5 Signs of Spiritual Burnout and How the Higher Self Can Help

Tom Faddegon
February 20, 2024
woman experiencing spiritual burnout

One of the greatest misconceptions about learning a new skill or discipline is that progress is a straight line from beginner to expert. You simply start, practice, and improve consistently. Then, after a certain amount of time, you become deeply proficient.  

Instead, the learning process is more like this: 

A spiritual journey is no different.

The spiritual path is like climbing up a mountain. Through consistent effort, we push ourselves higher and higher until we reach the top, where a fulfilled life as the best possible version of ourselves awaits us. It’s a highly useful metaphor, but it doesn’t mean you will always be moving upward with every step of the path. 

Sometimes, you may have to move laterally and sacrifice gaining altitude in order to find a more suitable path to the top. And at some point along your trek, you will almost certainly slip and tumble down, having to start your progress over from a lower altitude.

In your spiritual journey, there will be difficult climbs, easy plateaus, and more detours (both intentional and unintentional) than you can count. Every section of the path will be different, and your pace will vary based on how suited you are to each portion of the journey. 

It’s very possible that one month you’ll be making great progress and in a really good routine with your spiritual work, and then suddenly, the next month you’ll be struggling with the same tasks and routines that came so easily just weeks before. 

This fluctuation is completely normal, but if you feel like you’ve been stuck or losing ground for an extended period of time, you may be suffering from spiritual burnout.

The Dangers of Burnout

This is not something to be ashamed of or scold yourself over. Spiritual burnout is extremely common, and it can be mitigated if caught early. But if you ignore the signs and continue trying to force yourself into a practice that your mind or body just doesn’t want to do, you could end up losing a great deal of your hard-earned progress as you suffer steadily increasing setbacks.

In most cases, burnout coincides with feeling disconnected from our Higher Selves. Feeling lost, overwhelmed, and uncertain of what to do next are telltale signs that we are not aligned with our Higher Selves, but have fallen into feelings that keep us from doing the very things that would reconnect us. 


5 Signs of Spiritual Burnout (And How to Address Them)

Burnout can creep in slowly over time, so staying vigilant is of the utmost importance. Ask yourself if any of these signs are familiar.

1. I feel scattered and distracted, and I’m having trouble focusing or staying in my routine of studying and meditation.

Some days your motivation will come easier than others, but if you regularly find yourself unable to commit to even a short, 10-minute meditation when you used to be able to sit for 30 minutes to an hour, you might be suffering from burnout.  

Solution: Instead of seeing your spiritual practice as separate from your daily life, try incorporating it into your day-to-day life. You might feel like this isn’t a true substitute for focused practice, but incorporating what we learn in our spiritual practice into daily life is in and of itself, the definition of spiritual progress.

2. I feel like I’ve made almost no improvement in months and that my practice isn’t working.

Once you’ve been working with a routine for a while, you may not notice as much progress as you did early on. This is completely normal, but when we feel as though we are not making progress, we can become disheartened and lose our connection to our practice, and are just going through the motions instead of engaging with it in a meaningful way.

Solution: Thankfully, there is no shortage of ways to connect to your Higher Self. If your current practice feels like it’s become a bit stale, simply try a different practice for a while. If you’re struggling to meditate, try reading. If you’re having trouble sitting still, try a walk in nature. Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t.  

3. I don’t find any joy in practices that I used to love doing.

Perhaps you’re still able to commit yourself to your practice, but it doesn’t give you the joy or satisfaction that it used to. Joy is an essential part of the spiritual journey, and when it’s absent even small tasks that should be enjoyable and fulfilling can feel like insurmountable challenges.

Solution: Repetition is necessary for the learning process, but it can lead to feelings of boredom. Perhaps you are placing too much pressure on yourself. Sometimes the best thing to do is to stop and do something that brings you joy.

4. I’m noticing myself slowly lapsing into old, unhealthy habits.

When burnout goes unaddressed, we put ourselves in danger of slipping back into the very patterns we worked so hard to overcome. Perhaps you find yourself once again staying up too late, spending too much time in front of a screen, eating poorly, or simply being less available to those around you.  

Solution: This tendency is actually a powerful moment of opportunity on the spiritual path. If you have the awareness to notice you are slipping into habitual patterns, half your work is already done! If you can pause here and recognize burnout as the cause of your derailment, you free yourself to choose a different outcome. With the help of your Higher Self, use this as an opportunity to step back, acknowledge burnout, and give yourself the restoration needed to address it.

5.  I feel physically exhausted, and I often suffer from headaches or illnesses

Given the close connection between our mental and physical states, we tend to feel the effects of mental exhaustion in our bodies. Feeling tired all the time or having frequent physical ailments can be a sign of a serious medical issue, but it might simply be your body trying to shoulder the burden of a mind in distress.

Solution: Put meditation and study on a temporary pause and focus on healing your body. When the body is not right, the mind will not be able to learn properly anyway. Instead of looking at taking care of your body as a chore or an obligation, re-envision it as a part of your spiritual practice. Reframe meditation not as a task, but as a source of rest and solace.


Other Solutions

If none of the above problems or solutions quite match what you’re experiencing, there are plenty of other methods you can try.

- Try Therapy: Therapy can be a valuable resource on the spiritual path, and a trained therapist can help you hone in on exactly what is causing your burnout.

- Set Boundaries: Perhaps you are overextended in the ways in which you are making yourself available to others. Consider hitting the pause button and letting those around you know your availability is going to be temporarily limited.

- Make a list of What You Need: When we’re over-extended, many of our basic needs get put on hold. Pause and take note of what you have been deferring. Make a plan to hit these items head-on.

- Check-in with a Friend: Struggling with burnout by yourself can make the task of coming out of it feel lonely and insurmountable. When you take time to check in with a friend, you remember that you are loved and supported. In some ways, sharing this vulnerability is an act of generosity. A time will come when they will need support, so your friendship will be better for having taken this step.

- Take a Break: Give yourself a set amount of time to rest and regroup so you can enjoy the time without the fear that you'll fall off entirely.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself! Take a moment to check in with your self-talk. If we are not showing ourselves enough compassion, we may be perpetuating anxieties that are contributing to our sense of discomfort. Talk to yourself like you would talk to a friend who is struggling, and you’ll realize that so many of our difficulties stem from being our own harshest critic.