Wellbeing Cafe

The Wellbeing Cafe, our response to the COVID-19 crisis

Facing a nechallenge or an unfamiliar set of circumstances can create high-stress levels for an individual or community. We often underestimate the power of familiarity until it is disrupted or no longer present. When the circumstances are unprecedented and disruptive, as those experienced by the global lockdown scenario, the capacity and ability for individuals to manage less well are even greater.  

The challenge may not necessarily be the particular issue an individual has to manage, i.e. financial stress, but the context in which the challenge is taking place. It is precisely this reality that made the COVID-19 pandemic all the more difficult to navigate for so many people.

Recognising this fact, the Institute of Wellbeing moved swiftly to provide a safe place for people to gather online and to form a supportive hub that allowed individuals to journey through the pandemic with others. It was here that the Wellbeing Cafe for the public and Faith Leaders was born.

Overview of reach and impact




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The Wellbeing Cafe equipped people with tools and resources to help them manage their mental health and wellbeing

Our priority was to assist our guests at the Wellbeing Cafe to quickly develop a framework that would allow them to get a ‘handle’ on their thoughts and emotions, allowing them to exercise a personal sense of agency in the circumstances.

Our earliest Wellbeing Cafe sessions focused almost exclusively on assisting guests in making the necessary adjustments that would enable them to feel empowered to respond proactively and not feel overwhelmed by rapidly changing circumstances. In other words, the primary aim was to offer support by equipping guests to get a firm ‘grip’ on themselves – their thoughts and emotions – which in turn would help them to control better, or at least influence, their responses to the new set of circumstances thrust upon them. 

We secured the professional expertise of highly skilled and experienced British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP) accredited practitioners to facilitate many sessions, which equipped our Wellbeing Café guests with practical tips on handling a crisis.  

Lockdown challenged our collective sense of certainty. Until it happened, it was almost inconceivable that the whole world would shut down simultaneously and that individuals and families would be confined to their homes. The reality fundamentally challenged the sense of place the majority of individuals felt certain about the world. The lockdown forced us to ask fundamental and piercing questions about who we are and our place in the world. The Wellbeing Cafe became the place where those questions could also be explored.  

Everyone in the Wellbeing Cafe spoke directly to me. It has helped me improve how I communicate with my children.
The Wellbeing Cafe has allowed me to stay sane in this unique situation.
The Wellbeing Cafe has become my daily routine, I schedule the time to make sure I can always attend.
What I experienced in the Wellbeing Cafe was way beyond what I could have imaged.
What I experienced in the Wellbeing Cafe was way beyond what I could have imaged.
I was furloughed, and this was a lifeline. The Wellbeing Cafe was a God send.
It provided a safe space for me to reflect on life and not reflect in a negative way, but more positive, affirming reflections that I could then take and build on, which was just amazing.

Sharing our collective expertise to support those most in need through the Wellbeing Cafe

At the Institute of Wellbeing our work is focused on five pillars that inform all that we do. Each pillar stands alone but is inextricably linked with the others. Total wellbeing is the art of achieving one’s intended goal in each of the five areas of wellness. 

It was apparent within days of opening the Wellbeing Cafe that individuals were facing various challenges as a direct result of the lockdown. They ranged from negotiating personal work/life balance, home-schooling, confronting repressed trauma, shock, healthcare concerns for themselves, family members and neighbours, and concerns about the future.

With our expertise and extensive network of partners and supporters, we were able to quickly curate and publish a weekly schedule of topics to help our Wellbeing Cafe guests navigate through the COVID-19 crisis. Over 110 speakers from diverse ethnic backgrounds, such as ministerial representatives, motivational speakers and clinical professionals, contributed to our Wellbeing Cafe campaign.

Global Reach

The Wellbeing Café was established to support members of the public irrespective of their relationship with the Institute of Wellbeing. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that people were joining us worldwide. Our impact was being felt internationally.

