Graveyard shift. The name alone incites a feeling of #ugggg… As a student just starting off in the nursing field, the night shift is a somewhat avoidable reality. However, three weeks into my six-week stint on the graveyard crew, I’ve come to appreciate the job for the quiet — and unexpected — way it has altered my lifestyle.

My first shift was the first time I’d worked all night. Needless to say, I was terrified. I had prepared by staying up late the previous night, sleeping all day, and moderately caffeinating with good old drip coffee. After surviving 7pm–7am, I headed home and promptly put myself to bed. Around 4pm, I woke up, went on a run, cooked a hearty breakfast/dinner, and headed back to work with a smile on my face. Surprisingly, I didn’t hate this way of living.

What the night shift has helped me rediscover is this: simplicity. When I work nights, my “plate” remains remarkably uncluttered. I sleep, eat, work, sleep, run/yoga, shower, repeat. Because I’m awake when others are sleeping, my phone is relatively quiet. I’m not pulled away from thrown from the present moment by emails, text messages, and Twitter alerts. And, because I’m fearful of the adverse health consequences of working nights, I’ve paid extra close attention to my body — I’m way more “tuned in” and able to embrace the present. No longer is dinner at 6pm — Instead, I eat when I’m hungry, responding to my body’s cues that it’s time to refuel. I sleep when I’m tired, and I forgive myself for feeling tired — I’m kind to myself. I don’t push and I’m okay with that. In a lifestyle that seems so out of balance, I have been gently brought back into balance knowing that, as Erin Taylor reminds us often, “It is when we are in balance that we can function optimally.”

But enough of the diary entry, eh? How is my wacky schedule applicable to you athletes? Here’s some tricks I’ve learned. I encourage you to give them a try:

  • Drink more water
  • Eat small meals for fuel — trust your hunger
  • Prioritize rest (#legsupthewall anyone?)
  • When you “turn off” let the phone turn off
  • Sunbathe
  • Most of all…. Be kind to your body. Trust that your body is designed to communicate what you need depending on your lifestyle. Tune in!

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