The days of working 9 ’til 5 are long behind us. With technology advancements, flexible working and demands for goods and services 24/7, it’s no longer a case of clocking off at 5pm and not thinking about work until 9am the next day.
Everyone from office workers to tradies are feeling the impact of this increased demand and the new norm of an ‘always on’ culture. Employers are making shifts to incorporate more initiatives to promote wellness at work (think standing desks, walking meetings, on site gyms and fruit deliveries) but there are some key things that you need to do to ensure you’re looking after your health and wellbeing at work – especially if you work unsociable hours.
Careers that incorporate unsociable hours and shift work are often extremely mentally and emotionally challenging, as well as physically exhausting. (A big shout out to all of the emergency service workers out there!)
We caught up with our friend and Emergency Veterinarian Dr Alex Hynes, to learn how she prioritises her wellness and maintains healthy lifestyle with a hugely demanding job that requires working long, unsociable hours.
My passion is saving pets lives and like anybody who chooses a career in the emergency field (human or animal!) this means shift work, as nights and weekends are often when we are at our busiest.
However, I believe you can still live a fulfilling life while doing the work that you love, even if it involves night shifts!
Here are some of the key habits and practices that I have incorporated into my daily routine over the last 10 years…
I come home usually pretty hyped up from the adrenaline of a shift and it’s rare that I can go to sleep immediately as soon as I arrive home so first step is to run a bath and put on some chill music. I’ll drink a cup of herbal tea while preparing for bed and then make the room as dark as possible. I think the regular routine is as important as any single thing I do. Subconsciously it prepares my mind for rest and allows me to fall off to sleep more easily. Some people swear by ear plugs and eye masks but I find them annoying and my eyelash extensions take a beating with a mask on!
When I’m on shift I stick to snacks like peanut butter on crackers, raw nuts or a protein shake. There is always junk food around the staff room and it’s really easy to slip into bad eating habits so preparation is definitely the key. If a happy pet owner brings me in some chocolates then I’ll indulge, but in general I make sure I am eating clean at least most of the time . I stock the freezer at work with healthy options that I can zap in the microwave because I don’t get much downtime on a shift ,so it’s often eat and GO!
I have a big bottle of water beside my computer so each time I come back to type my patient notes it’s a reminder to stay hydrated. I’d like to say I don’t rely on coffee and other caffeinated drinks, but a strong espresso will definitely help me push through a long shift. I try to avoid coffee in the last few hours before I’m going home though so it doesn’t interfere with being able to sleep properly.
It’s a well-known fact that exercise fights stress, improves endurance, increases brain activity and boosts energy and mood, and I agree with this wholeheartedly! Exercise helps me reset my body clock after a couple of crazy shifts and also helps me recharge emotionally. Interestingly, I always used to be a morning exerciser but I found I felt flat and tired on a morning run once I started doing night shifts. I used to make myself go for a morning run regardless of how I felt but now I’ve realised I need to listen to my body and I feel better and stronger during an evening workout. So, I’ve switched to that routine and have found I get way more out of my sweat session!
Making positive choices and prioritising these 4 key areas will mean that you’ll not only be happier and healthier, but you’ll also have more energy and focus while you’re at work!
What do you do to ensure you balance your wellbeing with the demands of work?
Dr Alex Hynes is an emergency veterinarian with an extraordinary passion for animals, life and her veterinary work.
Alex has dedicated her life to educating pet owners and advancing the area of emergency and critical care in veterinary medicine, so that sick and injured animals can have the care that they deserve at any time of the day or night.