by Elizabeth Dolan RN, Australia
In a recent article published in the BBC News Health section1 the author reports on an analysis of studies involving more than 2 million shift workers published in the British Medical Journal.2 The studies found that shift work can disrupt the body clock and has an adverse effect on lifestyle. They also reported that shift workers are more at risk of having a heart attack or stroke than day workers. Other studies have shown that shift work has an adverse effect on appetite, digestion, increases the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes and has an overall negative effect on health.
I have worked as a registered nurse for 30 years. In that time I have done a lot of shift work. I am still doing shift work, currently on a busy medical ward. This means that I work morning, afternoon and night shift – often all three in one week. When I first listened to Serge Benhayon’s presentations about eight years ago I was convinced that what he was saying about honouring yourself, being gentle, being self-nurturing whilst still working on a busy ward doing shift work could not be done. In fact, I felt that it was completely unrealistic and unattainable. At that time I was working in an Aged Care facility. The work was very physically demanding as well as emotionally draining. I didn’t know it then but I was actually taking on a lot of what was going on around me. This would leave me exhausted. I was at least 15 kgs overweight, drinking lots of coffee and alcohol and basically just trying to “survive life”. I was burnt out and working mainly afternoon and night shift because I couldn’t cope with the workplace dynamics that happened during the day. I was barely coping. Then I met Serge Benhayon. I was so far away from being gentle, self nurturing or honouring of myself that I felt what he was presenting was unrealistic unless you sat around and did nothing all day. I certainly could not see how it would work in a busy workplace.
Slowly I began to connect with what he was presenting about honouring yourself. I changed my diet and stopped eating gluten and dairy. This had a huge effect. For years I had known that I could not tolerate gluten or dairy but had done nothing about it. It just felt too hard to give them up. The relief my body felt when I did was enormous. I stopped drinking alcohol when I connected with the true harm it was doing to myself and others. And I began to practise the gentle breath meditation as taught by Universal Medicine. This technique is presented in a way that assists you to re-connect to yourself. It indeed did re-connect me back to my own body and I noticed that I no longer reacted to certain situations and people in the way I once had. In fact, I was now able to respond to what in the past, would have been very stressful situations, for example, dealing with life threatening incidents without losing myself in the process. I discovered through re-connecting with my body that I felt more confident with the quick reflexes and quick decision-making needed in life threatening situations. I also found it a lot easier to deal with conflict and chaos. Slowly I began to change. I lost weight without even trying. I started to do more day shifts as well as afternoon/night shift.
My colleagues at work began to notice this and asked me what had changed. They too could feel the benefit of how I was being.
Next I tackled my sleep rhythm. This is something so obvious, yet it took Universal Medicine to introduce me to the fact that there is a way to support the body that can bring about true rest and rejuvenation by how we prepare for and work with our sleep rhythm. From years of doing afternoon and night shifts I had gotten into the habit of going to bed late. I felt that if I didn’t stay up I would be missing out on something. I therefore rarely went to bed before midnight. I began to observe how I was in the evening. When I was working on an evening shift I started to notice that at around 8 pm I would start to feel tired and my body felt like it wanted to wind down and prepare for sleep. I noticed that in order to keep going with my work I had to ignore or over-ride that feeling of wanting to wind down. I did this by using whatever form of stimulant I could find, be it chocolate, coffee or an emotional reaction. I noticed that this also happened for my colleagues. Many of them would start to get grumpy around 8 pm and reach for chocolate etc.
I then started to pay attention to what I was doing before sleep on my days off. Sure enough, around 8 pm I would naturally feel tired. However, I would ignore that feeling and stay up. I was so used to over-riding what my body was telling me that I would just ignore its signals. I made a decision to go to bed when my body naturally felt tired. Sounds simple and it is. Yet it took quite a while to stop ignoring that natural impulse. I continued to work every shift but on my days off I went to bed when I felt tired. Sometimes that was even earlier than 9 pm, which was horrifying for me at first. I already felt cheated by having to do shift work, so the idea of cutting my day short when I was on a day off didn’t appeal to me.
I also started to address the harsh way in which I treated myself and became gentle with how I did things as well as being gentler on myself. I slowly began to feel the benefit of this. I discovered I had more energy. I discovered that I did actually enjoy going to bed earlier. I stopped pushing myself so much. And I discovered the benefit of waking up earlier in the morning and how I could actually get a lot more done compared to trying to do it at night when I was tired. The rhythm of going to bed around 9 pm created a solid foundation that could then sustain me when I worked afternoon and night shift. Over time this has developed so that I can now easily do shift work without being affected by it.
It is of course a continuous development. I have found of late that the way I eat very much affects how well I can do shift work. This is particularly noticeable with night shift. In the past I felt that I needed to “eat to keep awake” or “eat to keep my strength up”, but now I find that the lighter I eat when on night shift the better I feel. I find I need to prepare for night shift two days before doing it. I begin to eat lighter food. Then on the nights that I work I eat light and only during the day. I never eat during the night when I work. That way I can finish a night shift at 0700 and be back at work the next morning at 0700 for a day shift without any ill effects. It is important to mention here that this is what works for me. It will be different for everyone according to what his or her body feels.
