Burnout advice on the internet tends to ignore the fact that humans need connection and safety in order to thrive. As a neurodivergent person, the demands of living in a world built for neurotypicals means that most of the time that sense of safety simply doesn’t exist. The demands of capitalism require that we spend up to 40 hours a week working–if we can–in order to meet the obligations required just to exist. This leaves little time for connecting with others through community, and as I’ve talked before, this hustle culture pulls us away from our true, authentic selves.
Before I dive deeper into this topic, I’d like to reiterate that I don’t believe we can cure burnout within the systems in which we live. We can only put it into remission, or look for clues along the way that it’s creeping upon us again, so we can take steps to attempt to remediate it. I liken burnout instead as something that goes into remission, but flares from time to time depending on our stress levels and demands.
As I’ve dealt with this latest long-term experience of burnout and the two steps forward, one step back of trying to put it into remission, one thing I’ve realized is that in order to foster a sense of safety within, I’ve had to rediscover my spirituality. Now, I know the idea of spirituality (which is something different from religious) can be anathema to some people, so let me remind you of the definition.
Spirituality means connecting to something larger than ourselves. Another definition would be of connecting to or related to the spirit. And I can’t think of anything more affected by burnout than the spirit.
For me, connecting with my spirituality has been to spend time with and understand the changeableness of nature. Living in the Ozarks, we’ve recently went from 80 to 100+ and now with yesterday’s rain, through which I felt the land and nature (and my livestock as well as myself) give a collective exhale, back to 80s again. There are many places where it’s said if you don’t like the weather wait 5 minutes and it will change. The Ozarks is one of those. Working on the homestead, feeding the livestock, spending time with them, this puts me in direct contact with nature and connects me with something beyond myself, a sense that we’re all connected. We’re all in this together.
I also resumed my smaller rituals like lighting a stick of incense and spending some time in meditative contemplation and gratitude. I ask for help from my gods; I’m reminded I’m not alone. And I give thanks for the inspiration that moves my spirit and the fact that we’re making it through, even though it may seem rough at times.
Your spirituality doesn’t have to look like mine, and indeed it shouldn’t look like mine. For you it may be learning about space and looking up at the stars, and finding a connection there. A sense of awe and wonder at the vastness of this Universe. To me the laws of science, the knowledge we’re gaining each and every day, feeds my spirit just as much as pressing my hands to the ground and thanking our land for caring for us.
The important thing about cultivating this spiritual nature is that it creates that connection within which we crave. It indicates that we’re not alone, that we’re part of big, beautiful systems, and that we should care for one another. And it cultivates in me a sense of safety. We’re all beings just trying to do the best we can, and there are times, such as the rain which follows a long hot spell, when the universe cleanses and refreshes us so we can remember who we are and what stories we want to claim for our own.