Coping with Panic: Why I Can't, and Why I Can Lists are so compelling.

The therapist I’m seeing right now gave me a cute little wallet-sized list called “Ten Rules for Coping with Panic.” It’s printed in the tiniest little font, but thankfully, I’ve got a very decently-functioning pair of eyeballs. I keep it in my wallet next to all the stray ATM receipts that tend to uselessly pile up.

I like lists. I’ve always liked lists. They’re neat. They’re orderly. They appeal to my own urge to simplify things. They organize concepts and turn long & convoluted paragraphs into mere outlines. They make life easier.

Panic is complex; lists are parsimonious. (Go ahead; look it up. Most useful GRE word I’ve ever learned.)

So, here’s what what my therapist wants me to do with this little list: pull it out during a panic attack, review the list of rules, follow them step-by-step to calm down, and then voila! — I’ll be panic-free and cruising down the highway with the wind in my hair.

Okay, well…something like that. I’ll be as close to panic-free as possible, she tells me. Close enough to move along to the next activity and get on with my day, at least.

But truthfully, I’m struggling with this list in a big way. In fact, I’m struggling with each and every item on this list. In fact, I can barely get past the first one during most attacks.

I’m not going to let this struggle stop me. No way. Instead of stopping, I’m going to try harder. After all, I really want to re-wire my brain and all of my negative thought patterns. Like, really. Like, I’ve-been-panicking-for-nearly-two-years-straight-now really.

Over the next few days and weeks, I’m going to take you on a little tour of this little wallet-sized list — and on a big tour of my mind — all the way from Rule #1 to Rule #10. (I’m hoping that you’ll pick up a few good coping methods from this series of posts…even if I can’t.)

Here’s the general format: I’ll list the rule, I’ll explain why I find it so incredibly difficult, and then I’ll try — try — to knock aside my inner pessimist and persuade myself (and you?) why the rule is awesome and totally doable.

Rule #1 is coming on Wednesday. Until then, what’s the most helpful tip for coping with panic that you’ve ever received from a therapist?

Creative Commons License photo credit: staflo