Emotional well-being

The coronavirus pandemic is a hard time for healthcare professionals' emotional well-being. We have resources on positivity, being present and mindfulness.

About emotional well-being

As a health and care professional, your emotional well-being is as important as the well-being of the people you look after.

Emotional well-being is the ability to look after our emotional needs. It is also the ability to understand and appreciate the value of our emotions and use them to move our lives forward in a positive direction. This second element is often known as emotional resilience.

Emotional well-being can also be described as a positive sense of well-being, which enables us to function in society and meet the demands of everyday life. People in good mental health may recover more effectively from illness, change or misfortune, according to the Mental Health Foundation.

The following resources might enable you to develop your knowledge, understanding and skills to enhance your emotional well-being in the following areas:

  • positivity
  • being present 
  • mindfulness.


You may have heard of the term ‘glass half-full’ to define people with a positive mindset. There is a notion that those with this attitude tend to be more successful, lead healthier lives and have reduced rates of serious illnesses associated with poor mental health than those with a ‘glass half-empty’ mindset.

According to Martin Seligman (you can watch his work in the video clip below), having a more positive mindset and a more joyful outlook on life will help to enhance our overall well-being.

Positive Psychology and Martin Seligman refer to these as ‘Learned Optimism’ and ‘Learned Helplessness'.

  • Learned Optimism is a concept that suggests we can change our attitude and behaviours by recognising and challenging our negative self-talk, among other things.
  • By contrast, Learned Helplessness can be described as a phenomenon whereby individuals believe they are incapable of changing their circumstances after repeatedly experiencing stressful events.

Watch videos

Learned optimism by Martin Seligman

In this video, Seligman succinctly explains Learned Optimism.

What is learned optimism? — Eleanor Shakiba

Take a look at the clip below. It might help with changing your thinking patterns by looking through an optimistic lens.

The ABC Technique: Overcoming Pessimistic Thinking

The video below might also be useful as it explains how the use of the ABC model (Seligman) can help in overcoming pessimistic thinking.

Positive self-talk — the importance and benefits

Positive self-talk is important for a number of reasons. Positive self-talk can make a world of difference, it can help:

  • overcome body dysmorphia
  • improve sports performance
  • mediate anxiety and depression
  • and lead to more effective learning.

Three additional benefits include:

  • Reduced stress

    Research has shown that people who are more inclined towards thinking optimistically, are also more inclined towards positive self-talk and utilise more active coping strategies when faced with stressful situations and challenges.

    Positive self-talk helps you reframe the way you look at stressful situations, understanding that you will approach challenges with the best of your ability and that whatever the outcome, you know that you did the best you could. Tackling these situations with an ‘I can do this’ mindset rather than a negative ‘this is too hard’ one opens up new ways of thinking and problem-solving.

  • Boost in confidence and resilience

    Individuals who score highly for optimism and positive self-esteem are more likely to achieve their goals, score good grades and recover quickly from surgery.

    Regular positive self-talk can help you to feel more confident in the face of achieving your goals, as you instil yourself with the belief that the things you want are achievable, and when problems do arise, you find workarounds..

  • Build better relationships

    You’re probably aware of what it feels like to be around someone who is positive, self-assured and content in who they are as a person. They exude confidence, and it reflects positively on those around them. Assad, Donnellan, and Conger (2012) found that couples who were more optimistic cited higher levels of cooperation and positive outcomes.

    People who utilise positive self-talk are also extremely capable of picking up on the positive traits of those around them.

Positive self-talk isn’t about knowing all the answers or thinking you’re amazing, it’s simply about:

  • re-framing how you view things
  • removing negative bias
  • approaching life with the idea that you can tackle things.

Even if it doesn’t go perfectly, you can learn from it for next time.

10 examples of positive self-talk statements and phrases

  1. I have the power to change my mind.
  2. Attempting to do this took courage and I am proud of myself for trying.
  3. Even though it wasn’t the outcome I hoped for, I learned a lot about myself.
  4. I might still have a way to go, but I am proud of how far I have already come.
  5. I am capable and strong, I can get through this.
  6. Tomorrow is a chance to try again, with the lessons learned from today.
  7. I will give it my all to make this work.
  8. I can’t control what other people think, say or do. I can only control me.
  9. This is an opportunity for me to try something new.
  10. I can learn from this situation and grow as a person.

Some strategies you might consider using could include:

  • Identifying self-talk traps

    Some situations may cause us to indulge in more negative self-talk than others. For example, an introvert might find negative self-talk crops up when they have to attend social events or networking. Identifying these traps can help you put in more preparation to address and switch your negative self-talk to positive self-talk.

  • Using positive affirmations

    Positive affirmations are a great way to switch up our self-talk chatter. Before a situation even arises that might incite negative self-talk, practice saying positive affirmations in the mirror to encourage your positive approach to yourself.

  • Visual cues

    These are excellent reminders to adopt a more positive approach. Little notes, posters or post-it notes around the house with positive expressions can make a huge difference to your daily mindset.

