We all have past experiences that have shaped our lives in some way. Some of these experiences may have been positive and helped you grow and develop in healthy ways. Others may have been more on the negative side of things and left you feeling scarred or damaged.

The thing about your past experiences is that they can still impact your present-day lives. For example, a traumatic event such as a car accident or the death of a loved one can leave you feeling anxious or depressed. Or, a positive experience such as falling in love or achieving an important goal can give you confidence and hope.

You can choose how your past experiences shape your current life. For example, you may decide to focus on the negative and hold yourself back, or you might learn from it and use it as a source of power.

If you’re struggling to move on from a negative experience, here are some tips that may help:

Acknowledge what happened.

Denying a negative experience will make it harder to deal with. Acknowledging what happened is the first step to healing. Not too long ago I had a doctor’s appointment and I have a lot of anxiety about that. Here’s the thing, my family experienced a bit of medical trauma which has left some of us with a bit of PTSD – me perhaps more than others.

Feel your feelings.

Feeling sad, scared, or angry is normal after a traumatic event. Don’t try to bottle up your emotions. Instead, allow yourself to grieve and process what happened in your own time. I am a big fan of feeling it, wallowing a bit, have the sadness, its how we grow in our awareness.

Seek professional help if needed.

If you find coping difficult, consider seeking professional counseling or therapy. A therapist helps you work through your emotions and develop healthy coping mechanisms. There’s nothing wrong with getting support from people who are not in the middle of your own personal chaos. Having that person on the outside can help you maneuver your life and all that comes with it.

Focus on the present.

It’s essential to live in the present and not dwell on the past. So instead of dwelling on what happened, focus on what you can do today to improve your life. Yeah, that’s going to be easier said than done because we tend to be hard on ourselves for the choices and decisions we’ve made. You are doing the best you can with what you know at any given moment – no more, no less.

Find ways to cope.

Everyone copes with trauma in different ways. Some people get comfort in religion or spirituality, while others find solace in nature or art. Art is definitely my outlet but so is going into the woods to walk.

Reach out to others.

Talking to friends and family can offer support and understanding. However, if you don’t feel comfortable talking to those close to you, consider joining a support group for people who have experienced similar traumas. All too often we have the tendency to feel we are alone in our experiences and while our feelings are our own, other people have gone through similar situations that can be helpful to lean on.

Be patient with yourself.

Healing takes time. Don’t expect to feel better overnight. Instead, take the space and time you need to mourn, be angry, or whatever you need to heal at your own pace. I am going to say it again, you are doing the best you can with what you know at any given moment – no more, no less.

Take care of yourself.

Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly can help you cope with stress and promote healing. I am not against junk food and allow myself to have some but finding things that help you promote your own well-being whatever that is for you, is a good thing. Art, a walk in the woods, a dance class, etc – honor your needs.

Seek justice.

If you are a crime victim, consider seeking justice through the legal system. Filing a police report and testifying in court can help you feel empowered and prevent the perpetrator from harming others. I’ve been the victim of sexual assault that I didn’t report for many reasons I care not to share, but I also know that if we don’t speak out and speak up we struggle to take our power back. Don’t let that be you.

Move on.

You must let go of what happened and move on with your life. This doesn’t mean you have to forget what happened; it just means you no longer let it control your life.

Regardless of the experiences you’ve had in the past, know that you have the power to choose how they affect your present life. Choose to learn from them and use them as a source of strength. Don’t let them hold you back.

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