True Calming Comforts vs. Shadow Comforts

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Imagine cleansing sunshine clarity vs. dark cloaking shadowy heavy wet blankets.

Jennifer Louden calls our numbing devices “Shadow Comforts”, as described by Brene Brown* in her book Dare to Lead (page 86-87) gave me a very thoughtful morning today. I spent the better part of my 3-mile run digesting the concept of “numbing devices” and thinking about how to succinctly present a subject that has come to define a major theme of this pandemic.

Having written a lot about fear over the last 6 months (too much?), I am relieved to write about numbing devices.  You know what I am referring to- our favorite vices these days!  Online shopping for an entire afternoon after a call with elderly fragile parents; eating an entire chocolate bar between MS Teams meetings to soothe that powerless feeling of smiling through pain of professional vulnerability; G&T dinners on Friday when finally we can just hope to obliterate the week’s strange and crazy news cycles; etc.

Shadow comforters operate like big heavy wet shade trees covering our feelings, or big heavy dark bed blankets that we bury ourselves under.  They cast such a big shadow that we avoid and numb ourselves out from what is actually causing the pain.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on

These are (just a few of) my Comfort Shadow Shaders. It is important to know why I seek them (these are just my reasons, you have your own, and they may be more innocent):

  • Binging Netlix romantic comedies and dating shows: I am missing connection in my own life, aka lonely.
  • More than a few bites of chocolate: I am self-soothing with a “treat” because I am resentful about something I am doing (or assume I should be doing).
  • Online scrolling for more than 30 minutes: I am procrastinating, likely because I don’t feel I “can do the task”.
  • Drinking alcohol to excess: Reality is not sitting well with me.
  • Napping: I am literally laying down in the face of the task ahead, overwhelmed. I have been known to nap at 9 am even!

Brene recommends we check in with the whole numbing situation before we indulge.

  1. Ask ourselves “Why do I want to numb right now” before unwrapping the bottle/candy bar/blankets.  “What is behind it?”
  2. “What would feel better, more nourishing?” These are the True Calming Comforts for me. These do not solve my problems, but provide the clearing sunshine so that I can deal with the issues:
  3. Walking or running
  4. Getting into nature, I call it “Tree time”
  5. Talk with a trusted friend
  6. Gratitude journaling
  7. A 12-step meeting
  8. Write a blog 🙂
  9. Go to bed early

Breakthrough Action: I recommend you take 15 minutes (or a walk around the block?) to make your own list of Shadow Comforts that numb you and make it difficult for you to address the real issue. Think about what the issues are, and make your list of True Calming Comforts. How will you cue yourself to use the sunshine instead of the blanket the next time you want to numb? (Brene Brown has a polaroid photo of her walking shoes in her pantry.  I am a list-maker, so I have a post-it on my bathroom mirror and monitor to remind me).

Photo by Jill Wellington on

You got this!

*I have been intimidated by Brene Brown for a long time, and avoided her books and Ted talks for a decade, probably due to jealousy and fear that my pea brain compared to her amazing brain will be found out.  Now I have accepted her magnitude of wisdom and I just try to read and digest a page a day with my brain going at my snail’s pace while she waves the banner of insight and wisdom on concepts I have wondered about for a long time.  Dare to Lead is a great book for company leaders, people leaders, classroom leaders, and especially single moms (leading their families!). 

#singlemom #keeponkeepingon  #wegotthis #singleparent #singlemotherhood #worklifebalance #healthymom #wellness #selflove #selfcare

Check out my new book “21 Days to Some Inner Peace for Single Moms, Re-framing the Chaos: Be Present”. Available here on kindle and paperback!

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