  • Check in with your emotions regularly

    Switching to positive self-talk takes effort. We’re so attuned to negative self-talk that it might only take one or two minor setbacks to cause you to revert back to the negative. When challenges do arise, make sure you check in with how you’re feeling and that your self-talk hasn’t become negative. Bring it back with some positive phrases.

  • Don’t be afraid to create boundaries

    Sometimes there are people in our lives who don’t bring out the best in us. Identifying self-talk traps might also mean identifying a person or two who encourages you to think negatively about yourself. It’s okay to create boundaries and remove these people. Focus on surrounding yourself with people who talk positively about you, and encourage you to do the same.

  • Happiness

    Happiness is often described by Psychologists as ‘subjective well-being.’ Given that happiness means different things to different people, it can be challenging to define. There are a number of questionnaires and scales that Psychologists use to determine life satisfaction. Professor Ed Diener (‘Dr Happiness’) is thought to be an authority on the study and research of happiness and well-being. You can read more about his work with colleagues about measuring satisfaction and satisfaction with life scale.

Watch video

The science of Subjective Well-being, a.k.a Happiness

Have a look at this short clip on subjective well-being and the science of happiness by Dr Mike Evans.

You Don't Find Happiness, You Create It — Ted Talk

In this video, Dr Katarina Blom presents a different perspective and suggests happiness (and subsequently well-being) is achieved by positive action rather than positive thinking.

Being present and mindfulness

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the foundation of self-compassion and has the potential to help people become aware of their difficulties, bring compassion to their lives with greater wisdom and respond with kindness.

Mindfulness can be defined as:

'Paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgement' - Jon Kabat Zinn
'Noticing what’s happening, whilst it’s happening' - Rob Nairn (Meditation Teacher)

Mindful activity in daily life

Mindful awareness can be practised by bringing attention to hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, or tasting. It can be practised throughout the day, by becoming aware of what we are doing. It can also be deliberately practised by bringing our full attention to our sensory experience during the activity.

You can slow down and tune into the sensations of mindful awareness rather than the thoughts about doing it. You can pause to feel your feet on the ground and taking a mindful breath.

Practising a routine activity mindfully can help to bring mindfulness and wakefulness into your daily life.

See if you can choose an activity for each day, or for the next week, and practice paying attention whilst doing it. Maybe you’d like to choose one sensory experience to immerse yourself in the activity and savour it, such as:

  • having a shower
  • brushing your teeth
  • walking from one room to another
  • eating a snack
  • drinking a cup of tea
  • listening to music
  • choose a self-soothing activity and do it mindfully.

Adapted with permission from the Nourishing yourself with Self-Compassion workbook.

Be Mindful course

We have a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy programme called Be Mindful, which is free for all Macmillan professionals. Be Mindful is an online course, which includes video clips and exercises to complete in your own time.

This programme has helped many Macmillan professionals recently by reducing average stress scores by 27%, anxiety by 40% and depression by 41%.

You can find out more about the course or you can sign up on LearnZone.

Feeling the soles of your feet

This practice is designed to help you feel grounded and stabilised when you’re upset or overwhelmed. Research shows that this practice can help regulate strong emotions such as anger. You could try the following:

  • Stand up and try to notice the sensations in the soles of your feet on the floor.
  • Try rocking forward and back a little, and side to side.
  • Make little circles with your knees, feeling the changes of sensation in the soles of your feet.
  • When you notice your mind has wandered, just start feeling the soles of your feet again.
  • If you wish, you can begin to walk slowly, noticing the changing sensations in the soles of your feet.
  • Notice the sensation of lifting a foot, stepping forward, and then placing the foot on the floor, doing the same with both feet as you walk.
  • As you walk, try noticing for a moment how small the surface area of your feet is, and how hard your feet work to keep your body off the ground. See if you can notice that with appreciation or gratitude.
  • When you are ready, return to standing or sitting.

The STOP practice

One of the easiest ways to calm and re-centre yourself during a stressful situation is simply to STOP. You can use the STOP acronym as a brief mindfulness practice throughout the day. This can take just a few seconds:

  • Stop what you are doing.
  • Take three deep breaths.
  • Observe what you are feeling in your body, your emotions and thoughts, relaxing or softening if needed.
  • Proceed with what you are doing.

Try using ‘STOP’ during any transitional moment, before having a challenging conversation, before a meeting/call, entering a room, etc. You are giving yourself a little space and attention to be able to be mindful and self-regulate.

A short, three minute breathing exercise can also help you to cope with difficult moments in your day. Here are some links to very brief meditations that you can practice at any time during your day, to take a moment out for yourself:

Mindfulness meditation 3 minute breathing space

This video is a 3 minute mindfulness meditation by Professor Mark Williams, Oxford Mindfulness Centre.

How mindfulness empowers us: an animation narrated by Sharon Salzberg

This is a 2 minute animation narrated by Sharon Salzberg about how mindfulness can empower you.