Collaborative Masterclass: Anxiety in the workplace

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Helping leaders to recognise and manage their own anxieties and support others.

On Wednesday 18th October the North West Collaborative Masterclass Programme hosted Josh Fletcher, a Manchester-based psychotherapist, to discuss anxiety.  This event proved extremely successful with over 100 participants in attendance to learn about and discuss anxiety.

At the event Josh discussed his own experiences of experience panic attacks as a young adult, as part of his journey to becoming a therapist.  Disordered, Josh’s podcast with Drew Linsalata, can be found at Disordered: Anxiety Help.  We heard how common panic attacks are, with over 50% of people on the call indicating that they had experience one. UK data shows that 1 in 5 people feel anxious “most or all of the time”.

During the session, we also explored how anxiety and stress are in fact essential human responses, often emerging from our essential response and doubt mechanisms. However, when people are stressed, burned out, or going through a lot, the threat response might misinterpret the world around us or ourselves.  When stress itself becomes a threat anxiety can become hard to manage.

Throughout the session we discussed the concept of the stress jug. Colleagues discussed how stress is inevitable, and recognised the wide range of work related stresses which enter the “stress jug”. Everyday worries are then added – homelife, or health conditions. Added to this are long standing stress, grief, trauma, abuse, abandonment. Although the body is built for stress it can become excessive and this is why people experience burn out.  The amydala will be becoming increasingly aware of the stressful existence and, when the “jug overflows” can produce additional adrenaline.  The aim is not to get rid of all stress, but you can reduce significantly your stress. What’s easiest to pour out first?

  • Not talking to people about what you’re experiencing
  • Better sleeping habits
  • Reduce alcohol and drug use
  • Set work boundaries
  • Exercise
  • Understanding what stress and anxiety is

This was an extremely powerful masterclass as colleagues shared their own experiences of the unhelpful and anxiety-causing beliefs that people have inferred from their life events and social conditioning. Colleagues discussed family expectations, loss and grief, prejudices about race and weight. 

In addition to seeking help where necessary through GPs, counselling and self-education we discussed changing workplace culture.  Priorities include:

  • Changing workplace culture
  • Create a place that is open to discussion about anxiety and MH (even in passing)
  • Modelling from the top
  • Encouraging not to shy away from listening to others
  • You do not need to fix it if someone opens up
  • It’s brave to listen as well as opening up”
  • Adequate signposting and support to those struggling

Many thanks to Josh for an excellent Masterclass and to our NW colleagues for provided such powerful and honest input to the session.

Watch back the recording.

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