(excerpted from When the Last Straw Falls: 30 Ways to Keep Stress from Breaking Your Back – now available at store.angersolution.com)

February 19th, 2008 marked the 1st anniversary of my mother’s passing. She died in her sleep, suddenly and unexpectedly in my home, and it was, as you might imagine, a very shocking, sad, and traumatic experience for our family.

Looking back at that time, I wonder how I managed to get through the shock of finding her, calling 911, notifying my father and my siblings, dealing with the coroner, the funeral home, taking care of my kids, and all the rest. It seems that my crisis training served me well, and I was able to go handle the extreme stress of that situation despite my grief.

Almost one year later, as I continued to deal with the ongoing fallout of losing my mom, I realized that other issues that had remained latent while she was alive were beginning to surface. And with those issues, came feelings of intense anxiety and panic that I had not experienced for decades.

As I battled with this rise in anxiety, I often found myself feeling as if I had lost my bearings and was flailing around frantically for something to hold on to. And I found that stability in the most unexpected places. Good friends. Faith. And in my office.

Let me explain that last one… several years ago I recorded the audio program, “Getting Past Your Past”. It occurred to me as I was rifling through my files, looking for something that would help me through this crisis, that perhaps if I expect people to listen to my advice that I should listen to it as well. So I grabbed the CDs and plugged them into my car, feeling a little sheepish and wondering if listening to my own recording made me a narcissist…

To my surprise, the woman on the CD sounded bright, confident, and sure of herself (not the same person who was listening at that moment)! She had some rather profound things to say, which were coincidentally strangely relevant to my current situation. I thought… “why not pay attention to her? She sounds like she might have something there…” I took it one step further on the advice of a good friend, and printed myself a workbook – and went through the exercises detailed in the “LET GO” section of the program.

As bizarre as that sounds, it was what I needed at the time. I was reminded that I need to forget my past, remembering only what it taught me. That I have much to be grateful for and that the events of my past have contributed to the person that I am today. That I am still that strong, confident, bright woman I heard on the CD, and that vulnerability is not the same as weakness.

Through the process I was reminded that strength is fluid, and often dependent on your circumstances and the resources you have available at the time that those difficult circumstances arise. I was reminded too of the resources that have helped me through other past trials, and that all I need to do is to rely on them rather than ignoring them – and my strength can be restored.

The whole concept of getting past one’s past is one that is so worthwhile in the quest for less stress. If you have read my book, Anger Solutions! Proven Strategies for Effectively Resolving Anger, you will recall the story of Everett Worthington, whose mother was murdered in her home by a group of teens who broke in while she slept. Dr. Worthington is now recognized as one of the pioneers in forgiveness research.

Another leader in the area of forgiveness research is Dr. Frederic Luskin, author of the book, Forgive for Good. One of the things I noted from Dr. Frederic Luskin’s work is that when you recall the events of the past that caused you hurt and pain, and you have not yet learned to forgive and let go, you will experience the hurt just as if it were happening for the first time. That is to say that the anxiety, stress, sadness, anger – and all the other negative emotions that may be associated with that event, create just as powerful a physiological response in the body as when it happened the first time. So each time you recall a hurtful event, you are inducing the stress/anger response at full strength in your body.

Both the research of Dr. Luskin and Dr. Worthington has scientifically proven that through forgiveness, you can boost your immune systems, have healthier platonic and intimate relationships, significantly reduce your stress, and effectively prolong your life expectancy.

There’s More! This excerpt is included in a FREE report entitled, “Getting Past Your Past” based on the Self-Help Audio CD Program of the same title, and the book, When the Last Straw Falls, both by Julie Christiansen. To get your copy of this free report, please contact us through our website contact tool: www.angersolution.com/contact, and we’ll send it to you right away.

Julie Christiansen