Freelancer’s Anxiety–Using Faith to Cope

A little girl lost in her thoughts while in her families corn field in Togo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2000]
There are a few things that produce such anxiety in my life that physically affect me. Going to the dentist for more than a cleaning produces high anxiety in my life.

My blood pressure rises and my heart rate increases.

This anxiety response isn’t limited to my fear of a dental procedure. My friend Brad Moore posted this just the other day on FaceBook:

The responses Brad received let him know not only did we all suffer from this, some people gave them their solutions on how they have learned to deal with worrying.

This young teenager’s expression seems to convey some anxiety. I photographed him in Togo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/250]
When I was studying social work we had to be trained in how to help people with their worries and anxiety. We learned to unpack those thoughts creating an anxiety. Worrying about something can help motivate you to do something whereas anxiety can shut you down.

Let me talk a little more about Anxiety and then get back to worrying.

During this training I learned about two types of anxiety producing thoughts. There are first those things that we have control over and then there are those things we have no control over.

When you let those things you have no control over take control of your thoughts they can freeze you and send you into anxiety produced depression. If you find you have no desire to be motivated then you need to see a clinical counselor like a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist.

You could be in this situation not due to how you are thinking but because your genetics and the way your body chemistry is setup. You can be very depressed just because your chemicals in your body are out of balance. There is medication that under medical supervision that can bring you out of that deep depression.

Learning that I need to categorize something as in my control or out of my control helped me more than anything else I learned in the lesson. Once I could determine something is out of my control I knew that no matter how long we ponder it we are not going to do anything but waste our time.

However, there are things we can do for some things that cause us to worry.

One of my lighting cases. This one is for my Alienbees B1600s with vagabond power packs to let me shoot anywhere with our without power.

One of the ways I addressed my worries was to create separate cases for my lighting gear needs. I have a case for video LED lights, another case with my Speedlights, stands and umbrellas and then this one pictured here for when I need a lot of power and might not have power available.

I still have two other cases which allow me to bring larger number of lights for those big jobs.

Interior of my Airport Security™ V 2.0 Rolling Camera Bag fully packed.

Worrying about my gear isn’t the only anxiety freelancers deal with on a regular basis.

Remember there are things out of your control and these are the things that often still keep me up at night.

When these thoughts start affecting our bodies like my time in the dentist chair this can be anxiety producing, which can be debilitating. Anxiety is more like a hamster wheel that spins us around but doesn’t lead us to productive solutions.

Worry and Anxiety come with living

My personal experience has taught me that I will never get rid of worrying and anxiety. Even these tips are not enough. Life can be just overwhelming at times.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
–– Matthew 6:34

I turn to my faith as my way of navigating these times of stress. While scripture tells us not to worry it also has the Lamentations.

A Lament in The Book of Lamentations or in the Psalms may be looked at as a cry of need in a context of crisis. Another way of looking at it is all the more basic: laments simply being “appeals for divine help in distress”.

These laments, too, often have a set format: an address to God, description of the suffering/anguish which one seeks relief, a petition for help and deliverance, a curse towards one’s enemies, an expression of the belief of ones innocence or a confession of the lack thereof, a vow corresponding to an expected divine response, and lastly, a song of thanksgiving.

I struggled with fear and worry for years. But through time, I began to find that the things that once would have sent me down an anxious spiral, no longer had the same effect. It didn’t happen quickly, but over days, months, years.

I read words – of life – of truth. Soaking them in, over and over, praying them out loud. Until they became so familiar, they replaced the other things in my mind that I’d battled against. There’s nothing magical about words and verses, but there is power through them.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/200]

“My God, My God, Why?” –Psalms 22:1

I see the laments as a time where we complain to God about something that just isn’t right in our eyes. We then go on and make a request from God.

What I want to emphasize here is that the writers of all the laments then go to the next step in their lament where they give an expression of trust. This often is in the form of God in the past you did this. I know from my experience you do intervene. It is the remembrance of how God has taken care of them in the past and they are asking for his deliverance from what they are suffering from now.

A Biblical lament, then, is an honest cry to a God who is powerful, good, and just. It’s a cry that expects an answer from God, and therefore results in hope, trust, and joy rather than despair.

What happens when I pray a lament?

I have had many sinus infections through my life and this painful disgusting condition is how I feel before I pray. While not always immediate is the response, I do know that the answer to my prayer is like being able to breath again.

The anxiety that froze me and kept me paralyzed is gone. I now am in a state of worry with hope. I am then able to think about what can I do that I do have control over.

So on those nights I cannot sleep because I wonder where my next check will come from, I am able to get out of bed and start writing emails. These emails maybe pitching ideas to clients and potential customers or something else that I haven’t done before.

Once I have written those emails I am now able to go to bed and sleep.

I believe it is God who helped me get unstuck and even possibly some ideas.

Summary

Stanley’s Stages of Freelancer’s Anxiety

  1. Feeling of being overwhelmed which leads to anxiety that depresses me
  2. Making list of what I can do and what I have no control over
  3. Take action on what I can do

While these three things sometimes work, more than often this is really what is happening

  1. Anxious thoughts which paralyzes me
  2. Depression due to realizing how much of this is due to my past decisions putting me in this situation. [Beating myself up stage]
  3. Tears begin to flow that I have no way out of this situation.
  4. Brought to my knees in prayer where I am often yelling at God
  5. Slowly I am able to tell God what the problem is about
  6. Asking God to take action
  7. I remember how God has helped me before. This reminds me to trust that God will help me again
  8. While the problem doesn’t go away God has helped me become un-paralyzed.
  9. I am able to think of some things I can do to take action
  10. I realize I have done all that I can think of doing
  11. I am able to relax and have hope. Often because this happens in the night I am able to finally go to sleep.

A little girl jumping rope with her friends inTogo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2500]
I suggest reading the book of Lamentations in the Bible. Here are five ways it can help you.

  1. They help you express our feelings in honest and healthy ways.
  2. They help shape your feelings, helping us interpret them in light of God’s redemptive plan for the entire world.
  3. They teach us more about ourselves by revealing our greatest need and how our minds and hearts influence our lives.
  4. They teach us more about God, his character and activity in us and the world.
  5. They reorient us to the truth of the gospel and how it transforms us from the inside out.

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