6 Overlooked Barriers to Improving Your Wellness

If you are feeling frustrated, stuck, or wondering if it’s even worth the effort to feel better, you may be facing these overlooked barriers. Improving your mental and physical wellness looks different for everyone and there is no “right” way to do it.

When I became aware of what could be influencing my behavior, I became a little kinder to myself. When I learned how my body and brain worked, it greatly reduced feelings of shame, overwhelm, and frustration. As I became kinder to myself, I also began to see how to overcome, work around, or learn to live with the barriers I was facing.

In this post, I am calling your attention to various things that could be getting in your way — you may relate to some or all or none of these. I will address various ways to overcome or workaround these barriers in separate posts.

Photo by Tom Fisk via Pexels

If any of these barriers bring up “stuff” — uncomfortable sensations in your body, flashes of past painful memories, or just a general feeling of “Nope. I don’t want to go there.” I invite you to take care of yourself (see below) and come back when you are feeling good-ish in your body and in your thoughts.

Taking care of yourself includes:

Journal – Write all the thoughts down that are swirling in your head. Or draw stick figures or images of what pops up. Or scribble if there’s just too many.

Move your body – Dance, rock, sway, clean, or exercise. You can also tense your muscles and relax them from head to toes or toes to head.

Breath – Take deep, slow breaths at a rate that feels comfortable to you until you feel less overwhelmed.

Nourish yourself – Hydrate, eat, get a hug/hug yourself, take a nap, go to the bathroom, take a shower or bath.

Distract yourself – Watch something funny or comforting or empowering. Or read something funny or comforting or empowering.

Again, come back when you feel ready — feeling energized and feeling good in your body and thoughts. That could be hours, days, weeks, months, or years from now.

1. Money

The more disposable income (after all expenses) you have, the more resources you may have toward:

  • Purchasing workout clothing, shoes, memberships or training sessions, equipment.
  • Sessions with a mental health professional or purchase online programs with mental health professionals. travel to places to be active, and so on.
  • Visit health providers outside of your insurance network.
  • Choose a place to live that is better for your health and wellness.
  • Purchase healthier foods and snacks.
  • Do things that are fun, exciting, or relaxing.

If your income is barely covering your monthly expenses. There might not be enough left over for you to spend on what you need to improve your wellness.

If your income is not a factor, it may not feel safe for you to spend money on the things that could improve your mental and physical health.

You may be more focused on paying off debt, saving or investing money.

You may have had experiences that have led you to believe that spending money on these things is not going to improve your situation or that it will cost too much.

2. Time

Contrary to a popular saying, we do not all have the same 24 hours.

  • Someone that works a consistent schedule has a different relationship with time than someone that has a varied work schedule.
  • Someone that works 20 hours per week has less nonworking time than someone that works 50 hours per week.
  • Someone that lives close to work spends less time commuting than someone who lives farther away.
  • Someone that has six children may have more demands on their time than someone that has four children or two children.
  • Someone that has a child(ren) with medical conditions, illnesses, mental health challenges will have greater demands on their time than someone with a child(ren) that does not have medical conditions.
  • Sleep & wake cycles are different from person to person. Some are early risers, others wake later.

There is also the time spent caregiving that varies from child to child and household to household.

The time spent cooking, cleaning (even with children helping with chores), dealing with bickering or unkind behavior, planning or coordinating activities, taking them to activities or appointments, monitoring homework progress, spending quality time together.

If you are a millennial or gen Z Mom, you spend roughly 4-7 hours per day with your children. If you are a millennial or gen z Dad, you are spending three times more with your children than previous generations, which works out to 3-5 hours per day. That amount may be less if you do not live with your children.

If time is your biggest barrier, cut yourself some slack and be kind to yourself.

3. Decision Fatigue

Every day we make small and big decisions for ourselves and for others. Decision fatigue may occur through making many decisions and considering the weight or cost of each decision. Stress, lack of sleep, and hunger can also influence our ability to make decisions. Decision fatigue can lead to mental exhaustion where you cannot think clearly, avoid making decisions, or negative beliefs about your ability, intelligence, or character.