The teachings presented by Universal Medicine are very practical and down to earth. Doesn’t it make sense that if we re-connect to ourselves we then have ourselves with us in all that we do? Reconnecting with ourselves allows us to reconnect with our body. If we listen to what the body is telling us we have a very effective way of knowing if the choices we are making on a daily basis are supportive or not. At 52 years old I feel the best I have ever felt. I am vital, my body feels amazing and I have more energy than most of my colleagues who are half my age. I love what I do and these days I love how I do it as well. Universal Medicine introduced the importance of listening to my body and not over-riding what it was telling me. Could they be on to something? Could this be a clue as to what is needed to deal with the health care crisis we now face all over the world? What if people were to actually take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing through reconnecting with themselves and listening to their bodies? In my opinion it is certainly worth investigating.
1) Shift work linked to ‘increased risk of heart problems’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-18996082
2) Shift work and vascular events: Systematic review and meta-analysis http://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e4800
453 thoughts on “Shift-work with Ease”
Elizabeth if you were able to turn around the effects of night shift, and have more energy than half the people your age, then the average person who works through the day also could experience a very rich vitality and health based on the simple and practical changes you have made.
This blog is an immense sharing. I was reading recently that people are just not sleeping at night and so their bodies are not regenerating and they wake up feeling as tired as they went to bed. So it makes sense that we would then turn to stimulants to keep us from feeling tired or to keep us awake during the day.
Learning to listen to my body has shown me that my body does understand how, when and why I experience situations in life and if they are unwanted situations, how to take responsibility to get out of them. Also, if they are amazing, my body can show me how to accept them and roll with it.
Elizabeth this is a gold sharing. Can you imagine the thousands of health professionals globally, taking a piece of the message out of this blog, and heeding the signals of the body, responding to it, instead of ignoring it, how life could change for them. In fact this message is for any shift workers.
I used to have this misconception that I needed to eat during the night shift and it was the opposite. Whenever I used to fill my belly, the nights were a struggle. When ever we had busy night shifts and no time to eat but drink, I carried on working, it was the mind that played tricks on me.
We don’t seem to have the ability to develop a healthy relationship with hunger. It would be worth experimenting with food, one thing at a time and observe how the body responded. And from this add another thing and eventually find a way to support you, your body and shift work.
It’s interesting what you have shared Shushila about the mind playing tricks on us, I have friends who are pilots and they fly across different time zones and have shift work too. And they are very careful what they eat and when they eat as they noticed a huge effect food has on their bodies when the natural rhythm of the body is disrupted and the mind kicks in almost encouraging them to eat when they know it’s not right for their bodies. I often wonder why the mind goes against what our bodies are feeling
“I discovered that I did actually enjoy going to bed earlier.” We are so wired up to think that by going to bed when we are tired that we are missing out on something when in fact by over-riding the tiredness we are missing out on feeling the natural rhythm and power of honouring our body.
Agree Mary, there is this feeling that we will ‘miss out on something’ when really our day could start so much earlier. It is beautiful to feel part of the morning when dawn is cracking through, and you observe a bit of light coming through the dark sky. Try and see and feel for yourself, it is priceless.
I love waking up early, I open up the window climb back into bed and just listen to the birds as they wake up and greet the dawn it is so magical to be a part of the day. And at this time of year they sing me to sleep too. What a beautiful way to start and finish the day.
Thank you Elizabeth, common perceptions about food and work blown our to the water. It is as you say, we don’t necessarily have to eat more to generate energy, how we feel in our bodies and energy levels are more related to how we live, what and how we eat. It is possible to work long shifts and not feel exhausted at the end of the day. The Gentle Breath Meditation and other simple techniques presented by Universal Medicine supports us to be in work, but not absorbed by work. This opens up space to love the work we do.
“And I began to practise the gentle breath meditation as taught by Universal Medicine. This technique is presented in a way that assists you to re-connect to yourself. It indeed did re-connect me back to my own body and I noticed that I no longer reacted to certain situations and people in the way I once had.” This really shows how important it is to stay connected with ourselves as it gives us space to accept and understand people without the need to come straight back in reaction.
This great blog has so many practical life-improving tips for all of humanity, but what an awesomely practical presentation it would especially be for all shift workers. I worked night shifts many years ago and I know that I would loved to have had this valuable information in my tool kit for life. It certainly would have supported me to care for myself instead of exhaust myself.
This is powerful stuff Elizabeth, and with more than 2 million people who can benefit, great to have that learning shared.
We can do so much more when we honour our bodies and live in a rhythm which takes our upcoming days into account simple really, and to hear the proof in the experience shared here is very inspiring.