Nurses seem to have a love-hate relationship with the 12-hour shift. On one hand, we love the extra time off we get from cramming more hours in while we're at work. On the other hand, we hate them with a passion while we're actually working them. The third 12-hour shift is always the most despised of all. Most of the time, we've forgotten what our name is when we make it to the last four hours of the shift. We look at our watches and wonder if time has just stood still. "Just shoot me now" is a common sentiment
So how the heck do we survive these shifts? Shift work can be associated with chronic fatigue, metabolic syndrome, and an increased BMI. I call this the "screw it, let's just get pizza" syndrome. This is when you just collapse on the couch, from pure exhaustion when you get home and can't even imagine going to the kitchen to cook anything.
Well, we've got your back nurses! Here are six ways to survive these crazy shifts:
Get some quality sleep. Without it, you'll be a zombie, and that's not helpful to anyone. If you can't sleep, you may consider trying melatonin. It's a natural hormone found in the pineal gland of the brain and it regulates sleep. It helps you fall asleep, stay asleep, and it doesn't give you the groggy, drunk feeling you get with other products. Also, if you usually take calcium supplements, try taking them at night, Calcium is a natural sedative. It's why they always tell you to drink hot milk at bedtime. It's not the milk that helps you fall asleep, and it's the calcium.
Get some good room darkening blinds. They are worth every penny and will help you keep your circadian rhythm in check.
2: Watch your weight folks.
Okay, I know, I'm not going to preach too long on this subject. But you have to watch what you're eating and stay healthy. Try the Mediterranean diet. It's great for reducing your cholesterol and decreasing your risk of heart disease. Plus it keeps you from gaining weight. That's a huge plus in my book.
The great thing about this diet is that you don't count carbs, calories or anything else. You just eat sensibly. It's not rocket science. Eat whole foods. The closer to nature the better. If it's processed, don't eat it. Focus on vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds. Don't buy fattening foods, or foods with tons of sugar. If they aren't in your pantry, then you won't eat them.
If you eat a high protein breakfast, this will help you stay full longer and help provide the energy it takes to get through your shift.
3: Buy a gym membership and GO
Look, I know people always say that you should work out, and they constantly lecture on the benefits of exercise. If you're a nurse, you know this is true. I've seen so many people join a gym, but they never go. Or when they do go they do a slow 20-minute walk on the treadmill, then leave. This is not going to help you lose weight, gain energy or help you feel better. Exercise is supposed to be WORK. It's not a fun time. It's not a time to socialize with others.
It should be brutal. If you can have a conversation with someone while working out, you aren't working out! You're wasting your time. Take an hour from your day, each and every day and go to the gym. The more you don't want to go, the more you need to go. Don't think about it, just do it. Once it's over, you'll feel a great sense of accomplishment. You'll maintain a healthy weight, and you'll have more energy. You'll never "want" to go to the gym. So if you're sitting around waiting for the motivation to go, it's never going to happen. But, I've never met a person that was sorry they went to the gym as they were leaving.
Some people don't realize that weight lifting is a necessary evil. I've heard a lot of women say "weight lifting makes you big, and I don't want to be big." So you just sit at home and eat potato chips instead? Weight lifting doesn't make you big, eating potato chips does. The wonderful thing about weights is that they build muscle and the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. A person who lifts weights burns four times more calories than a person who doesn't for 24 hours straight. That's freaking amazing. Don't you think?
Drink some fluid. Sports drinks, water, juice, milk, and tea are all great to keep you well hydrated. Try to avoid caffeine if you can.
5: Take your breaks.
Stop thinking you're abandoning your patients when you take breaks. You're not Super- human, (even if you think you are). You need your breaks. If you're not offered breaks, then this is something that needs to be addressed with management. You can't be much use to your patients if you are walking around exhausted, hungry and dying to pee.
If you have time on your break, after you eat, get away from the environment where you work. Take a walk outside. Breath some fresh air and clear your head. This works wonders for allowing you to relax a little and calm your nerves.
6: 10 minute cat-nap
10-minute cat-naps have been proven to reduce stress and help you get through your day. Set your alarm on your phone for 10 minutes and just lie somewhere quiet with your eyes closed. It will make a big difference in your day.
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