Spiritual Ruts: From Burnout to Awakening

Spiritual Ruts: From Burnout to Awakening February 19, 2023

If you key in “What is spirituality?” into your favorite search engine, you’re likely to come up with a few various explanations. Likewise, you’ll get a few different descriptions of what constitutes a spiritual rut.

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What is Spirituality?

  1. Per Elizabeth Scott, Ph.D., at Very Well Mind. “Spirituality is the broad concept of a belief in something beyond the self. It strives to answer questions about the meaning of life, how people are connected to each other, truths about the universe, and other mysteries of human existence.”
  2. According to the Oxford dictionary, spirituality is defined as the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.

Spirituality differs from person to person and is defined on a case-by-case basis. My own interpretation is essentially an amalgamation of the above, coupled with my personal beliefs. I do tend to agree that spirituality is a belief in something beyond ourselves. As far as I’m concerned, acknowledging that there is something greater than ourselves is more important than what the belief entails. It always seemed a bit egocentric to me to believe that we were the only life forms in the universe—let alone the highest.

In my spiritual journey, I’ve cycled from Agnostic to Wiccan before eventually creating a more eclectic, nontheistic pagan path. The alterings of my trajectory were all necessary stops in defining what spirituality looks like for me. While some take exceptions to revisions in ideals, it’s never their journey to judge. It is an evolution into the most elevated version of ourselves, which occasionally involves considering and adapting to new input or information.

These revelations are often the product of insights garnered from lessons acquired during spiritual ruts and other periods of reflection. While they might not feel like it at the time, these moments often become a springboard that propels us forward by becoming a pivotal point that gives way to new perspectives and the birthing of new ideas.

What is a Spiritual Rut?

“Are you there, God? It’s me, Cha—wait a minute. Am I on hold?”

(Cues hold music)

While these times can feel bleak when we’re in the throes, they lend themselves to necessary developments. You can think of it as a developmental catalyst that leads to a substantial character arc. In this instance, we progress one step closer to our highest selves.  

Finding yourself in a spiritual rut happens across multiple religions. Paganism certainly doesn’t have an exclusive foothold on this occurrence. Burnouts often occur in our life when we are at our wit’s end. As such, this isn’t inherently theological; Instead, it is universal. You’d be hard-pressed to find an individual who hasn’t been at the end of their rope at least a time or two before. 

In most cases, spiritual ruts occur when we are burned out in our lives and our practice. Burnouts can be due to chronic stress or a feeling of a loss of purpose. We may no longer align with a particular belief as it no longer holds the same value it once did. Or perhaps we’re overloaded and need to dial back on our frequency of attending a ceremony or service. Alternatively, maybe we’re no longer aligning with the energy or people surrounding us. 

Spiritual burnout is a time when our practice is not assisting us in cultivating fulfillment, and there can be a feeling that our motivation has plummeted. Ultimately, many things can contribute to our overall dissatisfaction. As such, we must identify the primary source of our contention before we can begin to work toward a resolution.

Ways to Breakout of a Spiritual Rut

The good news is that as we find our way through the rut, we also find ourselves at the precipice of a spiritual awakening. When I say this, I am not referring to the often glossed-over, feel-good rhetoric of “spiritual awakening.” Instead, I mean that examining our causes often leads us to further explore and refine our ideas in ways necessary for our spiritual evolution and development. As such, we can emerge out the other side of a spiritual rut with a whole new lease on life—à la an awakening. 

1. Recognize Burnout

Full disclosure, this one is difficult for me. I often think I can take on the world singlehandedly until I’m reminded I am a speck in the grand scheme. This realization is often humbling, but I’m at peace with it. There are worse qualities to embody than humility. 

That said, there are a few key tells in recognizing your burnout. Often burnout is accompanied by a feeling of heightened exhaustion. This fatigue can persist despite how many hours you clock in of sleep a night. This is because it’s not your body that’s tired; it’s your entire being. A more frequent occurrence of illnesses is another telltale sign. These could be gastrointestinal illnesses, migraines, or higher susceptibility to viruses around our orbit. 

Regardless of how it manifests, the symptoms of burnout are typically quite unpleasant, and many signs can mimic depression. Please note there is a difference between burnout and depression, and they should be addressed accordingly.

In this instance, to address burnout, we need to practice detachment. By this, I do not mean avoidance; rather, we need to take a temporary step back from our workload. We may need a vacation or, bare minimum, a mental health day. Both are very important for life quality and work-life balance. To recuperate from burnout, we must prioritize ourselves and our health by unplugging and recharging ourselves.

2. Journal

At the risk of sounding like a broken record—you should journal. Journaling allows us to not only articulate our thoughts but to see them before us. This objectivity gives us room to analyze them from an outsider’s perspective. While they are still our thoughts, they’re no longer held captive in our minds. Instead, they’re right in front of us, and viewing them from this vantage point can give way to new insights. 

I’ve mentioned my devotion to journaling in several articles. Most notably, in my article “The Hermit: 12th House Profection Year,” I speak candidly about my journey through this year and how maintaining a journal regimen has been paramount to my survival. To be fair, my journaling predates this profection year, but it’s a crucial step in identifying what needs finetuning in our lives. 

Even if the words don’t immediately come to you, that’s okay. If you habitually sit down to either type or write out your thoughts, the words will find you. Even if it’s nonsense initially, you’ll find the thoughts come together with time, and the information you need will present itself to you within your own words. 

3. Practice Simplicity

In my own practice, the reminder to live simply typically arrives on the heels of recognizing burnout. If I can acknowledge not every act of divinity needs an elaborate ritual, it provides me the space to connect to my spirituality in ways that require very little energy. 

There is nothing wrong with this. Sometimes energy is in short supply, doubly so for those with invisible illnesses, and we needn’t set the bar too high to honor our spirituality. We can do little rituals throughout our day to connect more regularly with our practice, such as lighting a candle or incense for its intention, brewing a delightful tea, or taking the time to ground ourselves.

If you’re interested in more ideas, I suggest my article “7 Low Energy Rituals for the Exhausted Witch,” which covers low-energy rituals you can practice as needed. 

Personally, I am a sucker for simplicity, and that’s for a very straightforward reason. Life is complex, and as a human, I am complex. So therefore, whenever I am offered a moment of reprieve from the intricacies of existence, I seize the opportunity. I don’t need to complicate matters any more than they already are.

4. Shake Up the Monotony

One way to reduce our feelings of stagnation is to shake up the monotony of our day-to-day life. Admittedly, this is my favorite approach. Nothing brightens my day more than the chance to tell my to-do list it can buzz off for the foreseeable future.

Small breakaways from the daily monotony add up. Some of these are as simple as varying our routines, but it could also be exploring new traditions and ideas that call to you. If you’ve never taken a course in, say, astrology or herbalism, perhaps now is the time to dive in.

Another way to dust off stagnation is to physically explore new terrain by traveling somewhere you have never been. This could be local or somewhere afar, depending on resources and opportunity. Typically the cause of our stagnation is due to the fact we are not providing ourselves the time or space to grow. As such, new facets of ourselves are revealed to us through not only our academic expansion but also through our travels and explorations as well.


The above are a few of my favorite tried and true methods for reevaluating what no longer aligns with me and beginning the process of moving forward. This endeavor is a deeply personal pursuit and will vary from person to person. In my opinion, there is no one-size-fits-all in spirituality. 

Despite sounding glorious, spiritual awakenings are often messy and laborious. The most important thing we can do when we feel without is to be kind to ourselves and trust the process.

Eventually, our small steps will add up, the dust will settle, and we will emerge renewed on the other side.

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