Page published on 16th January 2024
Page last modified on 7th February 2024


On 7 December 2023, IP Inclusive and Jonathan’s Voice co-hosted a webinar “Exploring Anxiety”. Jonathan’s Voice trainers, Barbara Lawton, Katie Behrens and Mark Fudge, gave us a deeper insight into anxiety and stress: what’s causing it, how it affects our brains and bodies, the impact on our work, especially in IP, and, most importantly, some ideas on how to manage it.

A recording of the webinar can be accessed here, the slides can be accessed here, and read on for our summary of the highlights.



Barbara started the webinar with an overview of anxiety and stress. Stress is a physical response to feeling under threat or sensing an emergency. When the demands put on us outweigh our ability to cope, we become stressed. It can happen to anybody. Stress impacts our:

  • Thoughts (eg lack of perspective, feeling hopeless, catastrophic thinking),
  • Feelings (eg worry, irritability, tearful),
  • Physical health (eg muscle tension, headaches, digestive disorders), and
  • Behaviour (eg poor eating habits, addictive behaviours, procrastination).

Anxiety is a mind and body response to a particular (future) situation, involving thoughts and feelings. Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Thoughts (eg ‘I’ll never get it done.’ ‘Everyone will think I’m useless.’) ,
  • Feelings (eg fear, overwhelm),
  • Physical sensations (eg sweating, dry mouth), and
  • Behaviour (eg impatience, difficulty sleeping and avoidance).

It’s a natural human response when we perceive we’re under threat, so some anxiety is normal, eg when starting a new job, and most anxiety subsides when the situation is resolved or in the past. However, anxious thoughts sometimes become intrusive, relentless or disproportionate, affecting a person’s ability to function or socialise.



Next, Katie talked about the impact of stress and anxiety in the IP professions based on data from the 2022 IP Inclusive mental wellbeing survey, which reported high levels of stress and anxiety particularly amongst students. Reported causes included deadlines, billing targets, workload and exam stress. The impact included reduced productivity, difficulty concentrating, etc, as well as some considering leaving their job or the profession. There was also a tendency towards presenteeism (not taking time off when needed).

She mentioned the HSE Management Standards, a set of free resources. They suggest six common sources of stress at work that employers can address to mitigate stress in their employees. For example, they can ensure that any demands they place on people are clear and reasonable; they can give people control in their role; they can provide accessible support; and they can manage change.

She also drew attention to non-work stressors, including personal issues (domestic, physical health, children, female/male health, financial stress); systemic issues that affect the whole profession (exams, law changes, etc); societal issues (Covid, cost of living crisis etc); and intersectionality (the impact of race, gender, sexuality, disability etc).

Her stress container infographic (see slide 27) was a useful illustration of how stress flows into our ‘container’ and if it gets too full it will overflow, resulting in problems. Helpful coping strategies allow us to empty our stress container and release the stress appropriately. She encouraged us to consider: What is in your container? What are your (un)helpful coping strategies? What might you do going forwards?



Katie reminded us that people choose what they show to us. It can be very helpful to not make assumptions and judgements as nearly always we won’t know the full story.

Warning signs of stress that we might notice in the workplace include things like not getting things done, irritability or aggression, indecision, loss of confidence, poor eating habits or self-care (see slide 30 for fuller list). Signs of stress that might be more noticeable when working remotely include the tone of someone’s voice or emails; whether someone regularly has their video off during calls; lateness; presentation and productivity.

Katie described a really helpful example of someone who was underperforming at work. Opening up a discussion allowed multiple stressors to be identified which were contributing to the lack of performance. Time off work was arranged and use was made of workplace support and EAP, and a successful return to work was managed when he feeling better.



Mark rounded off the webinar by explaining some of the ways we can manage stress. It can often be helpful to shift our thought patterns, for example by avoiding comparing ourselves to others or recognising that we all have different life experiences and anxiety ‘nuances’. Identifying and using self-soothing strategies can be really beneficial. Noticing our emotions can give us clues about what’s going on for us and accepting our emotions can allow us to process them and move forward. We can be mindful of the extent to which we sense stress in others and how that impacts us. Setting a structure is useful psychologically (eg time to work, time to relax, etc) and can give a sense of control. And sometimes we do just have to avoid or escape a poor environment.

He also described Padesky’s ‘hot-cross-bun model’, which diagrammatically shows how a particular trigger or situation can lead to thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and behaviours, which all interact with and influence each other (see slide 35). For example, a particular situation might result in someone thinking that they don’t know enough, alongside feelings of being stupid, agitation and avoidance of the task at hand.

Thinking about this model, if we can interrupt a faulty thought pattern, then this can lead to changes in feelings and behaviour (and this is the basis of CBT – cognitive behavioural therapy). Interrupting a faulty thought pattern might involve questioning what evidence you have for the thoughts; considering what a kind person would say or whether you would treat someone else this way; and being realistic in goal setting.

Likewise, altering our behaviour or physical sensations can result in changes in our thoughts and feelings. In terms of behaviour, Mark suggested that it can be helpful to notice what we might be avoiding due to physical/emotional discomfort. At times, it can be good to feel the fear and do it anyway. He also spoke about the importance of self-compassion.

In terms of the body and physical responses, learning relaxation exercises can manually ‘turn off’ a stress response. Know what relaxes you (as this is different for everyone) and use it! Examples might include exercise, meditation, being creative, or breathing exercises (eg circular/box breathing).



Please see the penultimate slide for information on various sources of help that are available. Jonathan’s Voice also has a range of free downloadable resources on their website.



Jonathan’s Voice would be delighted to hear from you if you’d like to discuss your own organisation’s needs in more detail. They can provide free advice, seminars, workshops, talks and other forms of support and are happy to visit you in person: contact them via their website or email [email protected].


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