  • Lack of money and time can lead to decision fatigue. You may be under more pressure to make good decisions for your money and time.
  • We have more information at our fingertips than any generation before us. We also have to weed through that information to determine the validity of that information.
  • Mothers may feel pressured to do exhaustive research and look at the pros and cons involving a simple purchase of a product — the environmental impact, the ethical impact on people or animals as well as safety for their babies/toddlers/children/tweens/teens.
  • Decision fatigue can occur when deciding what to feed themselves and children, what to do for fun or downtime, how much screen time, outdoor time, how to best parent your children, and so on.
  • Constantly reworking priorities can also bring decision fatigue. You cannot foresee or plan for everything. Work becomes demanding, unexpected expenses, unexpected life change, your children want to sign-up for a new activity, and so on.
    • If you spend money on ___, that means you cannot do ___.
    • If you block off ____ chunk of time, that means you will not be doing ____.
    • If you take on this new thing, you have a new set of problems to solve or manage or schedules to rearrange.
    • If you get up early, that means you will get even less sleep.

When it’s time to make decisions to improve your wellness, your brain may be too fatigued to think about your own mental and physical wellness. Or you may have trouble justifying the “costs” for improving your wellness.

4. Lack of Support

Lack of support can happen at work or at home and it come in many forms.

  • Household – Keeping spaces tidy, doing dishes, keeping up on laundry, yard work, home repairs, home maintenance. It can be having to follow-up repeatedly on tasks getting done.
  • Caregiving – Providing warmth and responding to the emotional and physical needs of your children. This looks like providing empathy, validation, and seeing the world as they experience it. It is also providing foods they enjoy (constantly changes), clothes that make them feel confident, and setting limits and boundaries to provide safety.
  • Emotional – Encouragement, empathy, compassion, care, etc. It is being able to talk about the hard things without being criticized, dismissed, or teased.
  • Understanding – A difference of opinion and not being able to talk through it and come to an agreement. A lack of understanding of why something is important to you or why you want to do things differently than you have been taught or expected to do. A difference in the way our life experiences shaped our views of the world.

Lack of support may cause us to second-guess ourselves or believe that it is not worth our time, money, or energy to do what we want to do to improve our mental and physical wellness.

5. Neurodivergence

Neurodivergence refers to how the brain processes, learns, and/or behaves in a way that is different. A neurodivergent brain works differently (also, completely normal) than someone who is considered neurotypical. Many of those who are considered neurodivergent have had many experiences where they have been left wondering, “what’s wrong with me?” or struggle to do simple tasks, or struggle to do the things they want to do.

Here are a few reasons those with neurodivergent brains struggle more:

Executive Dysfunction

Executive function refers to working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibition control. Executive dysfunction disrupts a person’s ability to manage their own thoughts, emotions and actions.

  • Working memory is the ability to temporarily hold a limited amount of information for immediate mental use, for example, to relate one idea to another, to reflect on the past or consider the future, to hold on to a question you want to ask while continuing to pay attention to the conversation and waiting for an opportunity to ask that question. When working memory is impaired, it makes it harder to hold on and recall information.
  • Cognitive flexibility is the ability to switch tasks, ability to see things from a different perspective, and to adapt to new, changing, or unplanned events. The opposite of cognitive flexibility is needing to do things in a specific way or unable to see another’s perspective, or getting upset when obstacles arise.
  • Inhibition control is the ability to resist distractions so you can focus, concentrate, and pay attention, and sustain that attention even when the material is boring. Those with executive dysfunction may find it difficult to resist distractions, concentrate and focus.


Dopamine is a key player in motivation, memory, sleep, lactation, mood, behavior, reward, movement (coordination), learning and attention. Dopamine is released when your brain is expecting something fun or exciting, and when you experience disappointment, lack of sleep, or are not eating enough, or not eating a balanced diet, your dopamine levels may drop and it may dampen your mood.

A lack of dopamine occurs when the body does not produce enough, or there is an issue with dopamine receptors in the brain. The brain can also produce too much dopamine, and this is thought to be linked to schizophrenia, addictive behaviors, obesity, aggressive behavior, and poor impulse control.

It can be harder to initiate a task, to remember why a behavior is important, exercise or movement may feel more difficult due to lack of coordination, intense cravings or being unable to feel satisfied by food or drink, or it’s just too boring to care about or to do.

Emotional Dysregulation

Is the inability to control your emotions and control your actions based on what you are feeling. When someone is emotionally dysregulated, it can be hard for them to identify what they are feeling, articulate what they are feeling, and control their actions.

Biological (genetics) and environmental factors may contribute to emotional dysregulation. Emotional dysregulation is common in children, adolescents, and adults. Everyone gets emotionally dysregulated at times, if someone experiences this state frequently enough, they may not be making good decisions and it can negatively impact a person’s quality of life — relationships, finances, health and well-being.

