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By Barry McDonagh, Creator of the Panic Away program and author of DARE

Have you noticed that when people get very anxious they want to get up and move? They want to essentially escape.

The reason is because when adrenaline and cortisol are released, your body is priming itself to fight or flee the anxiety provoking situation.

I want to share a quick physical hack you can use to burn off these stress hormones faster so you can quickly feel more comfortable again. You use this hack in combination with step three of DARE, the award-winning new way to break free from anxiety and panic attacks.

  1. When a panic attack kicks in, you move to the third step of Dare -“get excited by the arousal and demand more of it”.
  2. As you do this, I want you to clasp your hands together and contract all the muscles in your body for 5 seconds and then release for 10 seconds.
  3. Do five reps of this. Contract all muscles for 5 then release for 10. Contract and release. (This means you are contracting your thighs, calfs, buttocks, stomach, chest, arms and hands. You can even clench your jaw if you want. The more muscles you contract the better).
  4. Now sit back and do the fourth step of Dare. Engage with the present moment and watch as your anxiety levels plummet!

Why does this hack work? Our bodies are still wired for primeval responses. We spent a lot of time running from all kinds of predators.

Progressive muscle relaxation

Flexing and relaxing muscles help create a mind and body hack to reduce anxiety

Our bodies are still wired for primeval responses. We spent a lot of time running from all kinds of predators. Contracting muscles sends a message to your amygdala that you are fleeing the threat and that it can now turn off the stress response.

Contracting muscles sends a message to your amygdala that you are fleeing the threat and that it can now turn off the stress response.It’s like a ‘fake flee’ signal. The contractions also help to burn off the excessive adrenaline and nervous energy that you feel.

It’s like a ‘fake flee’ signal. The contractions also help to burn off the excessive adrenaline and nervous energy that you feel.You could, of course, run on the spot which would be even better but that’s not always easy to do if you are in the post office.

PS: You could, of course, run on the spot which would be even better but that’s not always easy to do if you are in the post office.

If you are wondering whether there is any science to back up this method, an increasing number of research studies have proven that muscle activation works to relieve panic and anxiety through a combination of biochemical and mind processes.

About Barry McDonagh, Anxiety expert and Author

Alternative Text

Barry McDonagh is the creator of the Panic Away Program and the author of the best-selling book, DARE. A native of Ireland, he first published the program back in 2001 after completing his undergraduate at UCD. Panic Away has since been sold in over 32 countries worldwide and has gone on to become one of the most successful courses for treating panic attacks and general anxiety today. The program was originally created during his college years when Barry discovered that the key to ending a panic disorder was to re-evaluate the way anxiety is treated. Instead of ending anxiety by enforcing a state of calm, the person must first move into a state of excited arousal, allowing the nervous system crucial time to adjust and then eventually relax. Specific exercises are used to achieve this goal, restoring the person's body confidence and enabling a full recovery from the disorder. The program has been updated several times since its first publication to incorporate new understanding from the field of psychology but it is the continued emphasis on clarity and simplicity that makes the program so appealing and effective for such a wide audience.

Barry McDonagh on the Web
More on: Anxiety
Latest update: February 26, 2017