Acknowledging coping mechanisms…and healthy replacement…


For as long as I can remember, I have caught myself at times counting in my head.

Counting steps…counting as I do mindless tasks…counting as I wait in a chair for an appointment.

A few years ago, I googled “Why do I count in my head?” and discovered it is a form of coping for OCD behavior to alleviate anxiety.

I was also alarmed to see that among other repetitive behaviors, people use prayer as a mechanism for this same disorder.


I reflected back on times when I would be thinking about something that was upsetting, concerning and/or overwhelming. As I wrestled it in my mind, worry would rise up and knowing I am not to be anxious about anything, I would turn to prayer.

Counting replaced by some kind of rote prayer is not really prayer.

It’s replacing one coping behavior with another.

Prayer is conversation with God that is honest and open and leaves room for me to talk and then to listen while He talks…or wait quietly until He speaks words I need to hear.

Returning to “normal” following the days of isolation and a more quiet pace to life due to limited access outside our home has found me counting.

A lot.

I catch myself counting during routine tasks here at home, as I approach the grocery or a gathering of some kind, as I walk for exercise or just driving in the car running errands.

Knowing that this is a learned pattern in my wiring for dealing with anxiety, I have been doing a couple of things before I turn to God in prayer about what is bothering me.

First, I admit I am counting which means there is some low level anxiety that is draining me mentally and my mind has hopped in with an old rut that has worked in the past.

I admit to God that I am counting unconsciously and I ask Him to help me understand what I am worrying about that I wasn’t even realizing I was worrying about.

I also tell Him I am going to try not to count and listen to Him, but I need His help.

At this point, I usually remember some lines to a praise song or old hymn and as I hum that to myself, I begin to lift up above my self-absorption and somehow begin to focus on the trigger for the counting.

From there, I can lift up a real and actual concern. Not just some knee-jerk, general prayer that is babble, but an authentic conversation with God – and that is PRAYER.

I talk.

He listens.

I listen.

He talks.

Back and forth.

Or we are just quiet together.

So the counting isn’t a curse, it’s a blessing – it is a sign He has given me to recognize that I have places I am not trusting Him.

What is your coping mechanism?

If you don’t know, ask Him.

He wired you and made you to seek Him.

Be thankful for the little glitches that drive you into His arms…because we are wonderfully and fearfully made for relationship with our Heavenly Father <3

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