How to Turn Fear Into Excitement

Can we turn anxiety and panic into a positive experience? Can we transform fear into excitement with one mental switch?

I believe we can and I am going to explain how it is done.

Anxiety/panic is an experience everyone tries to avoid and run from. Our instinct is to fight against the feeling and find some way to end it quickly so that we can return to feeling calm. All our mental and physical effort goes into trying to feel calm again.

I believe however that people get much faster results if they learn to turn anxiety into excitement, -rather than trying to create calm.

The reason for this is because being anxious and excited are actually the same physiological states for your body (the aroused state) so your mind can make the switch between those states much easier than it can between feeling anxious and calm.

So by turning your anxiety into excitement, you can quickly remove the fear factor while still feeling physically aroused. Because the fear has been removed you will then feel in control and a state of calm will come about naturally.

Let’s use the example of a panic attack. A panic attack is almost always triggered by bodily sensations. Maybe your heart starts pounding or your chest feels tight. Maybe you feel dizzy or your body shakes. You know very well when its about to kick off and in a split second your mind reacts with fear to these bodily sensations. “Oh no here we go again, I am going to have a panic attack, -I might lose control, -I might die”.

That initial reaction is so split second it is almost impossible to control but at least now you are aware of what is happening and NOW is your moment to stop reacting and to choose a new response. Instead of reacting with resistance and fear to the sensations, you are going to respond with curiosity and excitement.

Here are the actual steps you need to take so that you can quickly move from fear to excitement:

  1. Do not fight or resist the bodily sensations. (Remember, you are safe these sensations will not harm you)
  2. Befriend the sensations and anxiety you feel, -do not see it as your enemy, it is your guide.
  3. Embrace the sensations fully and observe them with a compassionate curiosity.
  4. Now PLAY with the sensations. Encourage the bodily sensations to intensify. Get excited by this heightened state of arousal. Push the energy out and run with it. Let your heart pound, let your chest feel tight, let your mind race, let your body shake. Do not try and control it, experience it fully and feel really excited and alive because of it.

By taking the above steps you are doing something completely different. You are no longer resisting but embracing and moving with the experience. This movement is one of pure excitement as you ride the wave of fear, instead of letting it toss you around.

Some people like to compare anxiety to a thrilling  roller coaster ride. Something exhilarating that they are willing participants in. By becoming really excited by the anxiety you feel, instead of resisting it, you immediately diminish the  power it holds over you. You are placed back in a position of control.

That is the secret to turning fear into excitement!


Author note: Credit goes to Mary O’Malley and Neale Donald Walsch for clarifying the dynamics of reaction and response.

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186 Comments

  • Ana Maria Reply

    …That was the most important lesson for me, to not run away from anxiety but to embrace and run with it…and thanks for writing those most reassuring of words, “you’re safe”…

  • J white Reply

    Hello Joe!
    Magnificent advice!! Ive been abiding by your steps when i feel a panic attack come on and its more reliving to know nothings really wrong with me. In fact since your helpful guidelines i quit my meds and no longer need them to help me stop my anxiety attacks so again i thank you Barry!!!

  • J. harland Reply

    I have suffered with debilitating Panic attacks for more than 30 years. I have missed out on so much…Doing things with my kids, travelling, jobs and much more. I have seen all types of cousellors etc.and know that the panic won’t hurt me but I still can’t overcome it. I will try to try this method but if it doesn’t work I feel that I am out of options and I don’t think I will have the desire to live with it any more. I have set a deadline of the end of summer for some type of hope that I may beat it, otherwise it will defeat me totally. Please keep your fingers crossed for me!!!

