to different aspects of health and wellbeing. These are generally organised locally by BBC Safety Advisors. If you’re interested in helping to organise an event or running one of your own, there is a toolkit available in the Useful Documents section to support you with doing this.

How can I support the mental wellbeing of my team?

  1. Have regular wellbeing focused conversations with team members – in groups and individually. Keep it on the agenda and operate an open door policy for discussion of wellbeing related issues.
  2. Seek to understand and proactively manage the work related factors that could contribute to poor mental wellbeing. There is a well-researched set of factors that can contribute to poor mental wellbeing at work (work demands, relationships, sense of control, role clarity, support and change) and as a manager it’s important to understand and manage these factors as far as possible. There are a number of tools to help you do this – such as the BBC staff survey results and the Health and Safety Executives (HSE) Management Standards for Work Related Stress framework (see external links section).
  3. Consider how your leadership style and approach may impact on the wellbeing of your team. Particularly consider the balance applied between challenging people in order to motivate them and get the best out of them and supporting and enabling people when times are tough. A number of useful management development tools can be accessed via the BBC’s Mind Tools resource (see Recommended Links)
  4. Model and encourage healthy, resilient behaviours – think about the integration of your team’s working hours with appropriate rest and recovery time. Demonstrate that wellbeing issues are important, help your team to incorporate resilience building activities into the working week and encourage informal social support within your team
  5. Resilience for Leaders in a Changing BBC - consider attending formal BBC training to develop tools and techniques to develop your own resilience and build resilient teams (see Recommended Links).
  6. Look after yourself. All of the pointers in the above section are absolutely applicable to managers too – try to ensure you maintain a healthy lifestyle, access social support and develop resilient thinking.


Useful documents

Tools, guides and contacts

BBC Security - key links:

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