Spring holds the promise and evidence of new life all around us. We see it bursting forth with each new day and each new flower and tree. It is the season of rejuvenation, growth, and bloom. There’s something so uplifting about this time of year.
Any season of the calendar—and any season of our lives—can be a time of renewal if we commit to spiritual reinvigoration.
Just like other living things—plants, animals, or our physical bodies—our souls need hydrating and rejuvenating, too. In various spiritual seasons, we may experience “dehydration.” How do you know you are in need of spiritual refreshment and “soul hydration”?
Here are eight signs that you soul is spiritually dehydrated, along with practical tips on how to hydrate it. (If you're inspired by the books and items you see, simply click the images to learn more!)
1. You are fatigued and don’t know why.
Not all fatigue is physical. Mental and emotional fatigue are real and prevalent in our stressful world today. Spiritual fatigue is exhausting, debilitates over time, and can even be physical in nature.
Things as simple as getting enough rest, staying off your phone or computer at night, and ensuring a consistent bedtime routine can help you feel well and rested—but that might not be the root of the problem.
Sometimes spiritual fatigue is the rut we fall into by doing the same things even though we find that they are no longer fruitful in the same ways. When this happens, it makes sense to mix things up in order to enliven them and gain something new.
If we don’t do that, it can be a slippery slope in the wrong direction. If we begin to feel fatigue of soul for any reason, and fail to address it, it can become physical exhaustion that we don’t even understand. Neglecting important "self-care" can cause spiritual fatigue over time.
What To Do:
Be sure you are taking time for yourself and time to be with the Lord, time to refresh and rejuvenate spiritually.
A busy life can lead to spiritual fatigue when we don't protect that time. Spiritual “hydration” will also recharge us intellectually, emotionally, and even physically, because our souls animate our bodies, giving them true life.
Try a new devotion, renew a devotion you no longer practice, or take up an edifying and interesting spiritual book to bring good grist to your mill.
Find rest for your soul by doing something that brings peace to your busy life. These things and others can support our souls with something that lifts and fills them, re-engaging our hearts and minds, and ordering them toward whatever our souls need.
2. You are irritable and easily lose your peace.
Irritability comes from a dissatisfying circumstance or an unmet need. When we are in need of spiritual hydration, we may not recognize what we are lacking, but deep within, the soul is speaking and prompting us to something more...or something different...because something important is missing.
What To Do:
This "missing something" could be solitude, prayer, even a little time outdoors in the sunshine every day. Nature is one of the greatest gifts God has given us to reconnect with Him. He made it for us to delight in and enjoy. Most of us can’t take extravagant journeys, but we can step into our yard, close our eyes and listen to the birds, and feel the sun on our faces. We can look up into the trees or at the spring blossoms. Nature can and should lead us back to our Creator in awe.
Perhaps doing something physical, relaxing, or enjoyable will bring peace that translates into ease of heart, helping you open yourself to new things that reinvigorate your soul. This small step can become a stepping stone to God in a time of spiritual exhaustion.
3. You find yourself reaching for the wrong things.
The wrong distractions aren't always unhealthy things like alcohol, drugs, or overspending. We may be forming an addiction or unbalanced reliance to something good, like exercising, working, or even doing things for others. We might be doing these things so that we don’t have to stop and think about what’s missing from our own spiritual lives.
Are you trying to fill a gap you can’t quite pinpoint?
What To Do:
Start by slowing down and reawakening your sense of the God Who Loves You. We can do that with anything that brings us peace, from spiritual reading, to trying a new recipe, to sitting with the Lord in Adoration. Journaling can be a great first step if that’s where you are. Sometimes we have to start by figuring it out, and then we can work through it.
4. You are multitasking to a fault.
Our culture is one of constant multitasking. We are juggling so many balls, so often.
There are many valuable aspects to this skill, but taken to the extreme, it removes us from the present moment and adds to our strain and stress. Life feels so exhausting because we aren't stopping to recognize its beauty and experiencing gratitude for its blessings. We are juggling as fast as we can and missing the good stuff.
What To Do:
Try to live in the present moment. Tell yourself, I will be here now. Stop the juggling. Start by taking ten minutes a day to "be here, now."
Whether you close your eyes and talk to God first thing in the morning over coffee in the quiet kitchen, gaze at a Crucifix or a beautiful piece of art, bathe and rock your little one, step outside the office at lunchtime and listen to the birds, or sit quietly with your spouse, be in the moment and thank God for the gift of it, noticing all the graces within it.
Choose—or make—a moment of quiet for yourself, then focus your senses on the beauty and graces in that moment. This gets you back to self-care and helps you press the pause button at regular intervals to restore your peace.
5. You fill your life with noise.
When there are opportunities for you to seek solitude, do you shrink from that, filling the space with noise instead? Social media, music, podcasts, the company of other people—any noise will do, right?
If this sounds familiar, silence and solitude may be what you need to refresh your soul and recharge.
