Healthy Self-Care or Numbing Out? Know the Difference

August 14, 2019 Heidi Green, Psy.D.

Healthy self-care is such an essential part of mental health, and it seems everyone is striving to up their self-care game. Here's the thing though -- sometimes when we think we are practicing self-care, we are just numbing out. It can be tough to tell the difference, but if you know the signs, you can make sure you are practicing healthy self-care. 

What Is Healthy Self-Care?

Healthy self-care addresses your overall wellness. Self-Care should be nourishing to your mind, body, and soul. Self-care isn't just about relaxing activities. When we treat our overall wellness, we stimulate our body and brain. Maintaining healthy relationships is an integral part of emotional health, as is taking care of our responsibilities. Taking a mental health day to rest and recuperate is healthy self-care, but calling in sick multiple days in a row so you can isolate and binge watch Netflix is not.

Numbing behavior may help ease suffering, but it does not contribute to your overall health and wellness. There are lots of different ways people numb out. Some numbing behaviors are overtly harmful, like excessive drug or alcohol use. Other numbing behaviors are less obvious. Sometimes an activity isn't unhealthy in moderation. Shopping, video gaming, and scrolling through social media are not problematic unless you engage for hours on end to check out of your real life. 

Numbing Out Is Not Healthy Self-Care

It's also important not to numb out on healthy behaviors. Exercise is a wonderful activity and can be a healthy form of self-care. It can also be used to numb out. If you are spending hours a day at the gym, you might want to check in with yourself and make sure you aren't just avoiding your problems. It's always possible to have too much of a good thing. 

After my divorce, I started reading a lot. I used to read a lot as a child too. I lived in a chaotic home environment, and reading allowed an escape from my real life. It was a great coping skill as a kid because I didn't have a lot of other options. Therefore, it was a natural coping skill for me in adulthood when I became depressed.

I started spending hours a day in a book. I told myself I was going to read every famous classic, and I was working through the bookstore shelves rapidly. The problem was that I had adult responsibilities that needed my attention. I wasn't a kid who could spend all her free time in a book anymore. I was no longer a powerless child. I needed to take responsibility for my mental health and deal with my problems. Ultimately, this led to seeking therapy for the first time, which sent me down a path that changed my life forever.

6 Types of Healthy Self-Care

Check out my video below to learn more about the types of healthy self-care. I find it helpful to ask myself how my behavior is contributing to my overall wellness and to make sure I am engaging only in moderation. How do you practice healthy self-care?

APA Reference
Green, H. (2019, August 14). Healthy Self-Care or Numbing Out? Know the Difference, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 27 from

Author: Heidi Green, Psy.D.

Heidi Green is a clinical psychologist and self-love aficionado. She lives her blissful life in Arizona where she enjoys hiking, kayaking, and snuggling her rescue pups. Find Heidi on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and her blog.

Please note: Dr. Green shares her personal opinions and experiences and nothing written by her should be considered professional or personal services or advice.

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