Burnout is generally considered a state of physical or emotional exhaustion from ongoing stress. When you’re under pressure to invest energy beyond your resources, and that toll continues over time you are at high risk of burnout.
But there is one other kind of burnout we’d like to address: spiritual burnout. This is when you take on too much spiritual work without allowing your spirit to rest, process and grow. Often this looks like packing your schedule with workshops and webinars, gobbling up self-help books and spending much of your social life talking about spiritual ideas or experiences. By all means, exploring and maintaining an active spiritual life is something we support, but spirituality is, at its truest nature, about living in harmony with your own soul and the Universe. Balance is key here.
It’s important to recognize and prevent spiritual burnout because it fogs your vision, drains your inner energy and in extreme cases can lead to a total abandon of your beliefs. Recognition starts with understanding the difference between feeling challenged and the early signs of burnout. Challenge is a state of activation. When we are faced with challenging situations, our spiritual ego activates for action.
Challenge signals includes:
- Feeling tense or pressured
- A sense that you’d be okay if you got the situation under control
Burnout signals are a state of deactivation. After periods of prolonged stress you retreat from yourself and your higher power.
Burnout signals include:
- Withdrawal from community and activity
- Feeling depressed
- Feeling hopeless
- Spiritual disconnection (“God has abandoned me”)
- Spiritual strain (“God is so far from me.”)
- Spiritual doubt (“I can’t believe in God if this terrible thing could happen.)
There are many factors that contribute to spiritual burnout, including personal, social and work or community factors.
Personal causes often start with perfectionist. If you expect yourself to be perfect, or are seeking a profound spiritual shift in your life, you may not be allowing yourself the time to travel a spiritual path in a way that is supporting you.
Social factors may come from friends or family. Does anyone in your life have high expectations of you? Do you have a lot of different people giving you advice? It may be time for you to get clear on what your beliefs are, and ask for the space to do so.
Community factors include messages from your place of worship or spiritual teachers. If you feel like the lessons you are learning or taking in are happening too quickly or are too big for you to tackle all at once, it’s okay to take a breather.
So how can you heal spiritual burnout?
Well for a start, lighten your load. In the long run you will progress much further and more meaningfully if you reduce your stress in the process.
Pick a time of day when you have some quiet time and make your spiritual practice personal and loving. Maybe it’s 10 minutes of meditation, or a quick prayer and journaling before bed. Maybe it’s simply expressing gratitude before dinner each night. There are simple and low-stress ways to feel connected and uplifted by your spirituality.
If the signs of spiritual burnout are resonating with you, take a moment to look at your lifestyle and how your beliefs fit into your daily life. How can you create more balance so you and withstand the stress of an emotionally taxing breakthrough or a profound physical reaction?
Most importantly, seek out a support system of friends, family and leaders who you can talk to. We are a global citizens living in local communities. We are fortunate that at the end of the day, we are all human and never have to go through this beautiful life alone.
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