HSW 21: My Journey So Far, and Why I Care So Much with Audra Starkey.

Healthy Shift Worker Episode 25:

In this week’s episode, I go solo for the very first time – without a guest, and share a little about what I’ve been up to, and why I’m so passionate about improving the health and well-being of shift workers around the globe.

Having commenced shift work at the tender age of 22, and walking away from it after accepting a voluntary redundancy from Qantas in 2014, I share my journey over the last 6 years whilst undertaking a Bachelor of Science Degree (majoring in Nutritional Medicine), and why I decided to focus my research around the health and well-being of shift work workers.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, but my journey to becoming a Clinical Nutritionist took on a completely different direction as I soon discovered how chronic and ongoing sleep deprivation is having such detrimental effects on our health, which no one is talking about it – until now.

The Million Dollar Question: How To Stay Healthy When You Work 24/7?

Question markHow to stay healthy when you work 24/7 has got to be the million dollar question asked by shift workers everywhere, because let’s face it – shift work is a really tough occupation.

And the harsh reality is that staff turnover within a workplace can be very high because it’s just that – really tough.

It’s tough on us physically, emotionally, and certainly psychologically.

So here’s my top 4 ways to stay healthy when you work 24/7:

1.  First and foremost are you motivated to look after your health?  Because if you’re not, then it’s going to be an uphill battle to achieve good health. You don’t want to just take care of your health for the sake of it – good health should be your number one priority.

Look for inspiration from other people, seek out those who are really healthy and ask them – “What are you doing that I’m not?”

2.  Make sure you have a good network of supportive friends and family around you because working erratic hours can take a huge toll on our mental health.  When you hang around people who are supportive, and are a little understanding and empathetic towards your sleep-deprived lifestyle, it can help to diminish those feelings of isolation and loneliness that often appear in those who have to work 24/7.

3.  Eat healthy food – we hear this over and over again but eating healthy food is vital in order to maintain our health.  Eat foods that are as close to nature as possible – that is, not refined or processed.  A good variety of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables are loaded with macronutrients, minerals and phytochemicals which are going to help give your body a fighting chance to feel the best it can under the circumstances.

It’s also about listening to your body.  If you eat something then feel awful afterwards that’s your body’s way of telling you – “Please don’t give me any more of that!”

4.  Exercise – our bodies are designed to move.  They are not built to sit on a chair all day, use elevators or sit for long periods in a car.  In order to be healthy we have to move.  Think back thousands of years ago when there were no motor vehicles, computers or lifts.  We had to walk, stand or run to get from A to B.

So try not to give up and feel totally disillusioned when you work shift work. The harsh reality is that you’re never going to feel like an energizer bunny when you work irregular hours.  The consistent lack of sleep will always prevent you from feeling 100%, but when you stress less and implement small changes into your life – your body will become much healthier as a result.

Shift Work Job Satisfaction – What’s Your Tipping Point?

BalanceFinding a job which is enjoyable, challenging and invigorating can certainly be a hard thing to do. Actually it can be very hard thing to do.

So if you struggling to find some kind of shift work job satisfaction, have you ever asked yourself “… what’s my tipping point?”  That is, is there something or someone that will “tip you over the edge” and encourage you to finally hand in that resignation?

Because despite what you may think – you really should have a tipping point.

Why? Well we all know people who whinge and complain whenever they are at work. And the funny thing is most never do anything about it.  Instead without any care or consideration for their fellow workers, they sap the energy from those around them with their constant negativity.

Unfortunately negativity breeds more negativity and makes everyone around then feel even more tired than what you may already be feeling.

I’m sure you would agree that working shift work is tough. Really tough, but if the bad outweighs the good then maybe it’s time for a change.  Ask yourself. Am I really happy at work? If not what will it take to finally give me the courage to quit and find something else to do? Here are some ideas to ponder.

* Will it be an altercation with a customer or a colleague?
* Will it be because you’re sick and tired of getting up in the middle of the night to go into work?
* Will it be a sudden decline in your health?
* Will it be because you desperately want to follow your passion and do something that you enjoy?

Whatever it is, write it down. Keep it in your pocket and look at it every day, because whatever you focus on will eventually become a reality.

Let me explain what I mean by this.  After 21 years in the aviation industry – all working shift work, I decided it was time for a change so when an offer of voluntary redundancy popped up in my workplace, I decided to take the plunge and put up my hand not knowing if I was going to be successful or not.

I then focused and focused on making this dream become a reality.  I wrote down the following paragraph on a card and carried it with me for months.

“I’m so happy and thankful for receiving a redundancy from Qantas, with my last shift being on the 28th of October 2014”.

9 months later I was given my redundancy.

My last shift was on the 28th of October 2014.

