The idea of working hard to attain success is not a new concept. However, in recent years, the world has taken this concept to the next level with “hustle culture”. It’s the ‘sleep less, work more, work late, get up at 5am, & then wear the bags under your eyes as badges of honour, because sleep is for the weak’ lifestyle. Many believe hustling is a one way ticket to being celebrated and achieving peak happiness, but what if hustling is hurting?
I once occupied three jobs. This often led to 18-hour days and after 3 hours of sleep, I would be back up doing it again. My employers even reinforced my ‘hard work’ with promotions and more work opportunities. However, after several months of pushing through my exhaustion with a “suck it up” attitude, the only ticket I earned myself was to a burnout; our body’s way of forcing us to stop and listen to it.
Throughout the years I have heard many variations of this story and I am never surprised. There is a dominant discourse in North America that over-values ‘productivity’ and often villainizes rest by labelling it ‘laziness’. At the same time, many are taught to ignore their emotions and physical sensations, and then are celebrated for it. This unfortunately creates the perfect storm.
But when we don’t make time for our wellness, we will be forced to make time for illness.
Yet, we are bombarded by ‘motivational’ hustle culture quotes in the media:
I’ve got a dream worth more than my sleep
Hustle in silence and let your success make the noise
Good things come to those who hustle (… when did burnout, an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and increased symptoms of depression and anxiety become a ‘good thing’?)
Having an idea of what you want to work towards, and taking steps to get there is beneficial. Shaming yourself for not getting there fast enough (especially while in a global pandemic), and ignoring your body can be detrimental. These phrases are built on the shaky foundation of “should”. I should be doing more. I should be further ahead. ‘Shoulding’ on ourselves isn’t helpful and it provides a great opportunity for anxiety to run the show.
When we are too focussed on the future, and where we think we ‘should’ be, we miss out on the present moment; where the most beautiful moments in life are experienced. So how can we slow things down and get out of this hustle-trap?
1. Set boundaries with those around you: For example, working within your work hours, communicating what tasks you can take on, and saying no.
2. Take breaks: For instance, ten-minute breaks throughout the day to stretch, move, breathe deep, eat, drink water, or play with your animals. This includes taking time off when you need it and using your vacation time if you have it.
3. Do more of what matters: Happiness will come and go like waves – I believe a good life is actually about finding time for what matters. When can you make time this week for what matters most to you? Maybe it’s for play, creativity, nature, or connection with loved ones.
4. Listen to your body and emotions: They have important messages for you (See Yoshie Martinez’s post Understanding Emotions, or Julia Malette’s post Mindfulness for more)