Nostalgia. It’s that feeling that takes you back to a happier moment in time; perhaps a more peaceful moment in time.
Sometimes I feel like a small child longing for that treasured item that brings comfort. It could be a stuffed animal, a favorite toy, or maybe even a blanket.
For me, my comfort blanket is quite literally a blanket. It’s a relatively new item, not one from my childhood; but the fabric and texture is identical to that of the blanket which I used to wrap around myself while cuddling with my dog on the couch at my parents’ old house. Now, when I’m lying awake at night stressing out about who-knows-what, I wrap myself up in this blanket and I can almost imagine that I’m hugging my childhood dog.
For many years my dog was often the only source of companionship or support that I had in my home environment. There was always a lot of tension in my family but my dog was always a source of undying love. Or at least he was until he died in September 2015. His passing broke my heart and absolutely shattered me for months. Nearly one year later I’ve come to treasure the memories that I have of him and I’m able to find support in the love that exists in those memories as well as in the love that I still have for him even though he is no longer physically here.
When I think of my fur-brother, I feel many things. I feel sadness, grief, and loneliness because he is no longer with me, but I also feel peace and comfort at the idea that he is somehow watching over me and wagging his tail. When I’m going through really hard times, often the only thing that gets me through the day is wrapping my arms around a pillow and imagining myself hugging him. It’s not the same; but nostalgia is a powerful feeling and the memory of hugging him has helped me get through many rough days.
Alternatively, there are certain fragrances and tastes which bring back memories that are soothing. For example, my best friend loves the smell and taste of peaches so whenever I visit her she always has peach-scented candles. So, when I was at work yesterday and I came across a package of peach tea in the clearance section, I knew that I needed to break my no-spending rule for the sake of anxiety relief. Tea is soothing in and of itself a lot of the time, but this one in particular reminds me so much of my best friend. I don’t get to see her very often because we live so far away from each other for university so anything that reminds me of her also reminds me of all of the wonderful things that I love about her. One of the traits that I cherish about her is her support. So, in a roundabout sort of way, this tea reminded me that I am supported and loved because it reminds me of my best friend.
While the feeling of nostalgia is by no means an absolute cure for anxiety, I have been finding it rather soothing when I’m feeling extremely sad or stressed out (as I have been a lot lately). But just because it is not a cure does not mean that it is not a useful tool. On the contrary, finding things that bring about moments of nostalgia for you can be extremely effective for reducing anxiety and depression as well as fighting off panic attacks. Just try to find things that trigger happy memories or calming memories rather than thinking about things that will make you feel even more depressed or anxious.
I know first hand how difficult it can be to struggle with mental illness and I truly do find some relief in nostalgia. Sometimes it works better than others and sometimes it does not work at all; it really depends on how I’m feeling in a given moment. But the one thing that I think is really important to remember is that this moment is temporary. Things will get better. You won’t feel this way forever. Maybe you won’t feel better today or tomorrow, but eventually you will look back and see how far you have come.
Don’t give up.