When the Past Makes You Anxious

March 16, 2021 Rizza Bermio-Gonzalez

One of the challenges I experience is when the past makes me anxious. I sometimes find that if I think about events from the past, and those events made me anxious, I tend to feel immersed in my memories. I find that it is almost as though I am reliving those events and experiencing all of the emotions all over again. I often compare it to watching a movie or an "episode" of my "show" over and over again.

If stress and anxiety are among those feelings, the intensity of it may overcome me and further cause anxiety, completely overwhelming me.

Why the Past Can Make You Anxious

In my experience, I was often taught that anxiety is usually associated with worry and unease about what may happen in the future. But what about anxious thoughts that occur surrounding things that happened in the past?

If you've gone through a traumatic experience in the past, perhaps you sometimes relive the trauma, and this is related to your anxious feelings. Maybe you have gone through a difficult situation that tends to be triggered and resurface when you experience something that reminds you of that situation. Perhaps you think about an event that you felt stressed about, or you regret the way you handled it, and so you replay it over and over again in your mind. And then you find that each time you replay the situation, you feel anxious all over again.

This is sometimes something that I go through. I will find that I unnecessarily relive an experience that I felt went wrong. For some reason, I think that if I relive it, I can come up with alternative scenarios that help me feel less anxious, when in reality, doing so actually increases my anxiety. Unfortunately, unresolved feelings about past events can also affect current feelings, behaviors, and actions.

How to Let Go of the Past to Be Less Anxious

In my experience, I have found that there are steps that I can take to experience less anxiety over this. Try these tips to help you cope with anxious feelings that you experience because of past events:

  1. Process unresolved feelings. It's important to let go of things that have happened in the past. By holding on to the past, unresolved situations can impact your current situation. Letting go can sometimes be difficult because of our self-talk and the things we tell ourselves. Dealing with and resolving these feelings can be possible by taking steps to make sense of them. Write them out, share with someone you trust, or speak to a professional. Unpacking these feelings helps you to release them in a way that may be healing. Personally, I find it very helpful to write, which allows me to release these feelings.
  2. Stay focused on the present. The past is just that -- the past. Events that happened in the past can't be changed, there is nothing you can do about them, and no matter how much we all wish we could redo some situations or decisions, we can't. All we can do is learn from these past experiences and use them to apply lessons to the future. It's important that we remember that we are all human and we have all made mistakes. No matter how much we may regret something that has already happened, we can't change the decisions we made or actions we've taken. I have found that the more I can come to this realization, the less I will beat myself up over past choices. The more I can come to this realization, the less I can let them affect how I approach current situations.

Check out this video to see the steps I take to help me let go of the past.

Share below any ways that you find helpful to move on from the past so that you feel less anxious.

APA Reference
Bermio-Gonzalez, R. (2021, March 16). When the Past Makes You Anxious, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, October 17 from

Author: Rizza Bermio-Gonzalez

Lizanne Corbit
March, 16 2021 at 4:34 pm

So often anxiety is attributed to worry about the future, as you said, but things in the past can absolutely be anxiety-triggering. I love your suggestions for gently reminding yourself that the past is the past and what has happened can't be changed. The more we can work to be present, the more grace and ease we can experience on numerous levels.

March, 17 2021 at 12:29 pm

Hi Lizanne,
I appreciate your kind comments! You are absolutely right that it can be so helpful for us to focus on the present. Doing so can help us experience relief from some of the anxiety that we are feeling about memories of the past that resurface.
Thank you so much for sharing!

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