Shiftwork Advice: How to Manage Stress When Working the Night Shift

With shiftwork and life duties stress can creep up into your life.

Lack of sleep can can also impact your body and your mind.The good news is that stress, especially holiday stress, is manageable.

Recognizing the Signs of Stress

Stress can be sneaky, and crop up where you least expect it. The old familiar clenched jaw or racing thoughts can sometimes be replaced by overeating, headaches, or disturbed sleep.

Throughout the year, and especially during the winter, pay attention to any changes in how you feel, physically and emotionally.



The University of Buffalo lists the following as some of the common telltale signs of stress:

• Feeling of irritability or moodiness

• Inability to concentrate and problems with memory and decision making

• Changes in appetite and sleep patterns

• Increased heart rate

• Increased muscle tension

• Fatigue

• Digestive problems

• Headaches and pain in lower back


Tips to Manage Stress

The good news is that stress, especially holiday stress, is manageable. Here are some simple and practical techniques for reducing stress that can fit into anybody’s schedule:

• Make an appointment to spend time with yourself. Setting aside even just 10 minutes a day for yourself to relax can make a huge difference. When you have this “home base” of peace and quiet, you’ll have better focus on the rest of things. Use this time as you see fit: perhaps for reading, taking a walk, listening to music or meditating.

• Practice positive self talk when you notice yourself focusing on the negative. For example, rather than thinking “It’s so stressful having to shop for some many people,” replace that thought with something like “I’m so lucky to be able to share the holiday season with so many friends and family members. I can’t wait to see their faces when they open my gift.”

• Breathe deeply. Most of the time breathing is an involuntary function of the body. But it can also become a voluntary function of the mind, insofar as we have the ability to consciously regulate the depth and rhythm of our breathing. Even though it may sound simple, research shows that deliberately deepening and slowing your breathing can reduce heart rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure, and promote a sense of calm.

• Get some fresh air and sunlight. If the walls seem to close in on you at home, do something outside. Fresh air and sunlight can help brighten your mood and increase your energy.

• Get enough sleep: Sleep can help you stay healthy, productive and happy. No time for sleep?, a nap during the day can help. Numerous scientific studies have shown that a quick nap – 10 to 20 minutes – provides an alertness boost that lasts for many hours. Therefore, a nap can mean the difference between falling asleep when you don’t want to (such as on the job or behind the wheel) and feeling alert through the most difficult overnight and early morning hours.


Lay Off the Alcohol

Some people elect to “manage” their stress with alcohol. One or two drinks are acceptable on a given day, but when you feel like you’re drinking to escape your problems, rather than enjoy a festive occasion, it may be time to cut back.


Get Organized & Get Control

A large part of feeling stressed stems from feeling like you’re not in control of your situation. Many people when they feel overwhelmed shut down and stop working. One simple and yet very effective way to feel like you have a grip on your time is to keep a calendar and create “to do” lists. By using both of these tools, you can see what’s really on your plate, be better able to prioritize tasks, and see where you might be stretched too thin. You’ll be surprised to see how much better you feel once you have gotten organized and developed a game plan.


Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

If Santa can call on his elves to help get the job done, then surely you can request a little help from your friends and family to get through the holidays or a stressful time. Whether it’s getting someone to help with little jobs around the house or just having someone supportive to talk to, friends and family can help you get control, feel better, and enjoy your home life more.

 Looking for more Working Nights Tips, subscribe to our Working Nights Newsletter.

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