Thursday, March 4, 2010

Shifts, Stresses & Struggles


I am tired, extremely tired. The thing is that I am NOT sleepy or I’d rather say, not able to sleep.

I have a considerably stressful job…I work shifts. This has resulted in such a wide range of effects on both the mind and body. The internal clock mechanism goes haywire! Major factors affected would be sleep (the primary factor), eating habits (resulting in weight gain most of the time) as well as social, personal and family issues.

I always admire the people who work shifts and maintain a stable household while pursuing degrees and other academic endeavors. Honestly, I don’t think this is an easy task and I sometimes wonder if I would be able to accomplish such feats when I have a family of my own. I take family life very seriously and the thought of coming home to meet my family asleep, not at home, or leaving to go to school or work perturbs me.

One of colleagues recently had a new born baby. He also has a son in his teens. After having worked the night shift, he takes his son to school and then heads home to assume whatever domestic duties he can assist his loving wife with. He also has classes each Saturday. This compels him to either come in to work a little late or change shifts with anyone who is willing to do the same.

Another good friend of mine just “hits the bed” when he arrives home from a shift. At times he is simply too tired and needs to recharge as opposed to just diving head first into any routine. His wife, who is a stay-at-home mom assumes most of the responsibility when it comes to taking care of their little daughter and performing the household chores. They are also expecting their second child.

I have another colleague who is pursuing his degree and he works shifts as well. I imagine that to be quite a task too. He comes to work the “graveyard” shift (11-7) and then goes to the university where he has classes. He then goes home to do his assignments only to return to work the same shift again! Notice I did not mention the word “sleep” in any of those activities. How he functions always puzzles me.

Family life is affected in more ways than one. Working a regular “8 to 4” job with weekends off enables one to spend quality time with one’s family. Working shifts creates greater difficulty since the shift routine may not coincide with the routines of others in the household be it work, school etc.

The stresses created by working shifts can range from weight gain to high blood pressure, sleeplessness and depression.

One might think that the diet for living such a lifestyle would consist of all the energy drinks, various brands and types of coffee and supplements known to man. This is not entirely the case but some of the aforementioned are certainly involved.

As I write this, I too have to work tonight. What amazes me is that I am able to execute all my expected duties with minimal or no rest whatsoever. This is something that I am however unable to achieve when I am expected to work the daylight shift. The body somehow feels more drained and affected during this time of the day.

Working shifts also disrupts personal relationships, as I have observed. Some even refer to the shift job as the “Ultimate Cheating Job”, a term that is applied BOTH ways. One may have heard the “Yeah I gotta work tonight” or “I changed shift” routine when in fact it is not true. On the other side of this spectrum there is the cheating taking place when the person IS actually at work. At my place of employment I have encountered it all.

Relationships of many kinds are created when one works shift. Some co-workers have become intimately involved with others, married or otherwise because of the amount of time that they spend together at the job. Sometimes these relationships are not sought but somehow they develop over time.

It is said that the people at work become the “second family” and this is true. In some instances I believe that they become the first.

I closing, I believe that the support and understanding that one receives from one’s spouse, children, and family make all the difference in the overall effect of the shifts, stresses and struggles.

I still have 5 hours and 37 minutes before the completion of  my shift.

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