Nobody Told Me Working 24/7 Was Going To Be So Hard!

background with the word help!

When I signed up to work shift work all those years ago, nobody told me how hard it was going to be.  Nobody warned me that walking around in a zombie-like state was actually going to be “the norm” for the next two decades of my life.

Not only did sleep-deprivation become a way of life –  it was my life.

Along with sleep deprivation came a multitude of other issues – weight fluctuations, digestive complaints, stress, anxiety, loneliness, little energy to exercise.  The list was endless.

Perhaps you can relate to some of these too?

Throughout my career, I also witnessed some pretty massive changes in the work place which I have to admit, at times, were pretty darn stressful.

Given all of these challenges, I always wondered if there really was a way to thrive working 24/7?

So many people before me had spent 10, 20, 30 and even 40 years working shift work leaving me intrigued.  What had made them so resilient?  Were they much more stronger than me – mentally and physically?  Did it really come down to the survival of the fittest?

Well despite facing a bucket load of ups and downs throughout my career, I did eventually find a way to stay healthy (and keep my sanity as well).  I’ve called them “My Top Five Tips to Surviving A 24/7 Roster” which I’ve outlined below: (more…)

Shift Work Stress: How To Protect Yourself From It.

Businesswoman overload appointmentsThe 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.

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 Nutrition: One Of My Favourite Foods

Healthy Homemade Avocado Toast

I hope you’re having a great week, whether you’re working or happen to be one of the lucky ones on days off or perhaps even on holidays!

It was back to Uni for me this week so I’m super-excited but a little nervous at the same time.  It’s been quite a few years since I’ve studied full-time so no doubt it will come with a few challenges however my passion for nutrition specific to shift work health, is my motivating force so I’m sure I’ll find a way to get through it and come out alive!

So this week I’m going to talk about one of my favourite shift work foods and that’s the Avocado.

Whilst I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all diet for shift workers (because we are all very different), I certainly believe that some foods are much better for those of us subjected to constant sleep-deprivation than others.

Human beings are unique creatures.  Each and every one of us has different nutritional requirements which is why no two diets should ever be the same.

However I do believe the majority of shift workers would benefit from consuming avocados on a regular basis.

And yes, I am referring to that weird oval shaped thing which is actually full of saturated fat, but it’s the fat found in avocados which provide us with so many health benefits.

Its unfortunate (thanks to a lot of clever marketing over the years), that we’ve been led to believe that a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet is actually the way to go.  We’ve been brain-washed to believe this kind of diet will help to keep us healthy and slim.

But is “low fat” really a healthy option?

No – because our bodies need fat.  Good fats that is.  I’m not talking about the highly refined trans and polyunsaturated fats but the good fats and oils which include omega 3 fatty acids.

Here’s 3 great reasons to include avocados in your diet:

1.  They help support cognitive function as our brain receptors need fat! Continual sleep deprivation contributes to cognitive decline and memory loss so having an avocado every day is going to help slow down this degenerative process.

2.  They help to reduce inflammation in the body, as they contain phytosterols and polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFAs).

3.  They support our digestive tract as they contain a high amount of oleic acid, a fatty acid which assists in the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like carotenoids. Considering shift workers are notorious for suffering from gut and digestive complaints, including avocados in our diet is definitely a step in the right direction towards reducing some of the effects of this sometimes embarrassing and painful complaint.

So please don’t be scared of eating fat!

Our bodies need fat so get stuck into the good stuff like avocados as well as olive oil, organic butter, free range eggs, walnuts and Brazil nuts.  These natural whole foods are going to support your body and help you to function as best as it possibly can – despite working some pretty ruthless hours 24/7.

P.S:  Avocados are also great at stabilizing blood sugar levels which help to keep those sugar cravings at bay so no more visits to the vending machines!