A Few Ways to Cope With Panic


panicRecently I described symptoms of panic:

  • Indecision: sorting the laundry is excruciating. My God! I don’t know if these plaid shorts go into pastels or darks. They include both light and dark colors!
  • Guilt: I’ve given my husband a rash because I’m causing him stress and stress does evil things, shame on me. I’ve also caused my son’s hyperactivity and my daughter’s vision problems.
  • Lack of confidence: There is no way in God’s name I will be able to write a blog post by the end of the day. So far I’m at one word, THE.
  • Insecurity: People think I’m insane and weak and pathetic. Why post anything on Facebook when they will make fun of me behind my back.
  • Overwhelmsion (noun for overwhelm?): Procrastinating on fetching the mail from the mailbox because you don’t know if you can handle it right now.
  • And lots of other wonderful warm fuzzies.

Like I said earlier, I am experiencing all of that right now, so I thought I would give you one of those lists I swore against of things I’m doing to starve my panic. I am not going to lie and say they are working. Some of them do some of the time. And that is good enough for me. Today.

  1. Trust my friends. When my self-image and self-confidence are at sea level, which they always are when I’m in the state of panic, I MUST trust my friend’s perception of me, which tends to be higher and, I’m hoping, more realistic. I try to believe the nice things they tell me even as I think they are lying to help me feel better.
  2. Just do it. I imagine myself blindfolded and repeat Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote: “You must do the thing you cannot do.” This means sitting down at the computer and pretending I’m a writer even when I’m convinced I won’t be able to squeeze out one word.
  3. Identify the little men. That’s what my friend Michelle calls the voices and noises of the amygdala, the almond-shaped structure inside our brains responsible for most of our fear. When I hear, “You can’t do it, moron,” I try to imagine a little man with an inferiority complex yelling lies into my ear in order to pump up himself, and then I visualize slapping him.
  4. Do the minimum. I go through my to-do list and cross off every single thing that is not necessary for my survival, eliminating as many things as I can without upsetting too many people. I get an extension when I can, which makes me feel guilty and weak and pathetic, but allows me the space to cry and practice long sessions of deep breathing if I have to.
  5. Avoid people who make me feel insecure. As I said in another blog post, this takes effort. I have to rearrange my whole day. But when I’m in a fragile state, I can’t risk being brought down lower. Better to protect myself and stick around the folks who like and admire me until I form a stronger shell.
  6. Drink a Diet Dr. Pepper. I know it’s bad for me. Recent research says that diet soft drinks are linked with depression. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Identify your crutch, your treat, and splurge. Go ahead and be bad when you feel bad.
  7. Repeat a mantra. I keep on repeating, “ I WILL get better.” I don’t believe it, but I say it, and sometimes it soaks in.

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Originally published on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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5 Responses
  1. Jim Hawkins

    Dear Therese,
    I am with you at all times, saying: “You will get better!” Meanwhile, I pray for God to bring peace to your heart and mind. All of us who love you, need you to continue your brave journey towards wellness, because you are such a courageous example to us!

    Much love,


  2. I love your honesty. You don’t sugar coat things. That makes you so relatable to,me and, I’m sure many others. Thanks for shamelessly and bravely being you. You are perfect just the way you are.

  3. Sean


    I read your blog daily. When I follow a link to a youtube video I end up watching several. Over the last several years as I’ve progressed through this dark journey through depression you have been a daily light for my path. This column is just another example of that. Your words are so practical. And I can relate to them instantly. Even though I’ve found depression is very personal and unique condition for each individual, you have a way saying things that seem to speak directly to my situation. I don’t say it often enough, thank you for being a constant source of strength and encouragement, (and humor!). Keep being honest and be yourself!