    • Shiraz Reply

      J. harland – I know how you feel even though I went through the Darkness for only about 14 months. Believe me, and the many others who have conquered this – acceptance is key. You are not alone. It’s such a pity that there’s such a taboo around ‘mental health’. Just know that the problem will heal itself if you just accept it and let your wonderful body deal with it – when anyone of us breaks a bone, we don’t expect it to heal overnight and we don’t keep fussing about when it’s going to sort itself out; we know that if we keep poking at it we’ll probably delay the natural healing process. Same for the mind: don’t keep checking on whether you’re feeling anxious, or fearful, or depressed. Connect with what’s around and allow feelings to pass through you.

  • Shiraz Reply

    I think this is SO true – for the first 34 years of my life I was an adrenalin junkie: parachuting, skiing, karate, racing, hitch-hiking, theme parks, horror movies – basically anything that got the heart pounding. My life took on a more sedate pace at around 35, and at 37, completely out of the blue I got my first ‘panic attack’. The event was extremely overwhelming and frightening: I had been sitting watching a comedy with my wife when I suddenly felt my heart race and my head feel dizzy; my throat felt as if it was closing and I was convinced my tongue was swelling; I had difficulty breathing, and I suddenly started to feel SO ALONE, as if no-one or nothing could help me. I felt separated from my body and trapped in my head at the same time. If only I had thought at the time my heart had first started to beat rapidly that my body was missing the adrenaline rushes that I used to have! If I had accepted the sensation I wouldn’t have fought all the physical and mental symptoms that rapidly followed. And when my body eventually calmed – as it always will do – I was left in a state of fear of the same experience occurring again. And this led to a horrible state of constant anxiety, and regular attacks, that came from me not accepting. I have now accepted, and have started an active life again, and feel SO much better.

  • Melios Christofi Reply

    Dear Mr. Barry Joe McDonagh,

    I will not starting by telling you how bad was when I had PAs. A year ago I bought your book. I finished it in a night! The last five years my longest jurney was from my house to my mother (about 3 miles!!!). Now I am working for Cyprus Airways as a flying attendant!!!! Thank you for changing my life!!!!

  • V.S. Ramadass Reply

    Dear Barry,

    You have really focused on a wonderful fact and enlightened it.
    When I face such occasion, I would apply your technique.

    Thank you.

    V.S. Ramadass.

  • Jayne Reply

    I would rather have a panic attack then continue to live my life in constant fear of one. Ive had enough!!!!!The fear of waiting is more scarier than the attack itself. I have lived through pa’s really scary at the time but recently I have started getting excited when I feel anxiety or a racing heart cos I now think here we go.. Let’s try out this new technique I’ve learned. The anxiety comes and goes in waves but i feel better cos ive tried and tested it.. I think Im fine these are just sensations that i used to react too .. When i get when i come back into the relaxed state i think … Your fine don’t get scared just laugh.. Pump faster heart.. Cos I’m not bothered.!! I think Dont add scary thoughts to the scary feelings and the pa never seems to come cos I’m no longer scared I guess. I’m still slightly wary that I may not be strong enough one day to face a big PA but I’m hoping if I continue to think this way It will never happen !!

  • Deana Reply

    Panic away has really decreased my panic attacks to where I can atleast sleep at night now, when before I would wake up in the early am and be in the middle of a panic attack, BP 154/90, skaking, hot then cold.. I guess my main question is What actually causes these body sensations to arise to begin with; out of nowhere? I can be totally fine, walking, driving, watching tv, talking and it just hit me out of nowhere to the point my vision gets blurry, I feel dizzy and faint, BP shoots up, heart palpitations, my ears feel full like my head is caving in and I cant hear and ringing in my ears! I just cant grasp what it is exactly that causes these sensations to begin with? Is it neurological, chemical, hormonal? just wondering if someone can help me out!! Thanks

    • Mickey Reply

      Deana, Mickey here and I have the same thing and I don’t know what causes such intense physical issures either. I have had no one from Panic away explain this to me either. Maybe if we bug them enought someone will answer our questions. Just wanted to let you know that you are not alone!!!!!!!. I found just going with it makes it go a way a litte sooner and the physical issues have deminished alot for me over the last year. I’m sooo glad you posted this comment cause between you and me I think either no one else has this or they aren’t posting that they do. Feel free to respond to this if you want. Two heads are better than one…lol
      Wishing you peace and love
      Mickey

