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15 Tips to Manage Shift Work and Your Quality of Life

Written by Akina Chargualaf
Akina is the Associate Editor at Lifehack, a writer, and a podcaster. She is the co-founder of the Dear Gorgeous Letters podcast.
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It’s no secret that shift work schedules can take a toll on your physical well-being, emotional state, and your mental health. In industries that require 24-hour-services or work weeks that operate around 12-hour shift rotations, there can still be some resistance when bouncing from week after week[1].

Over time, the hobbies you once loved may get pushed to the side and burnouts may creep in, resulting in emotions of disconnect, isolation, and possibly unfulfillment.

Changing your lifestyle is challenging but achievable. Like most of the other things in life, it’s the act of balance that genuinely affects the quality of your life.

Here are 15 tips to enhance your quality of life when shift work may be weighing you down.

1. Discover What’s Working for You

First, ask yourself which parts of your routine are already working for you.

Recently, I have come to realize that I’m much more of a morning person than I am a night owl. I write better, my focus is clear, and I feel as if I’m working at my optimal level. Discovering this was a game-changer and has helped me grasp an understanding of how to show up physically and mentally at work.

A good starting place is taking notice of the small things that work and don’t work for you:

  • Does coffee actually make me crash when I start my shift at 11 p.m.?
  • How cluttered is my mind when I go to sleep after work versus running some of my errands first?
  • I’m missing another family function; how am I feeling at work and do I always feel this way?

Noticing these small details can enhance the overall quality of your life when you have a job that relies on shift work.


2. Take a Mental Health Day

Burnouts happen to the best of us, and even the most successful people face them.

Everyone goes through a period of complete mental and physical exhaustion, but there are always signs leading up to a burn out, including lack of motivation, decreased satisfaction, and health problems. Taking a mental health day can help.

Shift work can be a stressful thing, especially when working hours that cause problems with your circadian rhythms, and giving your mind the relaxation and self-care that it deserves will help you make clear and healthier decisions.

3. Spend Minimal Time on Social Media

When you’re working odd hours of the day, it may be difficult to stray away from social media – the digital and interactive platforms that keep you connected with the “outside” world.

Engaging in social media is also an act of balance, and indulging in ample amounts of blue light and diving into the rabbit hole of scrolling will not only exhaust you mentally but may leave you feeling disconnected from everyone.

The digital world will always be there. Don’t forget to make time to connect with the real world, too.

4. Invest in an Eye Pillow

In reality, it’s not the morning caffeine boost that gets your day going – it’s the sleep you received the night before. Insufficient sleep can leave you feeling unfocused and affects the way you get your day started[2].

The Risks of Shift Work – Blue Block Glasses

    Eye pillows are great for those who might have sleep problems, as the essential oils infused in the silky fabric can help alleviate tension, stress, and help you achieve quality sleep.


    5. Schedule “Me” Time Every Day

    As a number, 24 hours may seem large. However, add in your 8-hour work day, everyday tasks, commuting, and other life obligations, and it might be hard to squeeze in an hour just for yourself.

    Spending one hour by yourself and with yourself can shift the overall quality of your life. Whether it be a designating time to indulge in a book, bake a dish, free-write, or play an instrument, this is a time for you to spend it selfishly.

    6. Create Goals

    The key here is to create goals, not a laundry list of things to do.

    Curate a list of local events you want to attend on the weekend or make it a goal to run a 5K. Consider your goals to be things that ignite those emotions of excitement, adventure, and fun. This can help you overcome the dullness or overwhelm of shift work.

    7. Take a Moment to Slow Down

    Shift-work can drain you physically, which means you must listen to your body. Oftentimes, we get lost when we’re on the go. We take our meals, our coffees, and even important conversations while we’re constantly up and running. Take some time to breathe and slow down.

    8. Set Expectations With Your Employer

    It’s about communicating with your employer and setting those expectations you can realistically meet. Sometimes shift workers go the extra mile and stay behind after work, or they end up picking up extra shifts when needed.

    Realistically, are you going the extra mile, or are your employers getting too dependent? If it’s the latter, it’s time to draw some boundary lines.


    If you have a family and you need to be home at a certain time, ask your employer to honor it. If there’s a yoga class you’ve been committed to on a weekly basis that keeps you grounded and recharged, stay committed to it.

    Setting those expectations can help bring control back into your life in the long term.

    9. Create a Routine

    Establishing a set routine can alleviate unnecessary stress, even if you’re sleeping during the day or working early morning shifts. After a long day at work, the last thing you probably would want to be doing is stressing over what daily tasks need to be completed.

    Set a designated day for laundry, grocery shopping, and other tasks that need to get done on a weekly basis.

    10. Meal Prep for the Week

    Eating healthy is one crucial factor that affects your quality of life, but taking control of what goes into your body gives you that conscious awareness of what you are really consuming.

    It’s no secret that meal prepping is no easy task, especially when shift work has you exhausted. Instead, think of the benefits it could provide – freeing up mental capacity for the week, building a healthy and accountability relationship with yourself, and saving you money[3].


    11. Do Something Creative

    Even for those who believe they don’t have a creative bone in their body, every single person in the world has a imagination unique to themselves.

    Creativity does not always have to come in the form of art, but also in the mess of baking or the rhythm when you dance.

    12. Surround Yourself With Nature

    When was the last time you stood barefoot on a damp patch of grass after the morning rain or ran your fingers through the soft grains of sand at the beach?

    When was the last time you closed your eyes and listened to the birds chirp or the leaves rustle against the wind?

    There’s another world outside of the physical world we live in when we’re at work, and surrounding yourself with nature reminds you of that.

    13. Reflect

    Although shift work can have you bouncing back and forth during odd hours of the day, there’s that opportunity to sit and reflect during these times.

    If you work at night, you have the chance to sit and reflect when the world is sleeping, which can actually be the quietest time to clear your mind.


    14. Get Active

    Physical activity is more vital than some people give it credit. Spending a portion of your day moving your body can help get those endorphins going and have you feeling ready to conquer the day or release the tension in your body.

    15. Make Time for the People You Love

    With shift work, there may be times that you are missing out on many of life’s events that are going on in your inner circle – dinner parties, happy hours, or hiking trips.

    The positive thing about working unconventional hours is that it gives you the time to reflect on the handful of people who are the most important to you and how you want to spend your time with them.

    Maybe it’s not about going to dinner parties with your friends from high school that brings you happiness, but meeting up with your gym buddy for a quick run instead. Use your time the way you want and with the people you want to spend it with.


    Final Thoughts

    Although shift work can be emotionally and physically draining, use it as a learning opportunity to get to know yourself. When was the last time you got to dive deep to get to know the person you are and who you have become?

    Not everything has to be goal-oriented, and sometimes regaining the quality of your life means exploring the little things.

    More on Dealing With Shift Work

    Featured photo credit: Luis Melendez via unsplash.com


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