Who Is ‘The Healthy Shift Worker’?

The Real Person Behind This Website!

Mini computer
Hi Everyone,

I’ve noticed quite a few new followers join the page over the last few weeks so I thought I’d step out from behind the ‘back office’ of this website, and introduce myself, along with sharing a little about me and why I’ve created The Healthy Shift Worker.  One of my goals for 2016 was also to “humanize” this site, and by that I mean let people know that yes, there is a ‘real person’ behind this website, who comes with her own story as to why she established this blog, way back on the 8th of February 2009, when I wrote my first blog post.

My name is Audra, and I’m a mad traveler, a huge fan of tennis (or should I say a fan of Roger Federer), a lover of the natural environment and all furry critters.  I love bush walking, yoga, “brunching” with my girlfriends, and immersing my toes in the sand with longs walk along with beach.  Fortunately this is pretty easy to do as I live in sunny Queensland Australia, with my husband and furry child – ‘Misty’ the cat.  I’ve also been incredibly fortunate to have visited 22 countries throughout my 44 years on this earth, however my longing to travel and visit new places has been placed on hold the last 18 months or so, as I made the transition from working full-time, to becoming a full-time University student.

After 21 years of working in the aviation industry, in October 2014 I decided to take a leap of faith and accept a voluntary redundancy from Qantas, Australia’s largest airline, to pursue my interest in nutrition, with a special focus on shift work health.  I think you can all agree when we work shift work, our diet is often the first thing to fall apart, which over the long-term, can have serious consequences on our health.  So I’m currently studying a Bachelor of Health Science majoring in Nutritional Medicine at Endeavour College of Natural Health in Brisbane, and am about to embark in my final year of this degree.

I’m also writing a book (specifically for shift workers) which is taking me way longer than I thought, but that’s OK, because I want to write something that is not only filled with great content, but is enjoyable to read too.

My special interest in shift work health stemmed from my own personal struggles of working shift work for nearly two decades.  Like anyone who has ever worked shift work before, you can appreciate just how hard it is on our physical, mental and emotional well-being.

But whilst I may be studying nutritional medicine, this page and blog is not all about nutrition.

I have a very holistic view on health, in particular when it comes to those who work through the night, and get up at ridiculous times of the day because sleep-deprivation can be the catalyst behind a lot of our struggles – and not just on the food that we eat.

Do I believe nutrition is important?  Absolutely.  In fact it’s even more important when working 24/7.

Do I believe it’s the answer to all of our shift working woes?  Absolutely not.

As a population, we are chronically sleep-deprived, and with that comes serious consequences.

Sleep deprivation affects our:

  • nutritional intake, digestion and absorption of foods
  • it disrupts our hormones
  • it impairs our cognitive function
  • it weakens our immune system
  • it affects our mood
  • it makes us prone to accidents
  • it makes us feel way too tired to get off the couch and exercise, and
  • it certainly plays havoc on our family and social life – amongst many other things.

Not the rosiest of pictures, but it’s the harsh reality of the situation, and comes with the territory when working 24/7.

However in the next couple of days, you’re going to see the beginnings of a project I’ve been working on over the last few months, because I want to engage with you more, as opposed to just writing on my Facebook page, or via this blog.  Quite simply, I want to help you as much as I can, and let you know that you’re not alone in this incredibly tough way of life that we’ve come to know as ‘shift work’.   In order for me to do this, I’ve had to enlist the help of others, whom you will be hearing from very soon.

So ‘welcome’ to all the newbies who have recently joined my page, and a big “hello” to all of my loyal followers who have been with me over the long term and have stuck with me through all my posts over the years – both the good and bad!

Look forward to “speaking” with you soon,

Big shift working hugs,

Audra x

A Question I Get Asked Often …

Woman with question marks on grey backgroundIf you struggle with working shift work – you are not alone.  In fact a question I get asked often is “How on earth did I manage to work shift work for over 20 years?”

And that’s a really good question, because I struggled – I really did.

I can assure you there were many times when I just wanted to throw in the towel and get a “normal” job!  Anything that would enable me to get a decent night’s sleep because if you’re reading this right now, you can appreciate how hard it is to be healthy when you work 24/7.

In fact when I began sharing my shift working journey via this blog all those years ago, my intention was not just to share handy hints and tricks that I’d gathered along the way, but to give you some insight into my own personal struggles as well.

In essence, to let you know you are definitely not alone.

Unfortunately there are MANY perils to working early shifts, night shifts and late shifts – along with those unexpected “longer than normal shifts!”

But if you are a shift worker, you are one tough cookie because not everyone is cut out to work shift work that’s for sure.  Hands down it’s a tough occupation and that’s before we even get into the nitty gritty of your actual job description as a lot of shift working roles can be very stressful as well.  Now I’m thinking doctors, fire fighters, policemen, ambulance officers to name a few.

So in answer to my original question, how on earth did I manage to work shift work for over 20 years, the best answer I can give you is “sheer determination“.