      • Shiraz Reply

        You are NOT alone; loads of us have been there. I’ve not had a panic attack for about 8 months now (yippee!), but the notes I made at the time remind me how terrible these feelings were. They were really scary as they just seem to come out of the blue. My first attack was whilst I was relaxing watching a comedy with my wife, so I was really thrown. BUT – I has some underlying issues, and the attacks could be put down to various stresses: my parents no longer seemed to be around for me (they were always travelling to far flung places for long durations), I used to sleep very little (stayed up late watching horror movies), I used to drink a lot of coffee and had a very bad diet, I had stopped exercising, I wasn’t bothering to keep up with friends. SO: basically, I didn’t realise, but there were a lot of stresses bubbling under the surface and I had spent a LONG time ignoring them.
        We all get ‘panicky’ at times, and I used to get that way before the panic attacks came on, and I still get jitters occasionally, but there’s a massive difference between a panic attack and a passing sense of worry.
        Have a good look at your life and habits, and see if there are any things that may need resolving – and it could be as simple as lack of exercise.

      • Ana Maria Reply

        @Cynthia, @Mickey: from what I learned from the program, when your body perceives a threat, whether real or imaginary, it prepares itself for the “fight or flight” response; that’s the reason for the intense physical sensations…

  • Cynthia Reply

    Thanx very much, I’ve had panics for 16months and had a high blood pressure as well which goes high each time im anxiouse or having an attack, it put a lot of fear in me. Your course helped me but asa I Iremember my pressure I panic, what should I do now? Moreover, I get pain on my chest after panickng

  • PKM Reply

    This is quite correct and the appropriate thing to do, befriending with your emotions, sensations and all that hell rather than fighting it and intending to have the opposite.
    This would be eye opener for all of us who are long term sufferers of anxiety and panic.
    my problem is the panic that I feel with the people’s attention on me..may be it a presentation before a group or talking to a group or just doing something before others gaze and attention.
    A mere thinking or hint sends my heart pumping hard and fast. let me try to go with the wave rather than against it. Really exciting.
    Thanks

  • MARY Reply

    Mickey, panic attacks do not come out of the blue, if you asked me I would have said the same, but if you keep a dairy making an entry everyday, when you read back for the previous 7 days you will find the answer there, it is a gradual build up of stress you will be surprised as it will be so apparent. I have given myself permission to have a panic attack and when I feel one coming on I give it 20 seconds to come so I count down very slowly and it has only that time to come and if not I tell it time is up, it works, and the terrible part of panic attacks is it is OURSELVES and noboby else that is stopping us doing what we want, us and us alone, hope you find this helpful

  • Aggeliki Reply

    Thank you so much for sending all these helpful e-mails to me! It’s like a gift to me,all the best for you!

  • Akanksha Reply

    Sir, panic attacks usually occur all of a sudden. when I read your mail I felt as if I was talking, our thoughts are so similar, it is a gradual build up of stress but you can put in words and help me just remove all my fear in a jiffy. It is really helping me part with all the panic I had in my mind. Thanking you is a very small statement, I actually wish I could meet you and give you such a huge hug and a ever lasting one which would continue for eternity. Thanks a crore or may be more.

  • MALABA JIMMY Reply

    THANKS SO MUCH FOR YOUR WONDERFUL WORDS OF WISDOM,MY JOURNEY TO ENDING THESE CONDITIONS HAS JUST BEGAN AND I KNOW WITH YOUR HELP,I WILL WIN AT THE END.

