Wellbeing for shift workers
However difficult it is for the rest of us to take good care of ourselves, shift-work poses a host of heightened health challenges for many reasons. Irregular work patterns, disruption of your body clock, reduced exposure to daylight, disruption of social interaction with family and loved ones, fewer opportunities for physical activity, and the tendency for increased use of caffeine and sugary food to boost alertness can play havoc with your mental, physical, emotional, social and creative wellbeing.
Living out of sync with nature and the 'normal routine' and disrupted sleep amplify stress and unresourceful habits. As we all know, lack of sleep makes us cranky and irritable and it also predisposes us to conflict, making mistakes and ill-health.
Stress the epidemic of our time is merely an upset to your physical mental or emotional balance. The antidote to stress is balance. Shift-workers have to make that special effort to support their own wellbeing and balance to counter the increased stresses they are under.
Shift work and lack of sleep are linked to increased risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease, metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes, back problems, and depression and anxiety to name a few. Shift work is also associated with compromised communication and problem-solving both detrimental to performance and overall quality of life. Shift workers are particularly vulnerable to sleep deprivation.
If you are doing shift, work, here are some tips that will help you.
1. Eat well. Prepare and Stock Up on healthy foods and have them ready and nearby. When doing shift work, blood sugar levels can suddenly dip which makes you want to eat the first thing you see. Plan ahead and have healthy snacks easily available.
2. Sleep-Sleeping during the day can be difficult with noise and light (ear phones and eye pads (not i-pads) can help. Try sleeping in a darkened room. Drink chamomile tea. Use Meditation, mindful breathing and Yoga Nidra to help slow your system down and sleep when you need to.
3. Minimize Caffeine and energy drinks. Increased use of caffeine, can very easily lead to a cycle of poor sleep and lower quality of life. Sugar rushes give short term spikes in energy and then leave us sapped. Drink enough water.
4. Exercise - When you finish a night shift, it's unlikely you will want to head out for a run straight after. Do your best to fit activity in whenever you can. Exercise boosts both physical and mental health. Movement has a powerful antidepressant action, even gentle forms.
5. Think Positively and Learn Meditation and Relaxation Techniques-Because you are under more natural stress, it is even more important to maintain a positive outlook. Tools such as meditation and relaxation practices that energize and calm you and can be used at any time of day are very helpful.
6. Maintain and Enjoy a social life-When you work unsocial hours, including weekends, it can be hard to have a good social life. It is important to prioritize regular quality time with loved ones.
7. Keep your environment clean-Shift workers, particularly night workers, are more susceptible to infections because of a low or weakened immune system. Maintaining good hygiene minimizes this.
8. Have regular health checks. Prevention is the best health care.
9. Tackle stress-Stress, can have a serious impact on you physical and mental health. A certain amount is unavoidable. It is our natural response to too much pressure. Be self-aware of what stresses you and take action to address and minimize in advance where possible.