Five Barriers to Educator Self-Care

Feb 10, 2022

Barriers to self care should be evaluated early on in your self-care journey so that you have the highest probability for success. The goal is to remove the barriers so you can prioritize your well-being and enhance your long term health and wellness. Remember self-care is not selfish! 

Many people struggle with barriers to self-care and taking action to prioritize their wellness. People resist addressing the barriers because it seems like it’s “just easier that way”. That isn’t the case though. If you or someone you know are struggling with self-care, stress reduction and prioritizing their wellness, that individual is likely spinning their wheels being less productive, less happy, stressed, reactive to the stimuli around them. They may be on the road to burnout. 

The manageable and proactive changes that I recommend, including taking a full day to attend the Joyful Leadership Institute , will save you countless hours of lost productivity, criticizing yourself for not putting yourself first, time spent with ineffective processes and possibly illness in the long-term. For women, specifically, stress is a silent killer and it is important for everyone to encourage each other to prioritize your self-care plans. 

Here are five common barriers to self-care that educators share with me during Joyful Leadership Institute :


Practice saying “I deserve to take care of myself”. Taking care of yourself sets a positive example of self-love for your colleagues, family, and students. 

Two opposing beliefs can be true at the same time. You don’t have to wait for the guilt to go away before practicing self-care. Start today and the guilt will diminish over time. 

Lack of Time

Self-care actually creates more time as you are more energetic, present, focused, and joyful when you are able to focus on yourself and prioritize your needs. Put self-care time in your calendar on a recurring basis like you would for a work meeting. For example, you might set up a weekly friend date, and once you figure out a time that works it becomes less stressful with practice.

Weakness or vanity

It is not weak or vain to take care of yourself. It is an investment in yourself and a basic human need. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs proves that self-care is not a weakness or vanity. Self-care is a need that is depicted throughout the hierarchy. Are your basic human needs being met? Living in a reactive state where you rush from one task to another with little time to focus on yourself is simply not sustainable. 

Consider how you can create opportunities to enhance the amount of time you spend nurturing your basic human needs and journal about how it makes you feel in your Self-Care Journal (link to my favorite journal right now). Interestingly, as I flip through mine I can identify exactly where the journal is reinforcing the basic needs below: 

  • Biological and physiological needs - nutrition, sleep and other needs fall into this category
  • Safety needs - protection from elements, security, order, stability, freedom from fear
  • Love and belongingness needs - friendship, intimacy, trust, and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love. Affiliating, being part of a group (family, friends, work)
  • Esteem needs - which Maslow classified into two categories: (i) esteem for oneself (dignity, achievement, mastery, independence) and (ii) the need to be accepted and valued by others (e.g., status, prestige)
  • Cognitive needs -  knowledge and understanding, curiosity, exploration, need for meaning and predictability
  • Aesthetic needs - appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc
  • Self-actualization needs - realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences. A desire “to become everything one is capable of becoming” (Maslow, 1987, p. 64)
  • Transcendence needs - A person is motivated by values which transcend beyond the personal self (e.g., nature, aesthetic experiences, service to others, pursuit of science, religious faith, etc.)

Behavior change is overwhelming

Motivation and willpower may not be enough for everyone to make it happen. I mentioned it before when I wrote about habit stacking. Start small. 

At the beginning of the pandemic I did a plank for one minute a day which led me to achieve other fitness goals. 

Here’s an excellent TedTalk about ways to change behavior.

Lack of awareness  

During Joyful Leadership Institute I share a process to regularly reflect on your personal and professional life. Without reflection most are unaware that they even need to take time for themselves. The notion of “busy-ness” has overtaken our society and as people rush from one task to the next, meaningful reflection has been pushed to the wayside. 

As you are reflecting, think about how you feel on the burnout scale. If any of the aspects of the scale are present, brainstorm what you can do to improve those feelings. Joyful Leadership Institute walks you through an entire process to lead a happier and healthier personal and professional life to prevent and diminish burnout. Remember, reflective practice is not intended to be a self-criticism session. Be gentle and kind to yourself.

A strategy to help improve your awareness is to take time to nurture your interests and hobbies outside of work and family. This strategy will help you stay connected to who you are as a person – even an hour a week will help! 


I hope you found this week’s installment of Weekly Self-Care Tips for Educators helpful. If this resonates with you, we invite you to explore our informational webinar on the benefits of the Joyful Leadership Institute or schedule a Vision Call through my Calendly link to discuss potential further engagement.

About the Author: Lisa Imel, M.Ed is the Founder & Chief Educational Consultant of EdSolutions Group. Lisa specializes in Human Potential, Learning & Development, Workforce & Economic Development, and K-16 Education Strategy. Several of Ms. Imel’s notable achievements include being awarded the distinguished Fulbright Scholarship, participation in the Argentina Fulbright Principal Exchange, serving as an Ohio Leadership Advisory Council Facilitator, appointed as a Trustee at St. Joseph Montessori School and recognition as a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Club of Cleveland. Ms. Imel graduated from Bowling Green State University and The University of Toledo and earned her Principal and Superintendent Licensure at Ursuline College and Ohio University. Lisa currently serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Ashland University in the Professional Development Services Department. As a former teacher, principal and curriculum coordinator, Lisa is a passionate advocate for educators and believes in delivering transformative experiences so that educators, students and families lead happier, healthier and more meaningful lives. 

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