  • Julanne Weisberg Reply

    Jan. 18 2012 Hi Barry and everyone! this was outstanding! I have been practicing turning fear and anxiety and panics into excitement much more often and it does work. In the beginning of this program I was still trying to “calm down” and it really didn’t work. I still do some deep breathing just to center myself but then address the sensations!
    This program has opened me up to who I really am like nothing else I’ve ever experienced!
    Thank you so much and many blessings, Julanne

  • Elizabeth Reply

    Thank you so much for your emails and for your work in overcoming anxiety disorder and for taking the time to help so many people suffering with this.

    I have been learning not to focus on what others might be thinking of me and instead focusing on how I can help, serve or observe them and detect their needs and feelings. Being “other directed” is the way to elimate obsessing on one’s own thoughts and feelings.
    I like the idea Steve about turning fear or channeling or diverting fear into excitement and perhaps we could couple that with being excited as to how we can help another person or ask them to talk about themselves thus taking the focus off of oneself, which I have found to be the biggest root of my problem since age 19, 45 years….now….I’m sick of wasting my life and not having fulfilling relationships so I am commanding my condition to leave me now in the name of Jesus Christ and commanding my spirit to lead this mind of mine and be focused on the Savior and how I can serve Him and also others and thereby serve Him. Blessings, and keep up the good work Steve…thank you so much for this forum to share.
    It is truly a blessing to everyone,
    Elizabeth

  • Kendall Reply

    First thank you for the emails. I have had panic attacks for the last two years to an extreme. For me I was always outgoing, fun and personable. Now I have a very hard time even leaving my home. I have read your emails and have been able to start changing my thinking patten. It’s seems to be helping a lot. I’m 25 yrs old and am glad to hear that panic attacks can be controlled and left behind. Thanks for the support!

  • Justyna Reply

    Thank you for bringing my life back Barry.You are such a wise man.God bless you.- u set my free of my panic attacks I’m not scared anymore cuz I’m know I’m not on my own with it.Thank you-Justyna

  • David Reply

    Thank you Barry. I have quite a few friends I take with me these days that I was terrified of before. Anxiety is always welcome. I also have depersonalization and derealization, hypoadrenia, and Barrett’s esophagus. Plus an anxiety that is with me all day. Quite the eclectic mix really, but I take them everywhere with me as they will heal on their own. Before I tried to resist them, but of course that only made them worse and then I allowed them to take me over. I have learned to turn the tables on them, and the symptoms have been drastically reduced. I appreciate what you’ve done for me Barry, and what others have done as well. Nothing is as bad as what our minds perceive things to be. Namaste, David

  • heather Reply

    ur emails have helped me so much not cured yet but on my way im a little nervous about trying this but I trust u and I want my life back

  • elai Reply

    Hello….
    How can I let it go when I am driving? I usually have anxiety attacks when I am driving. My legs becomes weak. I get light headed and I tend to loose focus. Please help…….

    Thank you

  • Cheryl A. Reply

    It sounds so reasonable. I will remember your words next time the dreaded sensations start and the tightness in the chest starts to build and I start wondering just how far out of control the feelings will be. I will try to squelch the beginnings of this fear and will repeat your advice to myself over and over and try to get to the point in my life when enough of this is enough. I want to be totally in control of my feelings.

  • Tanya Reply

    First of all I have never known how expansive, the wide range of folks who are affected by panic attacks until I came to the postings here.That being said, the technique you have shared above is one that I’ve been using for about a month and it does seem to work; works rather well I’d say. I just decided that I had had enough of panic attacks and was determined one way or another to get them to stop. The best relief I have found thus far is to just accept what is going on even though it has been extremely tough (I thought I was literally going insane) but if an attack comes on now they are over in seconds!

  • Ruth robertson Reply

    I have found it very helpful and it is helping me

  • Ruth robertson Reply

    it is great thank you

  • Tanya Reply

    Gosh I wasn’t aware that so many people have had panic attacks til I came here. That alone gives me encouragement and the three steps are the icing on the cake. I’m going to give these steps a try and hopefully my” layers” won’t fall, lol

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