Identifying Numbing Behaviors vs. Nurturing Behavior - Part 2

Part 2: Cultivating Nurturing Behavior

Previously in part 1, we explored the numbing behaviors that we commonly use and acknowledged they often don't support help us identify and meet our self-care needs, rather they helps us not feel. Nurturing behavior and self-care strategies are behaviors that serve our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well being. They provide short-term and long-term support in meeting our needs. They honor our highest good and they evolve and change over time.

To help you identify nurturing behaviors that work for you, consider listing the self-care behaviors you already utilize or would like to utilize as they related nurturing your mind, body, and spirit. Example of a self-care behaviors for your mind could be learning, meditation, or creative endeavors. An examples of self-care for the body could be movement, sleep, staying hydrated, or physical connection. When considering what self-care for the spirits looks like for you it might include music, stillness, meaningful conversations, prayer, ritual, or spending time in nature.

As we explore our most common numbing and nurturing behaviors, it’s important to acknowledge that a behavior can serve as both a numbing AND nurturing behavior. For example, food, entertainment, social media, sex, sleep, socializing, relationships, and shopping can serve as both a numbing and nurturing behavior. An advanced mindfulness skills is identifying what causes a behavior to change from nurturing to numbing, and vice versa.

Often times it is either the amount of time spent, frequency of participation, quantity of consumption, or our intention in utilizing a behavior that changes a nurturing behavior into a numbing behavior.

Consider one of the nurturing behaviors that doubles a numbing behavior, such as food. What allows it to morph from one to the other in your life? Does time, frequency, quantity, or intention play a role, if so, how?

If you’re having a hard time identifying the difference between a numbing vs. nurturing behavior consider asking yourself the following questions:

1) What need am I trying to meet with this activity?

2) Does it involve some kind of potentially addictive substance?

3) Will I regret it afterwards?

4) What are the true intentions behind this activity?

  • Am I trying to escape?

  • Am I looking to process it?

  • Do I want to engage with this particular activity to numb my emotions and get rid of my discomfort?

  • Or do I want to take care of the need underneath?

5) What will the effects of this activity be if I continue engaging in it over the long-term? Will they be helpful or harmful?

6) What does my gut tell me about this activity? Is there a part of me that is saying this is now what I need right now?

7) Is this behavior still serving my highest good?

While we all have numbing and nurturing behaviors we engage, we want to support the increase of our nurturing behaviors and mindful self-care, here are some helpful steps:

  1. Identify your numbing behaviors and coping strategies

  2. Identify the needs those coping strategies are serving

  3. Gradually replace coping strategies one by one with genuine nurturing and self-care behaviors that honor, treat, and meet your actual needs

  4. Focus on replacement versus giving up to reduce a feeling of scarcity of lack of support

As we look to the future, consider what is one numbing behavior you are ready to replace with a genuine nurturing behavior? What nurturing behaviors feel exciting to try and participate in?

It's important to realize that self-care is our prvieldge and our responsibility, it is our job to identify and meet our own needs. While others can support our wellbeing, it our responsibility to verbalize our needs and ask for the support we need from others. As we gently move from numbing to more nurturing behaviors we being to honor our foundational self-care by more adequately and consciously meeting our needs.

This blog post included content material from a Mindful Self-care Workbook, co-authored by Tiffany Roe and Sara Hughes-Zabawa, for more information on getting a copy of the workbook please reach out to Tiffany at

Sara Hughes-Zabawa, LMSW has extensive experience working with trauma survivors, depression & anxiety, LGBT+ individuals and their families, and faith transitions. She is also a yoga instructor and uses mindfulness training to support clients in cultivating self-care practices.

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