Too much of a good thing

Written 5.10.18

“It is possible to have too much of a good thing.” ~Unknown

We’ve all heard this quote at some point in our lives. It’s one of those quotes that can relate to almost any circumstance or situation. Today, I’m gonna talk about how it applies to how we cope with stress or adversity.

We all have coping skills that help us to manage the stress that comes our way. Some are good coping skills; for example, exercise, listening to calming music, or journaling. Others help us cope but have negative effects such as smoking, gambling, or “retail therapy”. This morning, It came to my attention that positive coping skills can turn into negative ones if taken to far.

Here’s an example: As someone with a history of anxiety, I have developed the coping skills of being a list-maker and a planner. I’ve learned that my anxiety heightens when there are a lot of changes or when there are unpredictable factors involved. Planning, prioritizing, and list-making create some sense of control in times where I might otherwise become overwhelmed. It’s safe to say that I thrive in routine. But what happens if I take my healthy coping skills too far?

Well, the coping skill will end up causing the very same problem that it intended to prevent!

I suppose I’ll get a little more personal: I am in the process of obtaining my counseling license. The process culminates with a huge test that I must pass in order to get my license. I plan to take the exam in December and figured I’d start preparing this week by taking a practice exam. I did well on the first practice test and made a list of things that I need to study or improve upon. So there go my coping skills: listing and planning. Helpful, right?

Rather than pacing myself, I immediately took a free online practice test. I failed it by just a few points. I added more scribbles to my list as my anxiety grew. Then I took it further and clicked on yet another online practice test…

See where this is going?

My scores got progressively worse the harder I pushed myself. Worse of all, my tendency to plan and to make lists had actually become a source of frustration and anxiety… Imagine a sheet of paper with a ton of scribbles and a bunch of post-it notes on top because I ran out of space.


The moral of the story is that too much of a good thing can be detrimental. Whether your coping skills are organization, watching TV, listening to music, working out, etc., it has the potential to become counterproductive or even harmful if not kept in balance.

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