Chapter 4 - Maintaining A Healthy, Balanced Life

Get enough sleep

Managing your fatigue does not mean you should spend all your time away from work trying to sleep. At the same time, it can be tempting to give things like family responsibilities, going out with friends, or even watching TV a higher priority than sleep.

Many people who work shifts feel socially isolated. They work while friends and family are socializing. Friends may stop calling because they assume you're not available. This can be frustrating, which can affect your overall health and get in the way of being well rested.

Remember that it's your responsibility to get enough rest to be fit for work. And don't forget that you need to be rested to fully enjoy your family and social time.

Spend time with friends and family

Finding the right mix of work, sleep, and family and social time can be a real balancing act. It may mean that you have to plan your time more carefully, and make more of an effort to stay in touch with friends. Let your family and friends know your work schedule. Try to plan events well in advance. You may have to organize activities yourself, rather than waiting for others to include you.

It's possible, too, that your work schedule allows you to participate in school or community activities that other working people aren't able to. Try exploring volunteer activities as a way to maintain contact.

Finding time for intimacy in your relationship may be difficult too. You may have to plan ahead - make a date for sex. Or you may have to learn to be more spontaneous. Whatever the best solution for you, be aware that you may have to make an effort for you and your partner to adjust to your work schedule.

Enjoy time for yourself

Some people report that working shifts leaves them a lot of time by themselves. This isn't a bad thing, if you can use it doing things you enjoy. Take advantage of the fact you don't need to compromise or negotiate for time alone to relax, enjoy a hobby, plan a trip or event, get some exercise - or even catch up on some much needed sleep!

Stay fit and healthy

Research has found that a higher percentage of shift workers suffer from a variety of health problems than the general population. Aside from being more likely to feel fatigued, they're more likely to report difficulties sleeping, mood changes such as depression, gastrointestinal problems like ulcers, heart disease, nutritional problems that can result in weight gain or loss, and even reproductive problems such as miscarriages or difficulty getting pregnant. One study suggests that over the long term working shifts may shorten your life by as much as five years.

Taking care of your health can combat these problems. Get regular exercise and eat a nutritionally balanced diet. Learn to relax, manage your fatigue, and get the sleep you need. Pay attention to your overall health and visit your doctor regularly.

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