My stomach hurts. My eye twitches. I was determined to overcome it, but my normal anxious feelings distract me. Sometimes I am doing new things and sometimes familiar things. Sure, being anxious about trying new things is normal, but the symptoms of anxiety in my physical body taint my life more often than not.
Last week I headed to a photoshoot. I am usually not anxious unless, like this shoot, it had been planned for months. The details have been processed and reviewed multiple times. This shoot means hours of thought, as well as hopes and dreams. I know my photography is consistent. I know my work will show itself well. What I offer is what I provide, if not better. Although my mind did not need reassuring, I noticed my body was displaying signs of anxiety.
Here is a list of anxiety symptoms from MayoClinic.Org (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961)
- Feeling nervous, restless or tense
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
- Having an increased heart rate
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
- Feeling weak or tired
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
- Having trouble sleeping
- Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
- Having difficulty controlling worry
- Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
In a pandemic, the fear of coming down with virus symptoms can exacerbate these feelings. If my stomach hurts and I am a bit shaky, I will automatically check my temperature. I never did this before. I know it is from my anxiety, but my symptoms of anxiety (GI symptoms, nervousness, shaky feeling and increased heart rate) can easily be tied to the ever growing list of the current novel virus symptoms. Add a headache and we might be off to the testing facility.
So how do we know if it is anxiousness or a virus? I run through a few exercises. I pause, slow my mind down which is often more anxious about being sick than being worried, and think through what is causing my anxiety. I ask the questions: Do I have reason to be anxious? Is my temperature up? Have I had enough water today or relied only on coffee? I then do a quick inventory of my life situations in that moment. I ask myself what has been hard and what I want to run from. I look at where I am physically headed to evaluate if this is the source of my increased heart rate.
Once the internal tests are complete, I drink water and refocus my eyes on my Provider. My key verses are on my lips.
Psalms 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
Phil 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Worship music interrupts our home’s atmosphere and my hands go up. “I’m going to see a victory” with Brandon Lake is declared around my kitchen. My symptoms begin to subside. This is how I know my symptoms are from anxiety.
God says to write his Words in our hearts so it can be available at a moment’s notice. God told my guy, Joshua, these things.
Joshua 1:8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
In the past, when I have been sick, my symptoms show up bolder and send me to bed. I am sure my illnesses have often been worsened by my anxiety, but even when my focus is on worship and God’s Word, I have remained unwell. No one wants to be sick, but learning to test the symptoms of nervousness and illness will help calm our spirits more quickly.
I put my tests into place before my shoot and drove to my session with a refocused mind. I was calm and allowed God’s Word to refresh my mind. My anxiety permeated from wanting to be safe for my clients, to be exceptional in my work and to bring the client’s hopes to fruition. I gave these desires to the Lord and focused on giving Him the glory in advance for the creativity and joy of the work.
There is so much going on in life right now. So many things to think about, to learn and to process with our families and friends. Anxiety is high and the world around us plays into it. Let’s be committed to settling our hearts first and then move forward in our hearts and in our minds.