Shift Work, Marriage and Kids – A Tough Juggling Act

woman's hands protecting happy family, grey wall backgroundAs shift workers we all know and understand how hard it is to work irregular hours. Let’s face it, working a 24/7 roster when you’re single is hard enough, particularly when you’re trying to have a relatively normal social life.

And when we start comparing ourselves to our “9 – 5 cousins” who are out partying Friday and Saturday nights – it can be a pretty hard thing to swallow. For most shift workers, tucking themselves into bed at a ridiculously early hour to gain a few hours of good quality sleep is more like the norm.

Good quality sleep. Hmmm. What is that?

Now, where were we? That’s right – shift work and marriage.

I’d have to say these two things can be pretty tricky to navigate. Throw in the kids and it’s even harder again. Shift work, a happy marriage and a happy household that is.

So what exactly happens when we get married? Does it make it easier? Does having someone share your life help to ease the physical, emotional and psychological strain evident amongst shift workers around the world?

For many, the answer to that question would be a ‘yes’. But certainly not for everyone.

Lack of sleep combined with challenges in the workplace combined with poor eating habits combined with little exercise can be the precursor to a ticking time bomb ready to explode. And if you live with someone (married or not) – the person who you most care about may end up being on the receiving end of your mental and physical exhaustion.

And this is when things can turn a little nasty.

Nasty that is, when we say and do things that we would not ordinarily do when we’re feeling well rested and without stress.

Sleep as we know is incredibly important – it really is.

But for most shift workers we are not getting enough sleep (and probably never will). So lack of sleep plus having to endure day to day stresses like work and having to drop the kids off to childcare or school every day can be pretty tough.

Tough that is, on everyone.

And it’s during this repetitive routine – cracks can start to form in a marriage. Cracks which are often not seen until it’s too late.

So how can you juggle shift work, marriage and kids?

By showing gratitude.

Actively look for things to be grateful for every single day because if you’re employed and you’re married and you have kids then you’re pretty darn lucky. Really lucky. Thousands of people would love to have what you have right now, but for whatever reason it just hasn’t happened for them.

Gratitude is a great distraction for when things aren’t going right. It takes the focus away from all of the not-so-good things that might be happening in your life right now. Eg; feeling tired, stressed and moody. Because when you’re feeling tired, stressed and moody (yep that covers just about all shift workers) – you may say and do things that you wouldn’t ordinarily do resulting in a rift in the marriage, not to mention the impact a strained marriage has on the younger members of the family.

So the secret to a harmonious shift work, marriage and kids combination is simple.

Be grateful and show gratitude because when you do, your actions change into more positive ones, your mood changes into less heated and unpredictable ones, and your general health and well-being improves for the better. A win-win situation for all three: Shift work, marriage and the kids.

Shift Work Burnout – Ten Tips To Help Reduce The Debilitating Effects.

tempo per dormireWhen you work a 24/7 roster which encompasses some pretty ruthless hours, shift work burnout is going to be inevitable.

Considering sleep deprivation is often unavoidable and many employees have to work harder in today’s economic environment – burnout is becoming increasingly common amongst employees around the world.

But can you reduce the effects of shift work burnout?

You bet. And it all begins by watching out for the symptoms.

These may include things like headaches, stomach aches, high blood pressure, back and neck pain and even skin rashes. They are basically warning signs that your body is not at its optimum. In fact when you suffer from shift work burnout you can become more susceptible to viruses and other infections.

You may even begin to feel disillusioned at work and loose enthusiasm to do things. These are all warning signs. Some people may even develop a negative attitude and become quite cynical which can lead to varying degrees of depression.

Basically you begin to question what you are doing and why – which can lead to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

You may even feel so frustrated and dissatisfied in your job that you begin to take more days off than usual, but you know when things are getting particularly bad when it begins to affect your personal life. This may be a change in personality which at its worst, leads to aggressive behaviour towards your friends and family.

Definitely not a good sign.

So there is no denying that shift workers are prone to burnout as sleep deprivation can be one of the major contributing factors.

There are however some things which you can do to help reduce the effects of this burnout:

Ten Tips to Help Reduce Shift Work Burnout:

1. Use an imaginary bubble to help separate yourself from what’s going on around you. Try to detach yourself and become less emotionally involved with things that are happening in the workplace.

2. Find ways to relax and recharge. Listen to some music, meditate or practice yoga to help clear out the mental clutter.

3. Don’t try and be a martyr – you are not a machine. Despite what society seems to dictate these days, you don’t always have to appear strong.

4. Have realistic expectations. Shift work is tough – it really is, so you have to accept that feelings of burnout is actually normal. In fact it’s inevitable, so it’s important that you start taking care of yourself.

5. Try not to become too involved and take work problems home with you. Once you leave work turn off that imaginary switch in your head.

