Freelancer’s Anxiety–Using Faith to Cope

A little girl lost in her thoughts while in her family’s corn field in Togo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2000]

A few things produce such anxiety in my life that physically affect me. Going to the dentist for more than a cleaning creates high pressure 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:

Brad’s responses let him know that 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 to help people with their worries and anxiety. We learned to unpack those thoughts, creating fear. Worrying about something can help motivate you to do something, whereas stress 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 we have control over, and then there are those we have no control over.

When you let those things, you have no control over taking control of your thoughts; they can freeze you and send you into anxiety-produced depression. If you do not want to be motivated, you need to see a clinical counselor like a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

You could be in this situation not due to your thinking but because of your genetics and how your body chemistry is set up. You can be very depressed just because the chemicals in your body are out of balance. A medication under medical supervision 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 was out of my control, I knew that no matter how long we pondered it, we were 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 without power.

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

I still have two other cases that allow me to bring larger 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 regularly.

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’s chair, this can produce anxiety, which can be debilitating. Stress is 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 the Psalms may be seen as a cry of need in a context of crisis. Another way of looking at it is essential: laments simply being “appeals for divine help in distress.”

These laments, too, often have a set format: an address to God, a description of the suffering/anguish from which one seeks relief, a petition for help and deliverance, a curse towards one’s enemies, an expression of the belief of one’s 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, and years.

I read words – of life – of truth. I was 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 when we complain to God about something that isn’t right in our eyes. We then go on and request God.

I want to emphasize here that the writers of all the laments then go to the next step in their crying, where they express 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, reasonable, 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 throughout my life, and this painful, disgusting condition is how I feel before I pray. While the response is not always immediate, I know that the answer to my prayer is like being able to breathe again.

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

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

Once I have written those emails, I can go to bed and sleep.

I believe God helped me get unstuck and even possibly have some ideas.


Stanley’s Stages of Freelancer’s Anxiety

  1. Feeling of being overwhelmed, which leads to anxiety that depresses me
  2. Please list 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 paralyze 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 can 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 disappear, God has helped me become un-paralyzed.
  9. I can 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 can relax and have hope. Because this happens at night, I can go to sleep finally.
A little girl is jumping rope with her friends in Togo, 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 your feelings in honest and healthy ways.
  2. They help shape your senses, 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 needs 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 gospel’s truth and how it transforms us from the inside out.