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Thread: NEW London ACT for Anxiety/Panic Attack self-help group

  1. #1

    NEW London ACT for Anxiety/Panic Attack self-help group

    This is a NEW self-help group for people who suffer from anxiety, stress and panic attacks.

    ACT stands for Acceptance and Commitment therapy. ACT is part of the "third wave" of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) approaches to help with distressing events in our lives.

    ACT's basic principle is that stress is unavoidable in life. It's how we choose to react internally to the thoughts, feeling and sensations generated that can escalates the stress to a level that is very distressing e.g. normal anxiety can spiral into a panic attack.

    Our normal response to thoughts, feelings and sensations we don't like is to try to avoid them or get rid of them in some way. This may work short-term but, long term ,the problems start to get worse. Clinical research shows that the more you try to stop having an unpleasant thought the more of these thoughts you have. The same applies to feelings.

    ACT sees that the usual mentality of "If I don't like, I can change it" does work well in the OUTSIDE world, but it back fires on us when it's applied to our INNER experiences. The more you try to CONTROL your anxious feelings the more chance there is of it escalating into a panic attack.

    ACT emphasises the importance of cultivating acceptance, mindfulness and special cognitive diffusion skills so that you can let go of the struggle with your inner demons. You can learn that it is possible to have a negative thought or feeling without trying to get rid of them OR immediately buying into them!

    The commitment aspect of ACT refers to identifying our deepest values and making a commitment to ourselves to take the necessary steps to do what is necessary to live a life based on our values. Too often in the struggle to avoid or get rid of our negative feelings we give up doing the thing we love and our life looses its meaning and enjoyment. ACT says you donít need to fall into the trap of waiting for the day when you feel better and than you can start living -for some of us that day may never come! What if it were possible to proceed on your journey WITH your negative feelings and worries?

    This support group will focus on both the theory of ACT and exercises to learn acceptance, defusion and mindfulness skills. There will also be an open space opportunity for those who are willing to give a SHORT talk, read a poem/story, sing etc. You can then learn how to APPLY ACT skills when you are doing something you enjoy and you are also experiencing some anxiety or embarrassment.

    The first meetup will be on the 28th February and will be free to members of the meetup group- there is no cost to join the meetup group itself.

    Members of this group will also be sent links to useful ACT podcasts and self-help resources for stress, anxiety and panic-attacks.

    A little about your organiser

    My name is Mervyn D'souza. I am 49 and used to be a science teacher. I have suffered from stress, worry and anxiety for most of my life. When I was 35 I had a major period of panic attacks. I tried all sorts of techniques to get rid of the attacks (like meditation, chi kung, facing my fears etc) but they just got worse and worse. In the end I had to quit my job . After about six months of battling with the intense fears and body sensations I heard a phrase on a self-help tape:

    "What you resist persists."

    This one phrase changed my life around. There was no instant magic cure but over the next 6 months as I gave up the struggle to control/change the feelings and sensations, I could see a gradual but steady reduction in my symptoms. I was then able to start teaching again.

    Itís only when I read about ACT did I fully understand why my panic attacks started and also why acceptance makes all the difference. I also saw why just facing your fear does NOT work - it's important to learn to "face the fear" WITHOUT struggling with it. This takes a lot of time and lots of practise. It is also best to face your fears in small step by step chunks - full "flooding" methods don't always work and can backfire. I still fall into the control trap and have to regularly set time to practise.

    Although I am not a trained ACT therapist, I think I am a good teacher and have learnt a lot from my own struggles with anxiety. I also have over 25 years of meditation experience and see the value of mindfulness type meditations for cultivating acceptance. I believe that a self-help group based on ACT principles can provide a lot of support for people who are suffering from stress.

    The meetups will focus on material drawn from the following ACT self-help books.

    1) "The Worry Trap: How to Free Yourself from Worry and Anxiety Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy" by Chad Lejeune (Clinical Psychologist).
    2) "Get Out of Your Mind and into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy" by Steven Hayes
    (Professor of Psychology at the University of Nevada).
    3)"The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living" Dr. Russ Harris.

    You can see more details of the next meetup (Sunday 28th in Highgate) on the calendar on :


  2. #2

    Re: NEW London ACT for Anxiety/Panic Attack self-help group

    Hi Mervyn,

    I'm new to No More Panic and I was wondering if your group is still meeting up or if you know of any other groups?

    x Bluebell

  3. #3

    Re: NEW London ACT for Anxiety/Panic Attack self-help group

    Hi Mervyn,

    Like Bluebell I am new to No More Panic and would like to know if the group is still meeting up?


  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2010

    Re: NEW London ACT for Anxiety/Panic Attack self-help group

    I am interested although I don't (can't) come here much right now, so may miss if the thread is updated.

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