3 Survival Tips for When the Past Makes You Anxious

My past is something that has caused a lot of my anxiety over the years, and reminders from my past can send me into a downward spiral for the rest of the day. That kind of trap is so easy to fall into, and unfortunately, it is so familiar. Fighting the fear from my past is something I deal with on a daily basis, and I often find that it’s on my mind when I start feeling “off” or “out of sorts.” I’ve come up with a few methods to help me cope, and hopefully, they’ll help you, too! 

Make a new memory

Sometimes a particular day can trigger anxiety and make you miserable, and that can be hard to beat. For me, I was dreading Easter this year. Last Easter left me with a pretty bad taste in my mouth, and it was a terrible day, so for the entire month before the holiday this year, every time I thought about it my mood would change, my breathing would become labored, and I felt physically sick. Honestly, even writing about it as an example here is a little tough and disheartening, (is it getting warm in here…?) but I’m learning from situations like this. 

Even though I wanted to crumble each and every day leading up to the holiday this year, I survived, and on Easter, I decided that I could crawl into bed, cry, hyperventilate, and be miserable, or I could fight it. I decided to make a brand new, really happy memory, and I was able to replace the old. I certainly haven’t forgotten the past, probably never will, but I managed to make it fade a bit, and now, it doesn’t hurt quite as much. 

Remind yourself that it is, in fact, the PAST

I have a terrible habit of living in the past. I think a lot of us do. I’m anxious about the future because of my history, and as much as I hate to admit it, I often live in fear because of it, and that’s no way to live. I don’t think it’s healthy, by any means, to actually block out your past. You have to own up to it, face it, accept it, and mentally deal with it. Blocking it out or ignoring it just creates problems later on down the road, but it’s also important to remember that you can’t dwell on these things forever. You have to find balance in these situations. 

Eventually, after mulling a part of my past over and over in my head, I try to accept it for what it is – the past – and leave it where it belongs. I try to turn my focus towards the future in order to help keep my mind busy and my nerves calm. 

Talk it out and forgive, even if you can’t forget 

I often find that the most helpful thing to do is to talk about what’s causing my anxiety. If it was something relationship-related, for example, I’ll discuss it with my significant other. If it’s something else, I’ll turn to a friend. Sometimes getting all of your feelings out in the open can help put your situation into perspective and it can be easier to leave it where it belongs. 

If something is eating at you like this, consider that maybe you haven’t forgiven the person who may have wronged you or hurt you (if it’s that type of situation.) Forgiveness is extremely difficult, especially for those with anxiety. We already live with so much fear, and providing forgiveness can make us feel unsafe and unstable, but it’s necessary if you ever want to move on. In my particular situation, for example, I realized that I’d never really forgiven the person involved for what happened over a year ago, and holding onto something so painful really wasn’t necessary because, in reality, it wasn’t the end of the world…

When it comes to having power over your past, forgiveness is KEY! You may not be able to forget, and you shouldn’t, but offer true, honest forgiveness, leave it where it belongs, and move on. The sooner you let go, the sooner your past will have less and less power over your present and your future. 

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