Professional Burnout – How to Understand, Avoid, and Beat It
In today’s competitive business world, everyone has to be at the top of their game to stay on track, keep up, and meet or exceed expectations. This is especially true in supply chain management. The success of a business is linked to the efficiency of its supply chain. Supply chain management is at the very center of profitability. A business with a well-managed supply chain may significantly reduce all of the operating expenses connected with that chain, which in turn, contributes to a greater profit and even accelerated growth. Suffice it to say that there is a lot riding on managing the supply chain effectively.
Working in this area of a company can come with its share of stress. More is demanded and the pressure to perform at a high level can seem relentless; often requiring attention on weekends and in the evenings. Stress becomes just part of the job and some people thrive in that environment. But, a continually high level of stress for long periods of time can create professional burnout. Professional burnout is an unhealthy condition that can lead to all kinds of negative problems related to health, interpersonal relationships, and self-care.
If you think you may be experiencing professional burnout, don’t ignore it. Running operations and managing a career in supply chain is like a marathon. You need to be healthy for the long run. In this article, we want to help you address professional burnout by defining what it is, discussing ways to avoid it, and providing tips on how to beat it.
What is Professional Burnout?
The World Health Organization defines burnout as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It states three dimensions that characterize burnout:
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from one’s job, less identification with the job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
- Reduced professional ability
Burnout is the state of mind that comes with long-term, unresolved stress that negatively affects your work and your life.
You are not alone if you are experiencing these symptoms and are concerned that you have burnout. In December 2020, Spring Health, a leading provider of behavioral health benefits for employee mental well-being, performed an online study, called Burnout Nation, of 1,136 employed U.S. adults. This study found 76% of U.S. employees are currently experiencing worker burnout. Anyone who is continually exposed to high levels of stress can experience burnout.
Professional burnout isn’t just a result of working long hours or trying to handle too many tasks. Burnout is commonly the result of feeling you aren’t in control of how a job is carried out or being required to complete tasks that conflict with your sense of self.
Signs of Professional Burnout
When you feel stressed because of a specific project or goal, this may be short-lived and not harmful in a long-lasting way. But, if the stress seems as though it is never going to end, you may be experiencing professional burnout. Some of the emotional signs that you are burned out include:
- Mental exhaustion
- Feelings of cynicism, anger, and irritability
- A sense of dread about work
- Feeling like you can no longer do your job effectively
- A sense of failure and self-doubt
- Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated
- Loss of motivation
- Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment
- Feeling alone and detached
You can also experience physical symptoms from burnout, such as:
- Feeling tired and drained all of the time
- Lowered immunity resulting in frequent illnesses
- Muscle aches and pains
- Loss of appetite
- Change in sleep habits
Causes of Professional Burnout
There are a variety of factors that can lead to feeling burned out. Think about your job and determine if any of the following apply:
Lack of control
Sometimes you can feel that you are not able to either influence or make decisions that affect your job. Maybe you are unable to change your schedule or the assignments you are given, causing you to feel somewhat helpless. If you continuously struggle to manage your workload, it can lead to burnout. Supply chain and large operations require a lot of unpredictable attention and often a lot of travel; sometimes when least expected or welcome.
Dysfunctional workplace dynamics
When there are dysfunctional dynamics in your workplace, it can lead to burnout. Dysfunction can come from working with an office bully, a micromanaging superior, or colleagues who constantly try to undermine you. Many of these dysfunctions are unpredictable, as in the case of an integration of two sites with two different cultures.
Unclear job expectations
If you have expectations that haven’t been clearly defined, over a period of time you might eventually experience burnout. Maybe you are fuzzy on the amount of authority you have to make decisions or feel unclear as to what your supervisor and others expect from you. These dynamics can contribute to job stress in a major way.
No one is listening
When you are trying to explain to superiors at work what you feel are issues that are creating unending stress, and no one is listening to your concerns, you may start to feel hopeless and experience burnout.
Lack of social support
If you feel isolated at work or in your personal life, you will probably experience more stress.
If your work takes up so much time and effort that you hardly have energy to spend time with your family and friends, you can burn out quickly.
How to Avoid Professional Burnout
There are things you can do to take care of yourself and avoid burnout. Each individual is different and what works for one person may not work for another. The key goal in avoiding burnout is not to change someone else’s behavior but to change your own. Self-care gets you to a place where you feel the same as you would if there were no pressure or stress, your “natural state.” The more aligned you are to your natural state, the less demanding you are of yourself.
For example, If you are an extrovert, this may mean that you need to spend more time with friends or family each day after work. On the other hand, an introvert may need to spend more time alone by engaging in activities like gardening, hiking, and crafting. Regardless of your style, find activities that restore your energy or uplift you.
Another important element in avoiding burnout is to be frank with yourself about your work situation. Be honest about what you can change and where you should seek out alternative sources for your needs. The contributing factors of burnout stem from whether you feel supported, appreciated, and safe. You may decide that you need a new job where all these areas are met. However, finding a different job is not always possible.
If a change in your job situation isn’t likely, you can modify your expectations. If you are expecting someone to behave in a particular manner, for example, your manager to stop micromanaging, changing your expectation can help. You are not able to change another person’s behavior, but you can change your way of thinking and your own behavior. You may not be able to change everything you don’t like about your job, but you can improve how you feel about yourself and your life in general.
Tips for Dealing with Professional Burnout
If you have read this article, and you think you are experiencing professional burnout, we have some tips for ways to deal with it.
Not only does exercise benefit you physically by increasing strength and endurance, it also has many benefits for your emotions as well. Exercise is a great way to reduce the stress you feel and take your mind off of work. Try to find time for exercise even if it is just a few times a week. Small steps like taking a short 15-minute walk, if done somewhat regularly, can add up.
Eating a balanced diet
Being intentional in eating healthy foods can make you feel less stressed. It’s true that eating a diet that is full of omeg-3 fatty acids can be a natural antidepressant. Adding foods like flaxseed oil, walnuts, and fish into your diet have been shown to boost mood.
Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep and developing healthy sleep habits are critical to our well-being. We need time to rest and reset, and adequate sleep will achieve this. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time in the morning. This is one habit that is small but can lead to better sleep, resulting in big emotional benefits. Jobs in supply chain can have disruptions at all hours. At the very least, get uninterrupted solid sleep most nights of the week.
Spend time on hobbies and activities you enjoy
Find time to spend doing things you enjoy and feed your inner self. We realize that when you are overworked and stressed this may not be easy. But, when you devote time to something you are interested in, it can take your mind off of work and give you a sense of pleasure and well-being.
Spending time outside in nature has been shown to have many health and emotional benefits. It can lower your blood pressure and reduce stress. Simply walking outside and looking at trees can reduce the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline. It can stimulate a more positive mood, better cognitive function, improve memory, and sharpen the ability to focus.
We hope this article has been helpful in identifying the symptoms and causes of, as well as ways to avoid, professional burnout. If you are experiencing symptoms, try some of these ways of dealing with your extreme stress.