I was determined not to let those wacky hours get the better of me by staying focused on all of the good stuff around working irregular hours.  In fact I feel incredibly lucky not to have endured 20+ years of peak hour traffic, the boredom and monotony of catching public transport, along with succumbing to a contagious disease rife amongst our “9-5” cousins called “Monday-it-is”!

Fortunately each day I went into work I knew I was going to come across something different which is pretty cool (OK – maybe not the grumpy passengers nor intoxicated patients) but you can’t say our days at work are ever boring!

So hang in there.

Shift work is tough, it really is.  The continual lack of sleep makes feeling “normal” incredibly hard to achieve but it’s important not to ignore the benefits because there are plenty of those to help keep you motivated – even when that alarm clock wakes you up from a peaceful slumber at 3:00am in the morning I promise!

How ‘Adaptable’ Are You To Working Shift Work?

The phrase Roll With It on a cork notice board As I sit at my desk pondering what I can write about in this week’s blog post, it occurred to me that I needed to ask you a question and that is:  “How ‘adaptable’ are you to working shift work?”

By this I mean when you signed up to be a shift worker, did you realise that you were actually signing up to a life of constant tiredness, irregular sleeping patterns, missed social gatherings and continual weight fluctuations?  Did you ever think they’d be times when you’d have to make some hard decisions and sacrifices along the way?

It’s a tough one isn’t it?

I know when I signed up to work 24/7 I certainly didn’t.

In fact I think it would be a great question to ask at a job interview because let’s face it, unless you’ve worked shift work before it can be a tricky path to navigate.  I remember feeling like a deer in headlights for the first few years of my shift working career because I had absolutely no idea how to cope working irregular hours.

However the real reason I’m asking you this question is because when you signed up to work shift work, you essentially signed your family up to work shift work as well – and that can be tough, incredibly tough.

Here’s a couple of questions to prove my point:

  • When that alarm goes off at that ungodly hour, do you have to wake the entire family up as well?
  • Do you have to boot the cat off the bed and wake the kids up much earlier than our 9-5 cousins?
  • Are you finding that due to your overwhelming feelings of fatigue, you may say or do things that you would not ordinarily do?

Well I wouldn’t be surprised because sleep-deprivation does that to us; however it can certainly cause a bit of friction within the family dynamic.

So in order to lessen the negative impacts that come with the territory of working 24/7, it’s incredibly important that you remain adaptable.  That is remain focused on all of the things that you can change and not on those which you can’t.  Essentially don’t stew over the stuff that you have no control over otherwise it’s going to lead to unnecessary fights and disagreements within the household which is definitely not a good thing.

Shift work is tough it really is.  It’s incredibly challenging mentally, physically, emotionally and psychologically which is why it’s imperative that you remain adaptable and take the good with the bad.  There comes a time when you just have to roll with it and stay focussed on all of the benefits that come with working irregular hours because there are benefits – plenty of them.

And on that note – it’s Tuesday tomorrow and I’m off to the beach … need I say more?

The Biggest Shift Work Struggle – And How You Can Beat It In An Instant!

As a fellow shift worker, have you ever wondered what the biggest shift work struggle actually is? What’s that most annoying, lingering pain that just doesn’t seem to go away when you work these crazy and irregular hours?

Well before I tell you this, I’d like to let you know that my loyal shift work followers just like you, come from all around the world. From Africa, to Ireland, Sweden, Hong Kong, Mauritius, Canada – you name it and I’ve had someone from that country opt-in and request my Free Report:

‘Why Shift Workers Are Prone To Tiredness, Ill Health and Unhappiness – And What YOU Can Do To Fix It!’

And no matter where they’re from, by far the biggest struggle that people tell me that they have when working shift work is fatigue. Hands down, no question about it.

And what’s interesting is that the majority of people blame sleep deprivation for this fatigue. Now I’m not going to disagree with you, because this definitely contributes to why so many shift workers live in a constant state of tiredness.

But is sleep deprivation entirely to blame? Absolutely not.

Because you can actually reduce your fatigue by simply changing your eating habits.

What goes in your mouth has enormous ramifications on how you feel and your overall level of energy. So much so that you can actually escalate your fatigue by eating or drinking, all of the wrong types of food or beverages.

Just like you go and fill up your car with premium fuel, you should be doing exactly the same with your own body.

Unfortunately for most shift workers, the tendency to fill up on what’s essentially “contaminated” fuel, is a much faster and much easier thing to do. Things like processed foods and caffeinated energy drinks only zap your energy and add to your fatigue.

So don’t just blame sleep deprivation as the main reason why you’re feeling so tired all of the time. The harsh reality is that we may not be able to change the roster, or the hours that we work, but we can certainly change what we put in our mouth.

It’s about taking 100% responsibility for your health and doing whatever it takes to help you to overcome fatigue whilst working these crazy and irregular hours.

Oh and I almost forgot! How can you beat fatigue in an instant? Go and grab yourself a piece of fruit. The water inside the fruit will help hydrate you (dehydration is one of the main causes of fatigue), and the natural sugar content inside the fruit (fructose) – will help give you a more long
lasting energy boost!