What To Do:
Instead of filling quiet time with static, start by setting aside ten minutes to meditate on something quietly.
Beauty can be a great way to start. It can helps us step back in joyful appreciation for what God has given. Spend ten minutes meditating on a beautiful piece of art or a single story from Sacred Scripture.
Light a candle and sit in silence—or sit in a warm bath. Pray a Rosary, asking for God to come to you and fill your soul with His peace and love. Stare at a Crucifix and tell God how thankful you are. Recommit to doing something small in quiet solitude for just ten minutes every day.
6. You feel off-balance or remove yourself from group activities.
Sometimes, when we know something is wrong but we can’t get to the bottom of it, or are not ready or willing to dig deep enough, we begin to shrink from the company of others—especially those who have most inspired us and are the best role models for us in our spiritual lives.
Somehow, the soul “knows” what we have not fully acknowledged in our minds and, without recognizing why, we may feel guilt, intimidation, defensiveness or even frustration at the edifying examples of loved ones who are living spiritually fruitful lives.
This is really the last thing we should do when our souls are in need of rehydration, but it happens because our emotions, pride, or wounds lead us there.
What To Do:
If you aren’t quite ready to rejoin your prayer group, bible study, or other group activities, then read about the lives of the saints and the exciting elements of the Church that remind you of the gift and mystery of our faith.
Find inspiring topics that you know will hydrate your soul—new things you might not otherwise take time to enjoy, but are curious to step into.
Listen to a great spiritual book or series.
Trying something altogether new will help you extend yourself. The variety can rehydrate your soul in a time of spiritual fatigue.
As soon as you can, of course, make your way back to those who edify and encourage you. Ask these important people in your life for prayers and support. Don’t deny them the blessing of helping you.
7. Your decisions, even small ones, feel complicated.
When we are overwhelmed and dehydrated spiritually, that spills over into our other faculties and affects them.
We may experience the overwhelming of our faculties and the inability to do easily the things we could have in the past. Many choices, even small ones, compound that and overburden us.
There’s much to be said for the movement of minimalism and simplifying our lives, but depending on our station in life today, we may only be able to go so far. The Catholic Church has taught the virtue of order and simplicity throughout the ages. The saints all knew the secret.
What To Do:
What can you do to simplify? “Clear out” what is extraneous? Not just from your closet or your attic, though purging your spaces can often be incredibly freeing.
Can you eliminate commitments on your calendar that overextend you, or extend you in directions that are not fruitful for you? What worries and anxieties can you entrust more fully to His care? By freeing yourself from what weighs you down, you create “space” for peace and interior freedom.
Think of the margin on a piece of old-fashioned notebook paper. Instead of overfilling your page and leaving no white space, try to expand the margins. When you make margins in your life you make room for God, helping you feel liberated, less burdened, and renewed.
8. You feel like you’ve lost the “sweet spot.”
Something is missing. Whatever it was that once filled you, brought you joy and contentment, or gave you peace of mind and heart just seems to have evaporated, or at best, it comes and goes, often at random, and you don’t know how to recapture it.
That interior peace of soul is the holy confidence and trust that you are where you are meant to be in this moment, and that you are aspiring to be in the center of God’s will. When we don’t feel this, we become destabilized.
What To Do:
The Sacraments are a tremendous part of spiritual refreshment and sustenance. They rejuvenate and reinvigorate, especially when we have absented ourselves from them.
Are you receiving the Eucharist and going regularly to Confession? If you have been away, return as soon as possible and a torrent of grace will flow. This is a difficult time for many who cannot receive the Sacraments. Make spiritual communions and do a daily examen until you can return to receive these in person.
There are times when speaking to a trusted counselor to unburden ourselves is a great remedy. If this does not happen in Confession, or you need more help, consider making an appointment with your parish priest and ask for his advice and prayers.
Your prayer group, trusted and faithful family and friends, or bible study group is probably full of prayer warriors who would like to help and pray for you too. Consider asking them.
What We Need to Remember in Every Spiritual Season
In recent years, therapists and others have begun to use the term “soul exhaustion” to describe what I think of as spiritual fatigue. I am not a therapist—I don’t have psychological training—but the term “soul exhaustion” seems somehow void of hope for a follower of Christ who knows God's infinite love.
Within the soul there is always capacity for God as long as we are docile to His will and open to His actions. He made our souls to be His dwelling places, so they are always capable of containing the immensity of His love. In this way, they are never fully “exhausted,” though sometimes we may fail to care for them as well as we can or should.
Every spiritual life has its rich, fertile times and its arid times, but we cannot stand still in the aridity or it will weaken our faith and set us back. We can start rejuvenating and “rehydrating” our souls with these small things, and they will be stepping stones to others, start graces flowing, and set us on a fresh, new path in pursuit of God.
When we recognize those seasons of spiritual fatigue, we can bring hydration to our souls in order to reinvigorate and awaken them once again to the fullness of His love. Like the flowers and trees of springtime, our souls will respond by flourishing.