Emotional dysregulation looks like:

  • Having strong emotional reactions to events that seem minor to others.
  • Sudden mood swings without a trigger or explanation.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by emotions.
  • Having intense emotions and unable to control them.


Is the decreased ability to control your own behavior. People that tend to struggle with being impulsive, know they do not want to do something, but they cannot stop themselves. This includes saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, dominating conversations, interruptions to conversations or completing others’ thoughts, overspending, overextending oneself with social commitments or projects, procrastination, taking action on a thought instead of pushing it off.

Those with ADHD, ODD, and a few other conditions may experience this more frequently than someone without these conditions. You can learn to control impulsivity to a degree, but not always (it will happen again) and more likely to occur when dysregulated.

Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA)

Is when someone ignores or resists doing anything because someone demanded it or asked for it to be done — even if it was a task that person planned on doing anyway or if it is an easy task or if it is something they enjoy. This even happens when a person is told how to behave or how to do something.

They may respond or react to requests through making excuses, creating a distraction, withdrawing, escaping, or display emotions that seem out of character or exaggerated for the situation. Someone with PDA may be labeled as stubborn, lazy, or difficult. They are not, they may need to feel in control, they may not understand non-verbal communication, they may get overstimulated easily, or are unable to identifying and understand their emotions or emotions of others.

Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD)

Is when a person feels intense emotional pain when experiencing rejection, teasing, or criticism. They feel the pain deeply — even if they understand the circumstances around the rejection, they know the teasing is in good fun, or the criticism (feedback) can help them improve — they feel shame when most others could easily shrug it off.

RSD can make it hard to maintain or deepen relationships, ask for help, seek help from a professional or colleague or family member. It can also turn into people pleasing, perfectionism, and fear of failure.

6. Past Painful Experiences

Past painful experiences is another way to describe hidden or unresolved trauma. Someone that has past painful experiences may have altered how they view themselves, how they view their capabilities, how they view people, and how they interact with the world.

Trauma can display many of the same characteristic as someone with a neurodivergent brain. Trauma can also look like anxiety, depression, narcissism, learning disabilities, self-destructive behavior, risky behavior, emotional dysregulation, and so on.

Trauma occurs when we go through an experience that leaves us feeling scared, helpless, sad, angry, worried, panicked, confused, numb, or hopeless. These events can be small but frequent and difficult or annoying experiences, or they can be big life-altering events.

People can experience big and small events differently — what is painful (traumatic) to one person, may not be painful to another. Trauma can be emotional or physical. We are more susceptible to these big and small events as children, between the ages of 0 and 5 years of age. This is because the brain is still developing.

We can also experience retraumatization when the retelling of our experience becomes invalidated, dismissed, ignored, or shrugged off. This may lead us to believe the people and world around us is unsafe, uncaring, and scary. It can make us feel helpless and hopeless.

Retraumatization can also occur when we experience an event that is similar to the original event. This is typical when we (or others) try to dismiss what happened and we end up blaming ourselves or believing did something to cause of the event or believe it wasn’t as big of a deal as our body and brain responded.

Those that have past painful experiences, may find it extremely difficult to improve their wellness. Trauma changes the brain — it looks for ways to protect you, even if those protective behaviors now harm you.

  • It may feel too scary to change, better to stick with what is familiar. This may result in repeating harmful patterns (unintentionally).
  • It may not feel safe to acknowledge or process those experiences at this time. Healing is draining, it requires rest, processing emotions/feeling our feelings and that can get in the way of our jobs, caregiving, and put a strain on our relationships.

To add insult to injury, finding the right type of therapy and therapist takes time and money.

It takes courage to be vulnerable and open up to someone and risking getting hurt or dismissed or invalidated again.

It takes money to afford to pay for sessions — usually not covered fully by insurance.

It takes time to go to sessions, to do the work, to reflect on how those past experiences have influenced your life decisions, and to start making changes.

I hope this post provided you with an explanation with your struggles. I hope you feel a little validated and a bit more hopeful, even if becoming aware of these barriers also sucked.

Next Steps: If you want to learn more on how to get unstuck, check out my ADAPT Wellness Guide. Or you can join my facebook group to get my free Acts of Wellness Guide.


Time spent with children

Executive Dysfunction

What is Dopamine

How Dopamine Affects the Body

Too Much Dopamine

Excess Dopamine

Pathological Demand Avoidance

Emotional Dysregulation


Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

Childhood Trauma