- Daisy Andrews
Keeping Well While Working Shifts
Working shifts often means long days, night shifts, and irregular schedules. And that can mean disrupted day to day routines and sporadic sleep patterns.
Naturally, our body is tuned into the natural circadian rhythm, meaning - depending where we live - our bodies are inclined to wake when the sun rises and sleep when the sun sets. When we work shifts, we have to interrupt this natural pattern and end up feeling groggy and off balance. It's a bit like feeling jet-lagged.
There are plenty of things your employers should be doing to help you stay well while working shifts. For example, ensuring you only work an average of 8 hours in a 24 hour period and that you receive free regular health assessments.
However, there's also plenty you can be doing to ensure your own wellbeing at work too. Here are our top tips:
Eat little and often throughout your shift
Eating small amounts frequently throughout your shift helps keep you energy levels up throughout. This will prevent you from feeling too tired and from experiencing low moods.
Take a short nap shortly before your shift to boost your energy levels
While a long sleep will make you feel more tired and groggy, a short nap just shortly before your shift - about 20 minutes - will leave you feeling energised and ready for your shift.
Establish as regular a sleep pattern as possible - no pressure if you can't sleep
With irregular shifts, it can be difficult to keep your sleep pattern regular. However, if you can, try to establish as regular a sleep pattern as possible - even if that means sleeping on a different schedule to everyone else. Remember though- no pressure if you just can't sleep. It takes time to get used to an odd or unusual sleep patterns. If you find yourself still unable to sleep after half an hour, try a calming activity like reading or listening to a podcast.
Find some more advice on sleep here.
Stay active in your breaks - even if for just a few minutes
It can be super tempting to sit, slouch and rest your eyes during your breaks, but it's actually the worst thing to do for your wellbeing and your energy levels. Staying active by walking about or doing something which uses your brain during your break can help you stay positive and energised.
Take regular short breaks - if possible
If your employer allows it, take regular short breaks to maintain a positive, healthy headspace while you're working. Don't worry if you can't. Just make the most of the breaks you do have; slot in something you enjoy, speak to a colleague, or phone up a friend.
Focus on positive, strong communication with those around you
Speaking of phoning friends, it's important to have strong communication with those around you - whether that's with patients or colleagues. Try to really engage in the conversations you have - you never know what you'll learn about someone. This blog has some really great tips on how to have more meaningful conversation at work.
Find time to exercise
Although exercising might be the last thing you feel like doing, it can actually really help. When we exercise, we release both serotonin and endorphins which help to stabilise our moods and minimise any negative feelings we might have been experiencing. Whether it's walking, yoga jogging or cycling - even just 20 minutes of gentle exercise three times a week can get those positive feelings flowing.
Plan an enjoyable and relaxing sleep routine
Identify the things which make you feel happy and relaxed outside of your shifts and do them every day or night before you go to bed. Try having a bath, meditating or reading a book. Keeping the lights down low and reducing screen time are key! Sticking to the same habits before you sleep will help you teach your body how to fall asleep more easily when you need to.
Avoid using caffeine as an energy replacement
Coffee is great. We can't deny and we certainly aren't saying cut it out altogether. But, it shouldn't work as an energy replacement. Drinking water actually replenishes your energy levels faster and more effectively than caffeine! So get yourself a water bottle and stay hydrated!
Plan your days off in advance and schedule in some fun activities
Having days off and fun activities in the diary always helps us stay positive. Planning and looking forward to future events gives you something positive and exciting to focus on when you're feeling down.
Keep in touch with colleagues (& friends and family)
It's likely your colleagues have similar schedules to you. By keeping in touch and socialising with them, you'll feel better connected with others. Of course, staying in touch with your family and friends is key to your wellbeing too.
Take one task at a time
While you're on your shifts, if you're feeling tired and overwhelmed, take a deep breath and focus on the task at hand. Don't think about your to-do list or even the next step.
Set aside time for things you love to do
Working shifts shouldn't mean you have to forget about your hobbies. Set aside time each week to do what you love. We guarantee it'll make those shifts feel shorter and your weeks more worthwhile. Don't have a hobby you really enjoy? Take a new one up - here are some more unusual ones to give you some inspiration.
We're not saying prioritising your wellbeing will be easy but these tips will make a world of difference for both your mind and body. If you have any extra suggestions or wellbeing advice for those who work shifts, send us an email. We'd love to hear your personal tips and tricks and share them with our Sunday Sanctuary subscribers!