If you’re working night shifts as a nurse – whether by design or requirement – the night shift blues can make it hard to establish a work–life balance. The hours make it challenging to sustain strong mental and physical well-being. If you find it difficult to combat the night shift blues as a nurse, give a few of these tips a try to help you relax, get adequate rest and achieve a well-deserved balance between your career and personal life.
- Uninterrupted rest and healthy foods: Don’t let the sunset stop you from having a healthy breakfast before you head to work. It may be tempting to wake up for invites with friends or family, but you getting up at noon equates to a dayshift employee getting up at 2 a.m. to have brunch with friends. Sleep for at least six (go for eight) hours straight before you begin your “day.”
- Connect with your family in new ways: Sitting down at the dinner table isn’t the only way to carve out time with your family. Take advantage of PTA meetings that happen in the morning just after your shift ends to stay involved with your kids’ lives or visit your partner at their job during the morning hours.
- Don’t load up on caffeine: Avoiding a drastic amount of coffee goes back to tip #1: get plenty of rest. A cup of joe to get you moving is ok, but relying on a caffeine rush to power through a shift is not only unsafe, but it’s also unhealthy. You’ll disrupt your circadian rhythm and once it’s time to rest, your body will be too alert to sleep.
- Skip the sleeping pills: It can be tough, especially in the beginning, to establish a rhythm with your work and sleeping schedule. Regardless, avoid intoxicants and sleep aids as they provide less restful sleep and leave you feeling cloudy and sluggish when you wake.
- Run errands in the morning: Use the hours immediately after a shift to unwind and get any necessary tasks completed. (Bonus: most other people are just heading into work, so you’ll likely avoid any lines or grumpy customer service representatives)
- Budget like a day shifter: Live your life on a day shift nurse salary rather than becoming dependent on the night shift differential. If you max out your spending based on nightshift pay, a move back to days will make paying bills difficult. Use the differential to pay off debt, save for a vacation, or add to your retirement fund.
- Build a sleep time routine: To help battle your body’s natural desire to stay awake during the daytime, build rituals that prepare your body for sleep. A cup of relaxing tea or soothing music at the same time will begin to let your body know it’s time to rest. Add whatever physical elements may help as well – a sleep mask, dark curtains, or earplugs.
- Say “Good Morning:” As you leave after a shift, coworkers will inevitably tell you “Good Night.” To keep a mindful balance, say “Good Morning,” instead.
Night shift nurses face unique challenges that day shift employees don’t deal with. For that reason, you must develop a lifestyle that helps you overcome those challenges (and the night shift blues) to keep you balanced and prepared to do extraordinary work.