6. Seek help – talk to family and friends. Just admitting that you are experiencing burnout can make you feel better.

7. Cut out the overtime. Working exceedingly long hours in the fastest way to accelerate shift work burnout.

8. Allow yourself time to enjoy yourself and have a good laugh – guilt free. Treat yourself to some nice things for a change.

9. Be less intense at work – don’t take it seriously. Be carefree and have some fun.

10. Book yourself in for a check up. Just like your car needs servicing regularly – so does your body.

So it’s important to realise that you can never eliminate shift work burnout. It will come and go throughout your career for as long as you continue to work irregular hours.

However in order to reduce the debilitating effects, you must learn to recognize the symptoms (and don’t ignore them) so that you can begin to apply some simple strategies to help manage these feelings the best way you can.

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 Jobs. Are You Really Cut Out For One?

shift work jobAs I write this post, somewhere in the world right now it’s the middle of the night and even though most are sound asleep and tucked into bed, there will be someone, somewhere – working.

In fact there are literally millions of people on the planet who work in some kind of job involving shift work.

There are also many who work in roles that are not technically classified as shift work, but due to the extra hours placed on employees to get a job done, many employers expect their employees to stay back and work after hours – many of whom are unpaid.

The sad reality is we are becoming a society that never stops.

24/7 is becoming the new 9 to 5.

So if you’re new to shift work or about to begin a shift working job, have you thought deeply about what you’re about to embark on? That is, whether you’re really cut out for working irregular hours.

Because shift work is hard, and it’s certainly not for everyone.

I remember my first shift working job interview (at the tender age of 21) was for a Passenger Service Agent position working at the international airport.  The 3 person panel interviewers did not mention anything to me about how working irregular hours was going to impact on my personal health and well-being.

And it does. Enormously.

Of course it’s not all doom and gloom.  It’s about being prepared.

Here’s a few ideas to help get you started.

1. Be very organised. Plan your meals in advance and buy your groceries accordingly. So many shift workers experience ill health and weight gain soon after starting shift work because they feel too tired to eat properly. Always remember that the fastest and most convenient way to acquire food is not usually the healthiest.

2. Keep your friends and family informed.  Let them know when you’re working irregular hours because unexpected visitors and phone calls don’t help an already disrupted sleeping regime.

3. Keep your body moving. In many cases, exercise is the first thing to be given the flick when starting a new shift working job as your energy levels tend to flounder. The key thing to remember is that exercise will provide you with more energy, whereas no exercise will only escalate your fatigue.

So if you’re new to shift work and unsure whether it’s going to be right for you, give yourself a fighting chance by taking extra good care of your health. Make it your number one priority so that your transition from non-shift worker to shift worker is a much more enjoyable and easier one.

Shift Work Roster – How Friendly Is Yours?

upside down clockIf you’re someone who works rotating shifts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week then no doubt you crave to have the occasional weekend off or at the very least, have a Saturday sleep in so that you can go and watch the kids play a game of soccer.

But the harsh reality for most shift workers is that it means having to give up a lot of Sundays and battling a shift work roster that is not particlarly friendly for having any kind of social life.

That being said, how good does it feel when you can head down to the beach or go to the movies in the middle of the week when the rest of the population is working?

Pretty darn good I think! In fact it’s one of the many ‘perks’ to working shift work.

Yet many of us focus on all of the negatives associated with having to work irregular hours (in particular the not-so-friendly shift work roster), and end up living a deflated and unfulfilling life.

So how can you manage to keep sane and happy – despite having to work ruthless hours? Well I’m going to be realistic here, unless you’re able to win lotto or you decide to throw in the towel and join the ‘Land of the Nine-To-Fivers’ – you’re probably going to have to continue the battle with your shift work roster.

But there are 3 simple things which you can do which will make going back to work not so bad.

1. Concentrate on the simple things in life. So many of us get caught up in all of the bells and whistles of a life that we forget to keep things simple. Forget about trying to “keep up with the Jones” – you don’t have to have the new car, a designer outfit – it really doesn’t matter.

2.  Shift from the negative to the positive.  It’s so easy to whinge and complain about all of the bad stuff in our life (particularly when those around us are doing the same thing), but try and focus on the positive.  There are always so many things to be grateful for but we often don’t see them because we’re wrapped up in all of the negative stuff.  Try this exercise tomorrow – go 24 hours without complaining (not even once), then watch how your life starts to change.

3.  Roster versus no roster.  Whilst our 24/7 lifestyle calls for getting out of bed at some pretty hospitable hours (and there are plenty of areas in the roster which could be improved for the better), just remember that there are plenty of people in the world that would absolutely LOVE to do what you do.  Whether it’s due to sickness or an ability to secure employment, be grateful for your job because there are many people who would actually love to be in your shoes – even with those dreaded 4am starts!