Welcome to Episode 2 of the Overcoming Anxiety Through Faith podcast. Today’s episode is entitled The Difference Between Coping and Overcoming.
The Difference Between Coping and Overcoming
In episode one, I shared with you that at the age of 8 I was diagnosed with anxiety and panic attacks by a practicing psychologist. I also shared that this psychologist told my parents that I would always struggle with anxiety. Unfortunately, I believed that to be the case and I for years did not understand that with God’s help I could overcome anxiety.
Does this mean that my anxiety is gone? No. Does it mean that I just deal with it? No.
It means something very different. It means to me that instead of anxiety controlling me I have learned through God’s help to control or overcome my anxiety.
This is very different from coping with anxiety. Let me explain. I have been taught coping mechanisms over the years that have helped me to cope or get through an anxiety or panic attack when one of them would hit me. This was for many years a regular occurrence in my life.
Some of these coping mechanisms including counting, deep breathing, and relaxation exercises, that sort of thing. I even had a nickel as a kid that I painted my favorite color of pink and would throw it up in the air and catch it. It represented to me that any time my mom left me somewhere she would always return to get me just like that nickel would always come back down every time I threw it up in the air.
This was how I would cope on a regular basis with my anxiety, but it didn’t help to keep the anxiety at bay, instead, it just helped me to deal with it once it came.
The difference between coping and overcoming is that you deal with the anxiety before it strikes when you learn how to overcome anxiety. Your focus changes from anxiety to other things. I have always been told that what you focus on grows.
As one of my favorite authors, Dr. Caroline Leaf, who is also a neuroscientist says,
“God designed us able to change. The way he wired our brains allows us to change ourselves. That’s why the Bible mentions the renewing of our minds.”
This is found in Romans 12:2 which says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Did you know that unchecked negative thinking can actually be bad for your health?
It can affect how we feel physically and mentally according to Dr. Leaf.
Just like you might plan your routine for the next day or the clothes that you will wear. We must make a conscious choice and effort to plan our thoughts. We cannot allow our thoughts to be in control of our lives. We must instead learn to control our thoughts.
We must choose to not dwell on our negative thoughts, because like I said before whatever you focus on grows and gains more power. Instead of getting stuck in the negative, we must make an active choice to find other things to do and focus on that will help us to think and act more positively.
Some of these things include:
Serving others – Choosing to take your mind off of yourself and putting your thoughts and mind on others is a perfect way to change your thought patterns.
Practicing Gratitude – Choosing to bring to mind or even physically write down things that you are grateful for on a regular basis, even daily is a wonderful practice and way by which to “choose” your thoughts.
Exercising – Taking the time to exercise and release those ‘feel good” endorphins into your body will help you to stay positive and have more positive thoughts, helping to keep anxiety at bay.
Listening to upbeat music – I personally choose to listen to praise and worship because it changes my focus and takes the focus off of myself and my circumstances and instead puts it on Jesus and his love for us.
All three of these things will help you to feel good and think positively.
Another suggestion for overcoming anxiety is to manage your expectations. Be sure to think about how you are approaching situations in your life. Are you approaching them with a positive mindset or a negative attitude?
Analyze your expectations and how you are approaching experiences in life. I often have to tell my children this when they go into a test thinking “I’m going to fail,” rather than “I am going to give it my best shot.”
Obviously, we will be discussing more strategies for overcoming anxiety in upcoming episodes, but I wanted to share with you first the difference between coping and overcoming because I believe this is a very important distinction that we must make as I continue to share with you here on the podcast.