Surviving the Night Shift

If your job involves working the night shift, (late at night until early in the morning) then you probably know how difficult it can be to maintain and take care of your health. According to a study done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 15 million Americans are working the night shift.

Our bodies are designed to be active during the day and resting at night. Many functions of your body, including digestion and heart rate, are dependent on your circadian rhythm. When you work the night shift, your body’s circadian rhythm can be disturbed, causing it to become out of sync. Here are some tips that will help you get through working the night shift.

  • Manage your caffeine intake. Caffeine is a stimulant. When used carefully, your daily dose of coffee can help you to remain alert throughout a shift. However, improper use of caffeine can cause gastrointestinal upsets and muscle shakes.
  • Take a hot shower before and after your shift. This will wake you up and help relax your muscles.
  • Sleep as much as you can before. If you are someone who usually wakes up early, try to nap for at least 3 hours to reduce your drowsiness at work. Be aware that if you sleep for more than 30 – 40 minutes, your body will enter deep sleep mode. It can take around an hour to feel fully alert afterward, so set aside time for that as well.
  • Stop unhealthy snacking. If you don’t feel like eating a huge meal or if you don’t have time, eat healthy snacks such as nuts and raw fruits or vegetables. Snacks that are high in sugar may help you initially when consumed, but you’ll more than likely end up feeling moody and “crashing” later, which will induce drowsiness.
  • Don’t go to bed hungry. Have something to eat and drink before you go to sleep. If not, then you will wake up feeling hungry and thirsty.
  • Spend your off days wisely. Once your body is on a schedule, it could take some time for it to completely switch routine. Stick to a routine. Even on days you don’t work, try to stay awake at night and sleep during the day.
  • Exercise regularly and when you can. If you’re someone who feels exhausted after finishing your night shift, try to schedule your workouts before your shift, or exercise on your off days.
  • If you’re used to falling asleep with the TV on or with your phone in your hand, you should definitely “unplug” before going to sleep. Take advantage of any time you have to sleep and try to make it uninterrupted. Sleep experts recommend turning off all of your devices at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Get an adequate amount of sleep. Try to set aside 7 to 9 hours of sleep after getting home from your night shift. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and comfortable. Electric fans are great for keeping air circulating throughout the room and it is helpful and neutral background noise.
  • Bond with your colleagues. It’s good to have a support system at work of other coworkers who are working the night shift as well. Be honest with them about how you are feeling.

Working the night shift can be difficult, but sticking to a routine, eating healthy, and improving your sleep patterns can make the adjustment smoother. If you’re struggling, see a doctor. Discuss your problems with them so that they can help you come up with a solution.

 

Written by Dami Falade

Battling Fatigue at Work

If you’re like many people, you may spend time at work battling fatigue. One minute you’re feeling wide awake and productive, and the next you start yawning and feel your body progressively getting more tired. Fatigue is a common problem that affects many people in the workplace – according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one-third of adults are not getting enough sleep each night.

If you’re someone who doesn’t get enough sleep at night, the drowsiness might hit you sooner as opposed to someone who is getting an adequate amount of sleep each night (at least seven hours). Here are some techniques you can utilize to stay awake so that you’re not falling asleep on the job.

  • Take breaks. Short breaks will help you sustain your focus and energy levels. If your eyes are tired from strain and your muscles are aching, it’s time to get up and walk around. You will feel better and be more productive if you walk around, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
  • Drink more water and less caffeine. Dehydration causes fatigue – it can reduce blood flow to your organs, which slows down your brain. Keep water in your work area and condition yourself to drink 8 cups of water a day, which is the recommended amount. Caffeinated drinks will wake you up temporarily, but later on, you will feel jittery and eventually “crash.”
  • Get moving – take a walk. Physical activity stimulates blood flow to the brain. If you are feeling drowsy, take a walk or stretch to increase your level of alertness. If you are doing a task where you aren’t able to move around much, stretch.
  • Go outside. Exposure to the sunlight outside will improve your mood and concentration, and it can even boost your levels of Vitamin D.
  • Breathe. If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take a big, deep breath. There are many breathing exercises you can do while at work.

If you are still battling persistent fatigue even after making small lifestyle changes, you may have an underlying medical condition. See a doctor for help so that they can come up with a treatment plan for you.

