The words ‘shift work’ and ‘stress’ certainly go hand in hand with one another because just lifting our weary body out of bed and into the upright position (at the most inhospitable hour), can be somewhat challenging and stressful!
In fact for a lot of shift workers one of the most common complaints we suffer from is adrenal fatigue which is essentially the over-use or over stimulation of this gland. One of the functions of our adrenal glands is to produce a hormone called cortisol which is designed to help protect our body from stress and also help to keep our immune system strong.
As you can appreciate, long term stress (and adrenal fatigue) for a shift worker can become even more damaging to our health when our actual job is stressful. Combine this with working irregular working hours and it can be a dangerous combination.
Of course stress can fall under an array of categories. Anything from time-restraints, high volume or high intensity workload or just having people shout and scream at us can elevate our heart rate and make us extremely anxious.
Picture a Triage Nurse in the Emergency Department on a Friday night – no thanks!
The second element to stress is in our ability to cope with stress – because ultimately, we are all quite different. We can react in different ways, perceive things differently and be more sensitive to certain situations than others.
After 20 plus years of working shift work I know my limitations. I can be thrown into a situation and end up feeling emotionally exhausted or I can watch a colleague be subjected to exactly the same scenario and they hardly flinch. To them it’s kind of like “water off a ducks back”.
And here lies the key to stress. We can either do 1 of 4 things, or a combination of all four.
1. Learn to manage our reaction to stress – ie; enhance our coping mechanisms or remove ourselves from it whenever you can.
2. Become a less stressed out person! Easier said than done, but by this I mean take up things that will help to calm our body and mind. For example, yoga, tai chi or some other kind of meditation.
3. Eliminate the stress or if that’s not possible …
4. Quit your job.
That may sound a little dramatic but at the end of the day, unless we can escape to the peace and serenity of a Health Retreat (and never leave) – we are always going to have stress in our life in some way, shape or form. We can never completely avoid it because life can throw us some curve balls – whether we want them or not.
But stress at work is certainly manageable to a degree. There will be plenty of things that we can’t control (like severe under staffing), but we have to make the decision if we want to spend the rest of our life exposed to this type of stress or go and find something else to do.
If stress at work has reached a point where you feel as though you’re not coping anymore (but feel trapped with no way out), then begin by increasing your skills. Take up a new course, read more books. In essence, make yourself more valuable to prospective employers. At the end of the day as the late, great Jim Rohn once said:
“Your paycheck is not your employer’s responsibility, it’s your responsibility. Your employer has no control over your value, but you do.”
So don’t let shift work stress ruin your life – make it the reason and motivation to make it better.