We know, generally speaking, from a plethora of advice columns and self-help sources, how to deal with it. But how do you recognize it, especially as a witch or pagan? Especially when it's witchy burnout?
For me, it starts with avoidance. I am a procrastinator; I admit it. But when I start to find myself ignoring spiritual routines, I know that I need a step back. Procrastination does that for me, but it's unconscious, to a point. The trick is to consciously step back, and acknowledge the break. I make myself set a time frame for a check in, and then choose another activity that's not spiritual but is nourishing, such as walking or reading or watching a movie. Sometimes I'll play with makeup.
Other signs can include needing to "psych yourself up" to do something. If you find yourself dreading the daily tarot draw on a regular basis, it's time to stop for a while. We all have chores that we hate (mine include dishwashing, laundry, and trash), but when spiritual routines or practices become irritating or onerous to do-- when they feel like THAT chore-- it's probably burnout.
Sometimes, burnout is more subtle. We don't see it coming. We carry on with life and readings, petitions to deities, meditation, etc. Maybe you feel a bit tired, or sickish, once in a while, but overall, you feel fine! What could be wrong? A little caffeine will fix everything.
No; it won't.
One of the tenets that witches and pagans pride ourselves on is our self-awareness and how "in-tune" we are with our bodies, minds, and higher selves. But we can't be on 100% of the time, even if it feels like we are and can. Spiritual burnouts happen. It's ok. Caffeine can't fix it. Sleep helps, but rest is even better.
Why aren't rest and sleep the same thing? Consciousness.
As Captain Elizabeth Lockley said once in Crusade Episode 7 The Rules of the Game: "Sleep doesn't count. When you sleep, you close your eyes on trouble, and you open your eyes on trouble." This is where "rest" comes in to save the day. I call this time-out my "resting practice." You need conscious time to be away from trouble, and that includes spiritual burnout. Resting practice creates this break. Set a time goal for yourself, such as a few days or a week, and step away from your routine. Don't try to fill this time with more work. Try to make it about something pleasurable, or something quiet. Call that friend that you haven't spoken to in a while, shut off social media, cook a new recipe, or have a craft night with friends and family. Read a romance novel; those are completely brainless and can be very entertaining. (I have a shelf of them double-stacked.)
Resting practice sets the tone for a time where, even though you're awake, you're not consumed by routines and the pressure we create to fulfill them. This includes meditation, at least for me, because meditation is a spiritual routine, and the point of resting practice is to NOT put pressure on ourselves to be spiritual. Couldn't that be boring, though, with nothing to do? Well... Yes. Is that such a bad thing? As an anxiety sufferer, boredom can be the enemy; but we all have to learn to recognize that controlling our response to boredom is part of embracing resting practice. Boredom is our brains mixed with social pressure to always be "on" trying to make us DO something, and then getting frustrated because there isn't anything to accomplish that. It's important to recognize and accept that we don't have to be bored even when resting. Resting practice may feel boring, but when that happens, let it be. Embrace it. We have to learn to be not just "okay" with inactivity, but to be planted in it from time to time.
Be well-rested, and Blessed be.
-Witchwriter of Silfren Circle