 

Written by Dami Falade

Effects of Stress on Your Health

Stress is the body’s reaction to unfamiliar situations. Stress is a normal part of everyday life, and so is our response to it. When you feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in your body that allows you to act in a way to protect yourself. This reaction is known as “fight-or-flight”, or the stress response. During this process, your heart rate increases, your breathing quickens, your muscles start to tighten, and your blood pressure rises.

Some causes of internal and external stress include major life changes (pregnancy, getting married, or a new job), relationship problems, financial responsibilities, and academic pressure as well. Stress may be affecting your health, even though you might not realize it. Stress can affect your body, thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

The effects of stress on your emotional wellbeing are:

  • Constant worrying
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Irritability (agitated behavior – twiddling your fingers, clenched jaw, grinding teeth)
  • Angry outbursts
  • Social withdrawal – decreased contact with family and friends
  • Overeating or undereating

The most common physical symptoms of chronic stress are:

  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Digestion issues – nausea or constipation
  • Muscle tension
  • Increased heart rate
  • Weight gain

Here are some coping mechanisms and ways you can manage your stress better.

  • Identify what’s causing your stress. Ask yourself about your feelings and the problems that you’re having. Is it something that you can control or is it always going to be an issue?
  • Exercise on a regular basis. It’s important to make time to exercise at least 3 times a week if your schedule permits.
  • Utilize techniques for physical relaxation. Activities such as deep breathing, yoga, and meditation will make a huge difference in your overall outlook and help you to relax.
  • Socialize with family and friends. Talk to someone close to you about what’s on your mind. You’ll feel much better when your feelings are out in the open, instead of just bottling them up.
  • Find a hobby that you can enjoy. Read a book, draw, or listen to your favorite music.
  • Journal your thoughts. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone, writing down your feelings is a great way to get it out of your system.
  • Sleep! Getting enough sleep is key. Sleep deprivation can negatively affect your mood. Make sure you are sleeping at least 6 -7 hours per night.

Stress is inevitable. It’s always important to have a plan so that your stress levels aren’t getting too out of control. Finding stress-reducing routines that work well for you is the first and most important step of increasing side effects of stress, both emotional and physical. Learning how to manage your stress takes time and practice.

However, if you have tried all above steps and your stress becomes more difficult to manage, or if you start to develop more serious symptoms (chest pain, difficulty breathing, or irregular menstrual cycle) it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

 

Written by Dami Falade

What to Do in a Hostile Work Environment

A hostile work environment can be described as an environment where one’s workplace is toxic and unwelcoming to the point where it’s almost impossible for them to get their job done. This also includes being repeatedly singled out from the group, constantly being berated for minuscule things, or always being the subject of a cruel joke. The harasser can be a supervisor, a fellow colleague, or even a visitor who doesn’t work for the company.

Being in a hostile work environment can be detrimental to one’s health. According to a 2017 Study from the Workplace Bullying Institute, 60.4 Million Americans are affected by workplace bullying. Those who are or have been bullied can experience high levels of stress, anxiety, inability to concentrate, and trouble sleeping – just to name a few. If there have been attempts made to confront the harasser about their offending actions and the behavior persists, here are some options to choose from so that one doesn’t feel completely stuck.

  • Consider your allies. If you have a trusted friend in the workplace, talk to them. There is a chance that your fellow colleague could be experiencing the same thing that you are. Not only is it important to know that you are not completely alone, but it’s also good to know that someone else has been made aware of what’s going on, in the case that the situation escalates.
  • Keep yourself safe. Along with having an ally, it’s also important to be conscious of the circumstances. If the harasser is your immediate supervisor or even a colleague, try to avoid situations where you might be alone with them. If they invite you out to lunch, politely decline. If they keep persisting, tell them that you brought lunch from home, or that you’re just not hungry. Even though there’s a chance that nothing will happen, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Steer clear of situations where you’re not completely comfortable.
  • If you’ve followed all three previous steps and nothing has changed, the only thing left to do is to possibly look for an escape. If you have a human resources department in your company or organization, you might want to utilize that and make them aware of the situation. However, if you simply cannot tolerate the behavior anymore, you can consider resigning. Perhaps start looking for positions elsewhere. If the opportunity arises and you do get another job somewhere else, give your supervisor your 2 weeks’ notice. Explain to them that you found another position elsewhere and that you are leaving. It is important to note that you should make a peaceful exit. You never know when you’ll need a recommendation letter, or there is a chance you could end up working for the company again in the future.