How To Stop Living In The Past & Stressing About The Future

How To Stop Living In The Past & Stressing About The Future
February 13, 2012 Leslie Juvin-Acker


Something is wrong with us. There’s a deep feeling of stress or anxiety and the feeling that something bad is going to happen right around the corner. Perhaps there’s a deep feeling of regret, shame, or guilt that lives inside of us. No matter what the feeling is, something just isn’t right. We try to cover up our feelings with thoughts and judgements, distracting ourselves with drama and material pleasures so that we can ignore, if not avoid, the negative feelings inside us. The past is a mess, the future is sure to be doomed, and the present is just a miserable stepping stone. What’s happening?

When we’re not living in the moment, we’re doing one of two things (or maybe both):

1. Living in the past by feeling shameful or guilty about something we did back in the day or fantasizing about the ways we could have done things differently.

2. Living in the future by attaching our feelings and actions towards some future fantasy which eventually evolves into great expectations and feelings of anxiety.

Either way, we’re allowing our memories or our expectations get us down. The world we’re reliving or creating in our heads is our living space that distracts us from accepting what is and embracing the now.



There are a variety of emotional consequences as a result of living in the past and stressing about the future. In terms of living in the past, the most common emotions and thoughts revolve around regret, shame, and guilt. When we’re reliving the past  (by either hashing up our mistakes or the pain we’ve experienced at the hands of others ) inside of our minds, we’re literally running a broken record of memories that cause us to physically relive and suffer through our pains. So, we’re thinking the same thoughts, feeling the same feelings, basically replaying a negative moment over and over again rather than transmuting it into a positive learning experience.

When it comes to focusing on the future, we create for ourselves expectations. Expectations cause us to believe that things have to happen in a certain way. We then become attached to this imaginary “production schedule” that we’ve created and when things don’t work out, we are naturally upset, anxious, and angry. We blame others for unwanted situations, we resist the present moment, and we try to manipulate situations to get our way. What an unhappy place to be.


When we are feeling depressed about the past or feeling anxious about the future, we can’t appreciate our present relationships. We’re afraid to get closer to people or expose ourselves because we’ve been hurt before and we “know” or at least we assume we’re going to get hurt again. We cut off possibilities based on our fears of recreating past hurts. We soon believe that vulnerability is a weakness because we think that giving ourselves to the moment will only hurt us. We teach ourselves we must hide who we are and keep people at a distance because they’re out to get us for something we might lose and never get back.

When we’re anxious about the future, people become a means to an ends. In my body of work as a coach, people in my social circles come to me for advice because they’re feeling anxious about a future event. When I give the advice which temporarily relieve their anxieties, they disappear – not at least until they’re feeling anxious again. When we are focused on our anxieties and fear, we use people as a means to a temporary end for an imagined future, rather than consciously overhauling the real issues that are keeping us from living in the here and now.

Physical Consequences

When we worry about the past and stress about the future, we unconsciously become rigid and tough because we’re fighting imaginary enemies and building walls against future pain and hurt. Instead of allowing situations to flow through us, or as it’s been said, “roll off our backs”, we’ve created a thick wall and we feel like life’s situations are beating against us like a battering ram. Everything becomes so darn complicated and naturally, we feel upset and being upset makes us feel physically tense and unwell. Eventually, prolonged feelings of negativity leads to a state of physically being unwell – depression, illness, disease are just some of the physical consequences of our emotional and mental sickness.


Accepting The Past

Sometimes, we simply don’t want to accept that what happened happened. We relive our memories and replay them to the point where we identify more with our memories (of which we must admit is extremely limited and often full of imaginary situations) than who we truly are – which is divine beings in a material realm. We forget that the present moment – the now – is full of grace, redemption, and renewal. So, accept the past by forgiving yourself and others and remember that in this moment you can literally choose differently. Give up the addiction to judge yourself and past actions to live presently in the moment. Appreciate what the past is for: a platform to live and choose consciously, to know more fully, to understand more deeply of which we can then let go.

End The Madness: Embracing What Is

Because we hold on to the past or live in the future and are addicted to prematurely judging people, situations, and even ourselves we can’t live fully in the present. We can’t let everything go and just take things as they are. Because we’re too busy judging everything that’s happening around us through tainted lenses, therefore misinterpreting what we see, we can’t get into the zone and focus on what’s really happening right here and right now. We’ve built walls of misconceptions, defenses, and pre-formulated reactions that we can’t embrace the moment and allow ourselves to respond fully, consciously, and creatively.

When my clients and I take a step back and look at their behaviors and paradigms in relation to their situation, it always comes to the point where I have to literally ask them, “Are you aware that you’re spending more time resisting and fighting what is than just simply accepting it and working through it?” It’s almost silly to ask, but this question is extremely enlightening to most people.

It’s like a couple who are in an argument, fighting constantly about what’s wrong rather than simply dealing with and working through their differences, except this is happening inside your head. Isn’t this simply mad? We call people who do this in public insane or schizophrenic, but just about everyone is doing this unconsciously in their heads and this is called perfectly normal, even natural. Is it really?

The Future Comes Now

It’s crazy how we think that “someday” in the future everything will be better. We fool ourselves into thinking that this “someday” will come, rolled in on a silver platter, and some magic person is going to present this magical day and say, “Et voila, the future you’ve always wanted!”

Guess what? If we keep wanting and waiting for a future, we’ll continue to do just that: wanting and waiting. We’ll never feel satisfied now, feel whole and complete now,  and we’ll never feel like we have enough now. As a consequence, every moment we put ourselves in is just a purgatory for some heavenly future. We must remember, that heaven on Earth is now if we choose it.

We have to know that the future is now. Now is where we are and will always be and this is where we can create ourselves anew, reinvent ourselves, improve ourselves, change the world through our own inner transformation – all right now. Seizing the moment is how we’ll guarantee that our “future” will be a great one, not waiting for some moment that will indicate to us, “Ok, there is where you start making things better.”

Look Within

When we stress about the past and the future, we’re looking outside of ourselves for security. We’re looking for material ways to satisfy the lack we feel inside ourselves, which when we understand the instability of the material universe, we know isn’t going to last long. It’s silly because we’ve got everything we need right in this moment to get from here to wherever it is we need. We are sitting on a goldmine of knowledge, information, and creativity and we’re acting as if we have nothing or we feel as if we’ll eventually going to run out.

We have boundless energy, boundless creativity, boundless resources such as love and light within ourselves that we unconsciously believe that we’ll eventually run out of. We build walls to protect ourselves from shortage, from hurt, from vulnerability and as a result, we’re busily looking over our walls checking to see if the grass is greener on the other side. What an unfortunate place to be. When we understand – nay, know and feel – that we have everything we need right now to transform our “past” and our “future”, we will feel secure, we will know that we feel abundant, that nobody can make us less that what we are, and that everybody has this. We won’t feel like we’ll have to build walls, feel guilty about the past, stress about the future, and judge ourselves and others so harshly, we can allow ourselves to relax and feel free to live in and embrace the now.


How have you reconciled the past and the future? Do you have any advice for those experiencing regret or anxiety? Share your advice here.