So as bestselling author Brian Tracy once famously quoted:  “Whatever you believe with feeling, becomes your reality.”

So don’t reside yourself to a life of total shift work dissatisfaction. If the bad really outweighs the good, then find a way to bring change into your life – start learning new skills, join workshops, network with other people.  The options are endless.  Remember you only get one life, and once chance to do something with it so you may as well go out and do it.

Shift Work Training – Is It Really Necessary?

As a shift work veteran and trainer, I often wonder is shift work training really necessary. That is, is it absolutely necessary to give people an induction and heads up on what they’re about to get themselves into?

The simple answer to that is absolutely.

Starting any new job can be stressful at the best of times, but when you’re about to undertake a role that involves working crazy and erratic hours I feel that companies and organisations have an obligation to inform and educate their staff on the perils of having to work shift work.

You see the benefits of shift work training are two-fold.

When you provide new staff (and existing staff for that matter), with the knowledge and tools to help them to cope with having to work irregular hours sick leave decreases, morale increases and even more beneficial to any organisation – productivity increases.

Increased productivity means increased profits.

We all know that’s a win-win scenario for everyone.

Now when I think back to my very first day of working shift work (gosh that was so many years ago now), I have to say that I was never really given any shift-work training per se.

I had a very intensive month of training which included product and system knowledge which provided me with the tools to undertake my job, but I certainly received no training (or warning) on what was about to happen to my overall health and well-being from having to get up at 2:00am in the morning.

I’ve had many, many shifts over the years which have required me to start at 3:00am (as I’m sure you can relate too), and they hurt – really hurt.

And the once friendly and harmonious relationship which existed between my alarm clock and I soon began to head down a rather perilous and downward spiral. In fact I could safely say it was skating on thin ice because I really, really struggled with shift work when I first got started.

In fact to this day I still struggle – but I’ve since become much wiser and now take more responsibility for my health that I ever did before.

And here lies the key. As good as shift work training is – if you’re not prepared to take responsibility for your life, then any type of training is going to be a waste of time.

Which is why I have listed my Top 5 Shift Work Training Tips as below:

1. Take responsibility for your health. You are in total control on what does and does not go into your mouth – no exceptions.

2. Focus on improving the quality of your sleep as opposed to stressing out on how little little sleep you are getting.

3. Keep moving. To stay energized our bodies need to exercise. Even if you’re feeling totally exhausted, try and allocate as little as 10 minutes a day to exercise. A leisurely walk around the block can work wonders on your mental and physical health.

4. Enlist your family and friends for support. Their help and understanding when it comes to certain sacrifices that you will have to make will make a huge difference to your life – both in and out of work.

5. Stop eating junk. Your body needs high quality, nutrient dense food in order to function at its peak. Just like you car won’t run on contaminated fuel, nor will your body move easily if it’s carrying extra weight and toxins.

Each and every one of these elements are critical in improving any employees overall health and well-being, but even more so when you work shift work.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly wish somebody had shared those 5 simple tips with me before I started shift work some 21+ years ago … it would have been a much smoother and less perilous roller-coaster ride!

Overcoming Shift Work Fatigue – Why Green Foods Need To Be Your Friend!

Living on processed food every day is the fastest way to accelerate your shift work fatigue when you work irregular hours.

Consuming foods provided by Mother Nature on the other hand, is the fastest way to boost your energy and help fight off that overwhelming feeling of exhaustion.

When my husband and I “discovered” this concept some years ago (our household was made up of 2 very exhausted shift workers at the time) – our life took on a completely different direction.

This 180 degree shift in our eating habits inspired us to establish our very own organic vegetable garden full of Green Super Foods, along with preparing daily vegetable juices.

In fact as I type this article, the kitchen bench is over flowing with green spinach and lettuce – harvested straight from the vege patch this morning.

So why green? What has turning green got to do with overcoming shift work fatigue?

Well it’s actually quite simple.

You see when you consume dark green leafy vegetables – particularly in the form of a juice, it’s very easy for the body to absorb which means it’s able to reap the benefits much more quickly.

Green vegetables also contain chlorophyll which is Mother Nature’s most effective energy booster giving you instant, long-lasting energy.

They’re also high in alkaline which helps the body to work more efficiently – as opposed to most processed foods being quite acidic.

Quite simply, an efficient body means more energy for you!

Think about it? Have you ever seen a burger grow from a tree or a vine?

If it’s not designed by Mother Nature, chances are it’s not good for you. In fact it could actually be quite detrimental to your health. Goodness knows what’s in half the fast food that we see in food outlets around the world today.

So the next time you’re feeling tired, exhausted and sluggish – think green. Besides having a good night’s sleep it’s certainly the next best thing for helping overcome shift work fatigue.

And I’m not talking about consuming a whole packet of green M&M’s!