So we see all the time that Blogs are all about everything being perfect or making things perfect!!!! Well I originally set up to make this blog about lifestyle improvements for shift workers but I feel that I went off course a little bit because I haven’t really spoken about shift work at all. So here goes nothing…Total honesty…
In an ever demanding society the increase for consumer products and sevices demands more and more that people are available to work shift work. You have nurses, doctors, bar staff, shop attendants, chefs, factory workers….etc. I work on a four-cycle shift, this means that I work a long weekend every second weekend and a few days in between. I work sets of four weeks of days and then four weeks of nights. These shifts are 12 hours, starting at either 7.30 am/pm and finishing at 7.30 am/pm.
The nights are so hard. The days are hard too, when you are working 12 hours you don’t really have anytime to do anything else during the day outside of eating and getting ready for work.
Here is an example of a day and night for me (Getting up on the morning of the day I am working a 12 hour night shift):
- 7 am: I generally do a bit of yoga (few sun salutations)
- 8 am: Eat Breakfast
- 10 am: Get dressed and get out of the house (Shopping, Walking, Coffee)
- 1 pm: Shower
- 2.30 pm Nap before work (always awale for 2 hours of this, total torture!)
- 6.30 pm: Get up and go into work for a 12 hour shift
- 9.00 pm Breakfast at work
- 1 am: Lunch
- 3.30 am: The SLUMP where you don’t know if you can make it through the night, somehow you always do!
- 5 am: Last break
- 8 am: Bed (TRY TO SLEEP)
- 4 pm: Up (If you are lucky enough to sleep that long) and do it all over again!
I am generally lucky if I get 4 hours solid sleep, it sucks because I get to bed at 8 am and I am awake again at 1 pm…. it is simply not enough sleep. The only way I can describe how you feel when you wake up is Jet lagged… constant Jet lag! I try and have a shower as soon as possible, that makes me feel slightly better. I try my best to eat well. I always bring food with me to work. Sometimes I bake before work, it is therapy for me.
Sometimes this 12 hour shift can be 1/5 and that is a tough week. You can feel so many things. Generally when you start feeling really bad after 2 shifts and then you have your days off. You wake up in the evening and then you are so fine tuned to being awake all night, you can’t sleep! There have been times where I have made solid plans with friends and just couldn’t go because I simply feel so sh*t that the thought of being in public-talking-eating is just not appealing. There have been times where I have decided to meet up with friends and I could just feel so tired and confused that I would just start crying. I am generally someone who has myself together. It can be a little bit embarrassing so I have spent weekends just going from work to bed and back again with no social contact with people outside of work, this way I have no stress of letting people down.
I am in a rented house sharing with 4 others so I can’t get up and walk around (too dark outside at this time of year and pissing all the time), eat Coco Pops, do laundry, etc…. It would be great if I could. There is absolutely nothing to do that hour of the night. There aren’t any grocery shops open, no cafes…nothing! (Why aren’t there more cafes open late in Ireland? A discussion for another blog, probably drunk people ruining it for everyone!)
At these times a night feels sooooooooooo long, I might try and read a book but generally end up rolling around my bed very stressed because I can’t sleep. Then, I might creep downstairs for Coco Pops or send Snap Chats to other people that you work with because you know they are definitely up too! I need to learn to stay away from my phone though because I know that is certainly not helping me.
People don’t really understand how hard it is until they have done it. I find it hard to explain to people what days I am on/off and all of that. You have to try and do what you can to make yourself feel better and live a healthy quality of life. There are so many negative side effects to shift work which are proven and frankly quite worrying. But to list a few:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Diabetes and metabolic syndrome
- Depression and Mood Disorders
- Serious Gastrointestinal Problems
- Problems with Fertility and Pregnancy
So it is important that you
- Exercise, get outside (Daily)
- Eat well
- Stay in touch with your doctor
- Keep tabs on your moods and feelings
- Sleep and if you can’t get help
With exercise you can just get out and walk. Do yoga, stay limber if you are sitting around for 12 hours it is important that you get stretches and movement into your muscles. I try and do yoga as much as I can even if it means doing it before a 12 hour shift where I just want to stay in savasana for the rest of the night. Weight training, stay strong. Exercise will also help you sleep better and increase energy levels. Get out on your lunch breaks. A few of the lads I work with have set up gym classes that we do after a round of shifts and it is really motivational, you can do the same. Set up a walking club, cycling group etc. It is easier than ever using vices like WhattsApp to communicate with people and get out and about.
You are what you eat. Food is your only source of energy so if you aren’t eating well you won’t feel or look very well. Cook your own food and take it to work, avoid greasy/stodgy food. Caffeine can be your best friend but in moderation. I love coffee (big love) during my shift, everyone will tell you after I have a cup I am non-stop laughing (I have a terrible laugh that frightens people late at night in the canteen) but I stay away from it closer to going to bed. Meditation can help calm your thoughts before bed, get you breathing properly and thinking more clearly.
Your car goes for the NCT, so should you. If you don’t feel well go to your doctor and have a chat. I am lucky enough to have a doctor on site at my job every morning during the working week, Monday to Friday. Keep in touch with yourself and you don’t feel well (can be caused by sleep deprivation and a stressful job) talk to someone. If you can’t sleep try getting an electric blanket, using earplugs, really darkening the room, stay away from your phone before bed, eat something before sleeping, refrain from having caffeine, try breathing exercises to slow your heart rate and clear your mind.
Enjoy your time off, go walking, hiking, get your hair done, get a hot shave, go for a nice meal, a spa treatment, go shopping, go on a holiday, socialise with friends, go to concert, go fishing, go running, go cycling…. enjoy yourself and leave work at work. If you are having any conflict at work either talk to your boss or the person you have a problem with, Shift work is hard enough without adding in added stresses of work relations.
Every week is touch and go for me but I really try all I can to look after myself and stay healthy. I hope that I don’t have to work shift work forever but for now it works for me. If you have any tips you can share with me, contact me!
*NOTE* There are times that I get so tired of being good that I go drinking all day long and eat crap, life is all about balance!!! Just make sure that the scales are tipping on the right side of looking after yourself. You are not perfect, but you are pretty close 🙂
You can do it 🙂