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How to survive working 12-hour shifts

How to survive working 12-hour shifts
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If you’re in a position where you have to work twelve-hour shifts, you’ll know just how long those twelve hours can feel! In the UK, 12-hour shift jobs are usually night shifts, and the type of work can include anything from nursing to truck driving to production packing.

Whatever line of work you’re in, 12-hour shifts can leave you feeling mentally and physically drained. Here are ten tips to help you survive your shifts and maintain your motivation and general health when working long hours.

Get enough sleep!

This may seem very obvious, but when you are working 12-hour shifts, it’s important that you plan your sleep schedule around them. Remember that 8 hours of sleep is ideal, but 6 hours will also do if you’re struggling to find time for 8 hours. The quality of your sleep is also just as important as the length of your sleep, so ensure that you’re sleeping in a quiet environment with no disturbances if possible.

Being well-rested will help you maintain a positive attitude during your shift, and getting enough sleep also plays an integral role in your general health.

Stretch regularly

If you have a job, such as packing, where you sit in one position for the majority of your shift and perform the same movements over and over again, you need to prioritise stretching! Stretching will prevent any muscle cramps and prevent long-term muscular issues. Ensure that you stretch your neck, hands and backs if you are spending a lot of time in a seated position. You should try stretching every few hours if possible. After every stretching session, you should feel a little boost of energy, and you re-energise your muscles. The long-term benefits of stretching are truly incredible.

Preparation is key

Preparation is so important when it comes to working long shifts. Organise as much as possible the night before by:

  • Ironing your work uniform
  • Packing your bag
  • Making your lunch
  • Tidying your home
  • Planning your breakfast

This way, getting ready for work will be a breeze, and you won’t leave in a rush or feel stressed as you’re getting ready for work. Having everything organised the night before will bring peace and orderliness to your routine.

Bring a healthy, packed lunch

One of the worst feelings is when you forget to bring lunch to work. Some workspaces do not offer catering services and may not have any affordable restaurants or cafes nearby.  Ensure that you bring a healthy, packed lunch into work each day, which perhaps also includes a little treat for you to look forward to.

Try and get all the food groups into this meal so that you know that you’re getting all the nutrients you need and are prioritising your health. Going hungry on shift could cause fatigue and even fainting.

Make the most of your lunch break

If you can, try and take your lunch break as late as possible. That way, when you return from your break, you won’t have much longer left to go on your shift. If you take your lunch break early, it can really drag out the day and make your shift feel much longer than it really is.

When on our break, prioritise the things you need to get done if any. Ensure that you reply to any urgent messages on your phone, get enough to eat, and take a few minutes to relax outside of the work environment simply. Go for a walk if you feel you need the fresh air.

Stay hydrated

Not drinking enough water during your shift could lead to dehydration and fatigue. If you battle to remember to drink water, set reminders on your phone and buy yourself an aluminium water bottle so that you always have cold water on you. Give yourself water drinking goals throughout the day and increase them as you reach them.

Drinking water will help maintain your health and energy levels.

Keep busy in your spare time

Depending on what type of job you have, you may find yourself with some time to spare. Keeping busy in your spare time will help your shift go faster. If you’re a nurse, bring a book to read or spend your spare time helping your colleagues. If you’re a truck driver, make sure you have some good music or interesting podcasts to listen to on the road.

Have a goal and remind yourself of it

In the midst of a twelve-hour shift, you may begin to feel very demotivated and question the reasoning for you taking on such long hours. Ensure that you have a goal in mind and remind yourself of it when you begin to feel demotivated. This goal could be simply paying the rent or gaining industry experience so that you can get your dream job in the future. Whatever it is, keep it in the front of your mind, and it will make getting through your shift much easier.

Take healthy supplements

While coffee and caffeine may be tempting sources of energy, they usually give you a quick spike and then will leave you feeling drained the rest of your shift. A much better solution for maintaining your energy levels and general health would be to take a good, healthy supplement. Vitamin D, Vitamin B, and Omega-3 would all be beneficial and are usually all included in standard multi-vitamins which are available at your local chemist. Superfoods such as moringa powder are also worth looking into.

Speak to your doctor and see what they recommend for you.

Don’t take on too many shifts

You may have an aim to make as much money as possible, but you should not sacrifice your health. Don’t take on more 12-hour shifts than you can realistically handle, and speak to your employer if you are struggling to keep up with your current shifts and workload. In the UK, you are only legally allowed to work three 12-hour shifts a week, and this is mostly because of health reasons, so take this seriously…especially if you are working multiple jobs. Your health should always come first. For more information on ‘how many 12 hour shifts can i work in a row‘ see our new article.



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