Saturday, 19 May 2018

How to survive a night shift

Not so long ago, I took a demotion at work to give myself a little more flexibility with my hours. What I didn’t know when I agreed to the job change was that I would start my new role with 6 consecutive night shifts. Now, I have been pretty lucky up to now and only ever worked sociable hours (there was one 5am cleaning job, but that doesn’t count), so doing a night shift was something totally new to me - and not at all what I had expected! I struggled so much with the change that it prompted me to write this post, and hopefully give some of you some tips on how to survive the dreaded night shifts (or even just an all night study session).

Try to get 8 hours sleep
This can be easier said than done when it is sunny outside during the day, but is important to keeping yourself healthy and productive during the night. I downloaded the app second time zone, and figured out what time zone I would be living in during my shifts. This helped me ensure that I was not only going to bed at the right time, but was also getting up at the right time. (Turns out my night shifts make me on Australian time)

Remember to eat 
The hardest thing I found was trying to remember to eat between my shifts. Due to the shifts I would wake up too late to eat dinner, not pack anything for the night, then be too tired once I got home to cook anything. It eventually took an impact on my health and I made an effort to make the time to eat regular meals again. I’m still not used to having breakfast at 8pm, and am still upset that takeaways aren’t open at 9am, but I’m getting better at this. 

Don’t overstretch yourself 
Your days are for sleeping, your days are for sleeping, your days are for sleeping. I won’t repeat it again, I think you’ve got the point. Just be mindful of how much rest you need between shifts, and don’t try to cram your days with meetings and appointments (if you absolutely have to, then make them fit around your sleep routine). Part of the reason I went on to the shifts was to allow myself availability during the day for interviews, only I soon learned that if I wasn’t asleep by midday then I wouldn’t be waking up fresh for work. Get the rest you need, trust me. 

Take entertainment
Depending on the job you are in, the night shift may be a quiet period. In my current role it involves a lot of lone working, and essentially resetting everything ready for morning. The problem is, I can complete the jobs within my shift in far less time than I’m in work for so I end up with hours spare with nothing to do, but where I legally can’t just have a cat nap. As I have no team around me to keep me motivated during these times I make sure to pack my phone/tablet/book so that I have something to keep my mind active. 

Stay hydrated
This is the same as forgetting to eat, but way easier to fall into. There can be an urge with working nights to live off caffeine and energy drinks to see you through to morning. The problem with this is that they are neither hydrating or in any way good for your body, so you quickly start to feel sick or queasy from them. They also may keep you awake during the day when you mean to sleep. I personally try to use fizz sticks rather than coffee, as they mean I’m getting my caffeine in but also getting enough water. 

Drive home safely
This may be the most important one. If you do not feel safe to drive after your shift, don’t. Simple as. Find somewhere to have a quick nap before you travel, drink coffee, find an alternative way of getting to work, blast loud tunes, drive with the windows down and the air in your face. Use any techniques you wish, but make sure you are driving safely! I usually blast out music and badly sing along all the way home, and if it’s light I try to make sure I wear sunglasses so that I’m not too awake when I get home.

Night shifts don’t have to be dull or lonely, they can be a time of productivity if you allow them to be, and by making small changes that becomes easier. Heck, most of my recent blog posts have been ideas formed in the dead of the night. 

Ps. It’s worth noting I still detest night shifts but have just learned to make the most of a bad situation. I’m not sure advice exists on how to enjoy them rather than simply survive them. 

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Spring 2018: What I've been doing lately

It was only two months ago that I wrote my 26 things I'd like to achieve in my 26th year post, although to me it feels much longer. When I wrote the post I was far from 'happy' with my life - I mean, why else would I be posting a list of things that I wanted to change about it? Although I never spoke about it to anybody other than those closest to me, I had reached a point that being so unhappy was having an impact on my physical and mental health, and my self confidence had sunk so low that every sentence I spoke began with me apologising for my own existence.  I had to make some serious changes. I set the goals in my post to give myself some direction, and so I set to work. 

Being a bit of a geek, my first step was to take to the self-help books. After a lot of page-turning and soul-searching I decided that I was going to start focusing on me and my happiness. And that I would stop giving energy to things that were bad for me, or things that quite frankly I couldn't give a f**k about. To be honest, it amazed me how much of my life I have either 'drifted' into things or spent doing things just because it was what was expected of me. I have never been good at making decisions, or standing up for myself, but before long I went from shaking at the idea of phoning to complain about my take-away, to feeling increasingly confident telling people where to go if they expected too much from me.

Then I thought I may have gone too far. I quit my job. 
My entire life transformed the day I decided to hand in my notice. 

It was in the middle of a particularly challenging 48-hour shift, and I was trying to pump myself up enough to be able to deal with the 24-hours ahead before I could go home and be with my bunnies. There was nothing that could motivate me other than the idea of walking out and never coming back, so I spent the next 24-hours drafting my notice in my head to keep myself sane, and slyly applying for jobs in my toilet breaks. It wasn't planned, I had just had enough and was exhausted. I had nothing else to go to.  

Having a month to sort your life out because you quit your job and have no savings is not fun. I'm not going to lie I spent the first three days I was off hiding in bed watching Wheel of Fortune re-runs on Challenge to avoid facing up to what I had done. I used the rest of the time I was off work trying to put some of my plans into action. I quite literally took my own advice and detoxed my lifestyle

Not to brag or anything, but it worked. As I said, the moment my notice was handed in, my whole life transformed the day I decided I'd had enough. Here's why:

  • I found a new job - It was actually one of the jobs that I had applied for whilst sneaking off to the loo at work for a little peace, and the first job I have ever been passionate enough about to prepare for the interview for. What's even more important for me, is that it gives me the flexibility that I need to be able to feel like I have a good work-life balance, while also paying the bills and giving me chances to progress.
  • I found Volunteer work - I have always seen volunteering as a bit of a chore if I'm honest, but I had an email pop through to my spam (yes, seriously) advertising an opportunity to volunteer with canal trips near me. This not only brings out my love for boats and being in nature, but also seems like something that is going to be really fun to do!
  • I (reluctantly) made friends - I started spending more time with my friends, and with people that I care about, and began to focus on developing friendships with people who build me up and encourage me (the one benefit of my situation being that its easy to identify these people when you're down as the fickle friends won't give you the time of day anyway). The more time I spent out of the house again the more my confidence was developing.
  • I planned an entire new series of blog posts - I have always wanted to be more frugal and find ways to continue living well, but also be thrifty and save money where possible. I am also well aware that i am shocking with money and that this holds me back from doing things I want to do. I have challenged myself to get out of debt in 12 months using only "saved or extra income", and obviously to document it warts-and-all for you guys to see.
  • I made my house a home - I deep-cleaned and re-organised the entire house, doing the chores I have been putting off since we moved in along the way. I threw out all of the things I had no use for and made every room in the house practical and usable - rather than it being mostly storage as it had been since moving in. 
The amount my mindset and my life has changed in the last two months has completely amazed me, This is the first time I have ever put myself, my health, and my happiness first in my decisions and it is making me feel more focused and passionate about my life than ever - Is a little self-esteem all I have needed my whole life? 

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