Memories Can Make Anxiety Worse

April 12, 2022 Rizza Bermio-Gonzalez

Something I've learned about my anxiety is that sometimes, instead of being consumed by worries about the future, it is possible to be overwhelmed by the past to the point that my memories trigger anxiety symptoms.

My family and I have experienced several losses over the past few years. These losses have been ones that I've found myself reliving through memories that I sometimes find myself completely submerged in.

But unfortunately, this is not the only time that the past has affected my anxiety. Because I constantly struggle with anxiety, I often find myself immersed in the memories of situations that have recently occurred, perhaps ones that I do not need to relive at all. Nevertheless, I will find myself perseverating in those situations. Or, I will find myself reliving mistakes that I've made, whether they have happened long in the past or in more recent years, thinking about other things I could have done, or chastising myself about something I could have done better.

How to Cope When Memories Cause Anxiety

I've previously written about processing unresolved feelings about troubling situations to help calm anxiety about the past. Unfortunately, sometimes memories -- because they are there to stay -- can permeate your thoughts even if you feel you've successfully let go of the past. In my experience, sometimes, there just isn't getting past those memories getting in the way of allowing you to move forward.

But, whether they are memories of past situations that you feel you could have handled differently or whether they are simply painful memories that sometimes make an appearance when you least expect it, I've learned that there are things you can do to help calm your anxiety.

  1. Don't avoid it, but don't beat yourself up, either. I've learned that it is important not to completely run away from troubling memories. Sometimes they are memories of situations that need to be confronted, worked through, and then ultimately let go. Sometimes, they are simply memories that need to be acknowledged for the lessons that you have learned from them. But, it is also important to be aware of when to stop dwelling on those memories. Acknowledge the memory for what it is, and then move on. If it is a scenario in which you feel you could have handled something differently, it is not necessary to punish yourself for something that has happened and cannot be changed.
  2. Use mindfulness to stay grounded. Mindfulness is, in my opinion, one of the most helpful strategies for coping with anxiety. When you find your mind drifting to the past, bring it back to the present by focusing on the here-and-now. Focus on your breath, on the environment around you, and on what your senses are taking in. I have found this key to calming my system. When I am thinking about painful memories that are causing more heartache than anything else, I use mindfulness to ground me.
  3. Focus on what you are grateful for. Speaking of heartache, practicing gratitude has also been effective for me in overcoming painful memories that increase my anxiety. I know it is important for me to acknowledge that those memories exist and those events did happen, but I also know that it is important for me to focus on what I am thankful for today. Sometimes, this alone can help me to feel better.

Are there strategies you use to help you overcome anxiety resulting from memories of the past? Share any ways you use in the comments below.

APA Reference
Bermio-Gonzalez, R. (2022, April 12). Memories Can Make Anxiety Worse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 28 from

Author: Rizza Bermio-Gonzalez

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