Picture this: Things are going really well in your life. Maybe you just landed a promotion, are in a happy relationship, hit a new financial milestone, or feel the healthiest you've ever felt in years. The irony is that rather than enjoying these things that you've been working towards, sometimes, when things get "too good," it may cause you to become more anxious because you're anticipating something to go wrong. If you've experienced this (or are currently experiencing it), you're not the only one. This "too good to be true" anxiety is pretty common.
Licensed psychologist Dr. Natasha Manning-Gibbs, Ph.D., explains that the “too good” anxiety can often creep in due to cognitive distortions. "When this occurs, it usually means our minds have veered off into the land of cognitive distortions, which are patterns of thinking identified through research to fuel our anxiety and make us feel terrible about ourselves," she says. "Our brains are always 'on,' processing information day in and day out. It never gets a break and sometimes attempts to cope with being overworked by leaning into a cognitive distortion in an effort to lighten our intellectual burden."
Dr. Manning-Gibbs adds that asking yourself "what if" questions is one type of cognitive distortion. For example, if someone had their dream wedding, thoughts of "what if the marriage doesn't last?" may arise a few weeks later. "The longer we stay in that distortion, the more our anxiety is fueled," she says.
Ahead, we glean tips from mental health experts and individuals who’ve dealt with “too good” anxiety to stop the feelings in their tracks.
Notice & Say “No” To The Negative Thoughts
To put a stop to the "too-good" anxiety, Dr. Manning-Gibbs says the first step is to notice the aforementioned cognitive distortions, such as "what ifs" or other negative thoughts, and then say "no" or "stop" to them. "Allowing such negative thoughts to be in a loop is harmful," Dr. Manning-Gibbs says. "It's important to recognize its presence and speak back to it."
For Kate Spies, CEO of Create & Cultivate, a business platform for women, this strategy of noticing thought patterns is beneficial when this type of anxiety arises. Most recently, she did this during a jam-packed summer with lots of personal and work travel and events. "Even though I was so excited about the travel and all of the great things happening at work, I had this overwhelming sense of dread, thinking that there was no way I would get through such a busy summer without sh*t hitting the fan in some way," she says "Through therapy, I have become aware of this kind of thought pattern, catastrophizing unnecessarily, so when I am feeling this way, I ask myself: 'Is this really a problem?'"
Usually, Spies adds that if the answer is no, whatever it is she's worrying about or dreading isn't really a problem. If it is a problem, though, if there's nothing she can do about it, she'll stop the thought spiral there since it's beyond her control. If there is something she can do to solve it, she'll take whatever action is needed. And, spoiler alert: The summer came and went and sh*t didn't hit the fan. "Everything was fine, incredible, even, so all my worry and dread was utterly wasted energy," she says of her busy summer.
Write Down The “What Ifs” And Challenge Them
Dr. Manning-Gibbs also encourages taking things a step further and writing down the "what if" thoughts and challenging them. She adds that this is also a process you can do with the help of a mental health professional if needed. Spies also employs this technique when she experiences "too-good" anxiety. "I think it helps to get worries out of your head and on paper," she says. "It takes some of the power out of them, and you can even scribble over them when you realize that they didn't transpire."
Connect With People You Trust
Because this type of anxiety can make us get too in our heads about things, Dr. Manning-Gibbs encourages socializing and connecting with people you trust. "When we are not connected to family and friends, it can easily trigger and maintain anxiety," she says. "It may not be realistic to go out every night, but scheduling bi-weekly dates can help offset looming anxiety." Spending time with others can also help shift your perspective on negative thoughts that may be swirling. "It's so powerful to be able to safely share your feelings and get an objective opinion on them from someone you respect," Spies says.
Celebrate Your Progress
Katie Wilson, the founder of BelliWelli, a wellness snack bar brand, started her company last year and experienced fast growth and success after taking a risk and launching a billboard marketing campaign to destigmatize gut health. "The results were immediate, and within a day of the Los Angeles billboard being up, there were people waiting in line to snap a picture, and our sales drastically increased," she remembers. "At this moment, I thought things were too good to be true, which gave me a ton of anxiety." One of the ways she dealt with the anxiety was by not overthinking things and focusing on celebrating the wins and progress, even the small ones.
Spies also uses reflection and celebration as tools to squash "too-good" anxiety. "When you're feeling worried, stressed, and/or anxious, try to take a beat to reflect on all of the things you have achieved in the last few months and the challenges you have tackled, particularly the ones that you thought might be too hard to face," she advises. "This will give you a renewed sense of power and belief in yourself."