HSW 44 – Happy Nurses & Midwives with Carmen Barry.

Healthy Shift Worker Podcast:

Are you a nurse or midwife?  If so, then you’re going to love this episode as I had the pleasure of chatting with Carmen Barry, a nurse based at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne who has been involved in the rollout of a pilot program called ‘Happy People’.

The Happy People program is an initiative designed by workplace wellbeing advocates, Happy Body At Work, to help improve the mental, emotional and physical health of shift workers.

Carmen shares what it was like being a part of the 6-week pilot program including some of the things she and her fellow nurses learnt along the way to help with energy, mood, stress, and sleep.  According to Carmen, the program also instigated a healthy bit of “competitiveness” amongst the various nurses and wards, making it not only an informative project but a fun one too which is a huge bonus when you’re running on little sleep!

Links mentioned on the podcast:

The Royal Women’s Hospital Article

Carmen’s Email

Orange, Almond and Chia Smoothie:

A Great Energy Smoothie For Night Shift!

What’s great about this smoothie?

  • Almonds contain healthy monounsaturated fats, protein, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc and vitamin E.  The proteins and healthy fats provide a slow source of energy release, and also help to slow down the release of simple carbohydrates or sugars into the bloodstream.  This helps to keep our blood sugar levels steady thereby reduce sugar cravings – something almost every shift worker struggles with thanks to ongoing sleep deprivation.
  • The oranges are bursting with immune boosting benefits including vitamins B and C, along with Flavonoids, Folic Acid, Carotenoids, Potassium and Dietary Fibre.  Vitamin C is also critical for adrenal function, one of our stress regulating glands which bear the brunt of a sleep-deprived lifestyle.
  • The Chia seeds are also high in protein and fibre, both of which help to keep us feeling full and have been shown to aid weight loss.

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Shift Work Fatigue: How Your Stomach Can Influence Your Energy

As a shift work veteran and student of nutritional medicine I’ve certainly begun to understand the connection between nurturing your body with nutritious food as a way to help a fatigue-riddled body feel somewhat “normal”.

But is getting enough sleep and eating the right foods all that you need to do in order to ward off fatigue?

In a word – no.

You see most of us are blissfully unaware of just how important it is to nurture our digestive system – and by that I mean trying not to overload it with large quantities of food.

Have you ever thought about the size of your stomach? Ever wondered how big it is? Well this bit of trivia that I’m about to share may make you think twice the next time you feel like binging on a big meal.

Your stomach when it is empty is actually the size of a large sausage.

Yep that’s right. One single sausage, and considering the stomach is the most expansive part of the GI tract whereby it can stretch and expand to accommodate large quantity of foods; the more you put into it, the more the body has to divert every available bit of energy source to help with the digestion process.

In simple terms, the more energy that is required to digest a meal the tireder you’re going to feel.

You see your stomach acts like a kind of holding reservoir and mixing chamber until your intestines can digest and absorb the food that you eat. And because you can eat a meal much more quickly than the intestines can digest and absorb this food (plus there’s about a 20 minute delay before your brain receives a message from your stomach telling you that you’re full and have eaten way too much food!) – you’re going to start to feel exhausted.

Kind of like that feeling when you want to slump on the couch after eating a big meal – except that you’re currently still on shift at work!

So besides getting as much sleep as you possibly can and eating nutritious food, remember to be much gentler on your stomach. Avoid stuffing it with large quantities of food because it’s a lot smaller than you think.

In essence, think small lighter meals as a way of tapping into a secret energy source … especially for shift workers.

Tomatoes: A Tasty Round Ball Of Energy!

TomatoesI have to admit as a kid growing up I really disliked tomatoes. Mum used to put them in my sandwiches and I’d be forever dragging the slices out because they made my sandwich go all soggy!

But fast forward a few years on – OK maybe LOTS of years, I now absolutely love my tomatoes.

Since discovering the Roma and Cherry tomato range I hardly go a day without having one of these luscious red fruits. Yes tomatoes are actually a fruit – not a vegetable.

There are a plethora of Health Benefits from eating tomatoes, some of which include:

– the anti-inflammatory properties of vitamins C + vitamin A help to control free radical damage. Free radicals break down body tissues (such as collagen and elastin) which can cause wrinkles and they have also been linked to many diseases such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and diabetes.

– They contain the phytochemical ‘lycopene’ which is known to help prevent cancer.

– They are great for sufferers of low energy as they high sources of iron + B vitamins including niacin, B1, B2 and B5. Now that’s music to the ears for a tired, run down and exhausted shift worker!

– They are a good source of vitamin K and magnesium which are good for our bones.

Important Tips Before Buying Your Tomatoes

– Always buy organic tomatoes as non-organic may have a wax coating which can trap pesticides. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) they can also contain some of the highest levels of pesticides so it’s safest to just buy organic.

Always source local. If they have come from a long way they have probably been picked green which means they haven’t had a chance to develop the vital phytonutrients. They are then artificially ripened once they get to the store by using a gas. Yikes! That is definitely not good.

– Having tomatoes in salads are great, but according to research our bodies are able to obtain the benefits of the phytochemical lycopene from eating cooked tomatoes as opposed to raw.

So there you have it. So many wonderful benefits from including tomatoes in your diet, but probably the best part of all is how they can give us so much energy.

On that note, I’m off to an Italian restaurant for dinner so I’ll be making sure I definitely choose a tomato-based dish off the menu! Hmmm. A risotto, pizza or pasta …

Shift Work Sickness – How A Change In Attitude Can Help Boost Your Immune System!

If you are someone that suffers from shift work sickness, have you ever considered that your attitude might be partly to blame? I’m thinking probably not, so you might be interested to know that optimistic people actually have stronger immune systems.

In fact optimistic people are 77% less likely to die of heart attack or stroke than pessimists, are less stressed, more resilient, tend to age better and even live longer.

Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

You see as shift workers it’s really easy to be negative and miserable because we’re always feeling so darn tired all of the time, but it certainly doesn’t have to be that way.

Negativity drains people of energy which is not good – most shiftworkers are desperately crying out for more energy!

Negative thoughts are toxic. They release chemicals that are harmful to the immune system, deplete energy, speed aging and damage brain cells.

So as you can see, a negative attitude can literally make you sick!

Studies have also revealed that at least 75% of illness originates in the mind. Prolonged negativity leads to depression which releases more toxic hormones that further weaken the immune system and lower the body’s ability to fight disease.

Instead, people with a positive attitude bounce back faster when things get them down. Positive thoughts release serotonin which makes us feel good, aids memory and can even prevents brain damage.

Now the good news is that a positive attitude can be developed. Since we can change our thoughts, we can certainly change our attitude.

So stop complaining, criticising, and judging. It’s only going to make you prone to shift work sickness – and a person that nobody wants to hang around with.

If you’re constantly getting sick all of the time when you’re working shift work, try changing your attitude – you might be pleasantly surprised with the results!