My heart raced. Why was I dreading what should have been a fun celebration?
Several months ago, my book, In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer, was released. With a friend’s help, I organized a book launch party in my home. We prayed, planned, and prepared. Every detail had been taken into account.
But when the morning arrived, I felt anxious, devastated, and drained. What happened?
First, Mother Nature had overstepped her boundaries. I was sure by the end of April we would’ve accelerated into spring with any significant snowfall relegated to the rear. But I was wrong! Instead, a massive snow band hovered over the highways my guests would be traveling. The swath shifted every few hours with predictions ranging from a dusting to eight inches.
Several out-of-town visitors cancelled. Would my only guests be my faithful helpers? I feared my launch party would flop.
Desperate, I cried out to God. Suddenly I experienced an aha moment—sometimes anxiety and excitement can produce similar physiological responses! The same sensations I was experiencing: accelerated heart rate, rapid shallow breaths, trembling, muscle tension, and butterflies in the stomach can be caused by either anxiety or excitement. But I was so familiar with these sensations that for me they signaled only anxiety. I had never associated these physical manifestations with excitement.
Would I allow anxiety to rob me of the excitement and joy of celebrating my book release? I realized I needed to choose excitement. That’s when I felt the Lord whisper, “Rejoice!”
In anticipation of fun events and celebrations, how do we switch our thought tracks from anxiety to excitement? Here are a few ideas.
- Ask God to help us recognize the presence of anxiety. Sometimes we become so familiar with an emotion or emotional response that we fail to recognize the source of that vague sense of unease or apprehension. We need to identify our feelings and the lies we believe about our situation in order to respond appropriately. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. (Psalm 139:23 NIV)
- Discern if the emotional response is appropriate for the situation. Since anxiety and excitement can produce similar physical cues, we must determine if the situation is a real or imagined threat. Anxiety can take us on an imaginary train ride of numerous what-ifs that never happen, derailing our strength and joy. We need to rein in our runaway thoughts. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8 NIV)
- Pray with thanksgiving. Thanking God changes our focus from our problem to the loving God who cares for us. I had much to be thankful for. The book I had labored over for years was finally in print. I had prayed and placed the details of my book launch party in the capable hands of God and many friends. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 NIV)
- Choose excitement. I chose to use the emotions I associated with anxiety—my racing heart, quivering stomach, and chest tightness—to fuel excitement instead of anxiety. This choice immediately changed my perspective. A new joy and strength surged through my body and emotions. I was excited about my party. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! (Nehemiah 8:10 NLT)
Rejoicing and choosing excitement over anxiety changed me as well as the atmosphere of my book launch party. Despite the threats of snow, I welcomed a house full of guests. I enjoyed their company, signed books, and gave away fun door prizes. I felt energized, excited, and joyful.
This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24 NKJV)
How do you upgrade when anxiety attempts to rob your joy?