New Zealand

Saudi Arabia
South Africa
United Arab Emirates

Local Reach

1 Berkshire
2 Bedfordshire
3 Bristol
4 Buckinghamshire
5 East Sussex
6 Essex
7 Greater Manchester
8 Hampshire
9 Kent
10 London

10 London
11 Leicestershire
12 Merseyside
13 Northamptonshire
14 Nottinghamshire
15 Staffordshire
16 Surrey
17 West Yorkshire
18 West Midlands 

Supporting Faith Leaders - The Faith Leaders Wellbeing Cafe

In response to the obvious pressures and challenges of assuming ‘key worker’ status, we proactively anticipated the need for a safe space for Faith leaders to be supported, encouraged, equipped and envisioned for a post-COVID-19 world.

Alongside our open public Wellbeing Cafe, we established The Faith leaders Online Wellbeing Cafe, a free resource, and invited leaders to attend as and when needed. It was obviously a much-needed resource as we soon discovered that leaders were visiting the Wellbeing Cafe daily to the extent that it quickly became a part of their daily routine as they prepared to meet the needs of their congregation and the wider community.

Faith Leaders had found a virtual safe space in the form of the Faith Leaders, in which they could be rejuvenated mentally, physically and spiritually. 

of participants surveyed said the talks given highlighted the importance that parents/caregivers play a critical role in the future success of their children.
of participants surveyed said that the Wellbeing Cafe has helped them improve their mental health through the global pandemic.

Supporting Faith Leaders - The Faith Leaders Wellbeing Cafe

Our ongoing partnership with the Department for Education (DfE) and The National Literacy Trust (NLT) was featured frequently and strongly during the café as part of The Hungry little Minds (HLM) National campaign to promote a positive Home learning Environments (HLE).

Given the restrictions of lockdown, it was no longer possible to engage with potential partners on the ground physically and in a face-to-face capacity. We, therefore, decided to embed the promotion of the Hungry Little Minds (HLM) national campaign into the fabric and culture of the Wellbeing Café and to engage guests to create awareness, distributing resources and facilitating live and dynamic engagement with experts in the 0-5-year-old arena.

Our Wellbeing Café guests welcomed and embraced the Hungry Little minds (HLM) resources and were keen to engage in advocating and promoting a ‘Positive Home Learning Environment (HLE), where appropriate, within their own homes and wider afield within their spheres of influence. All guests at the Wellbeing café received clear messages about the campaign, and resources were sent to those that requested them.

of participants surveyed said the Wellbeing Cafe had a positive impact on their outlook for the future.
of participants said the wellbeing cafe had helped them to stay motivated during the COVID-19 crisis.

A national and international success

The Wellbeing Café was a huge success. It provided a much-needed space for individuals to process their thoughts and emotions as they negotiated the uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic provoked in them and those around them.

The Wellbeing Cafe offered an alternative lens through which to view the pandemic as well as a set of necessary resources that offered guests the possibility of making the required adjustments without experiencing the levels of trauma they might otherwise have done.

Many deeply personal stories were shared in the Wellbeing Café, which made it clear that individuals were wrestling with significant issues that they have carried for a long while, some a lifetime. 

Having the opportunity to incrementally explore those issues had a material effect on their sense of wellness and wellbeing.

Respondents could select from various areas that indicated how the Wellbeing Cafe had positively impacted their lives. These included: managing anxiety, managing trauma, managing mood changes, and managing eating habits. The fact that respondents, unknown to one another, focused exclusively on two measurements, managing overall wellbeing and managing stress, is a clear testament to the positive impact of the Wellbeing Cafe.

The format and success of the Wellbeing Cafe had inspired other community leaders to think about different ways in which they could serve their community. Today, they continue to promote our key message to think well, live well and be well.

Campaign Partnership

Get in touch to learn more about working in partnership, whether you’re looking for proactive wellbeing support across the year or specific training, we would love to talk to you.