The Toxic "Hustle Culture" Has Left the Discussion


The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so many things in our social landscape. One trend that tried to hang on, in the beginning, was the toxic idea that if you are not working 16+ hours per day, it’s your fault if you don’t succeed. I would argue that letting go of the toxic “Hustle Culture” that was recently on the rise, is one of the best outcomes of the pandemic so far.

"Hustle Culture" tried to hang on at the beginning, with many posts on social media saying, “If you don’t come out of this with something new, you lacked motivation, not time.” From a mental health perspective, staying busy is one of the best ways to keep yourself sane, but I've already shared how "shame" is not a good way to motivate yourself (or anyone else) to change. It creates a negative aura around a positive change and basically spoils the whole thing.

*RELATED - Before and After: Why You Don’t Need to Shame Yourself into Change

Luckily, as the crisis wears on, I am seeing less and less of these types of posts. One of the best things you can do for your mental health is to let go of "should," in favor of things that actually energize you and make you happy. That could be working hard on things you love and want to be successful at, and other times that could be taking a nap or making some cookies. The quarantine is teaching us this the hard way.

Most of my life I’ve held more than one job, started projects that my bosses didn’t ask for, and generally filled my calendar with things to do. But it is important to note that I am naturally one of the most extroverted people you will ever meet. These are things I chose because they energize me. But, when I realized this pandemic was here to stay, I had to acknowledge that maybe this meant I was supposed to slow down. I stepped back, took a break from social media and side-hustles, and really did whatever it was for myself at that moment that felt right.

And guess what? It felt good. I didn’t lose any massive opportunity by taking a break. I didn’t disappoint anyone or fail at my career. I was not disappointed in myself. I didn’t miss Instagram notifications or struggling with my website (I am not very tech-savvy for a millennial). And guess what else, all of those tasks were waiting for me when I decided to pick them up and start working on them again with renewed energy. Basically the world kept moving and didn’t leave me behind.

This is why mindfulness and meditation are such powerful and popular tools - getting in tune with what actually feeds you mentally and spiritually, while disconnecting with external societal pressure. It is wonderful to be ambitious and connect with people in your field, but it is okay to take breaks and do things simply for pleasure and not for the sake of your future empire.

*RELATED Meditation Tips for Beginners from Miami Instructors

I am hopeful, that even after the pandemic subsides, that we take this piece of wisdom with us; to enjoy our lives now alongside our ambitions. It is important to remember that pleasure and success are not mutually exclusive. It is also my hope that we can all become a bit more understanding of each other, and not feel the need to shame each other into reaching our potential, but instead support each other in a balanced life that creates more success and more joy.

The takeaway is this: hustling is not a bad thing. Feeling like a bad person for not hustling 24/7 is unhealthy, though. That’s whether you are on lockdown or not. Staying busy is great until you’re tired, and then you need to rest. It sounds like a no brainer, but this quarantine is a perfect time to practice accepting this simple truth. Get really good at listening to yourself, because when this ends and the din of social pressures gets loud again, you will need to still be able to hear your inner voice telling you what is really important for your life.

Sarah Russ, LCSW is a mental health professional in Miami focused on practical, actionable therapeutic strategies for mental well-being in a world of overstimulation and misconceptions about what constitutes true self-care. Sarah received her Master of Social Work from NYU and has been working in mental health for seven years. She specializes in healthy coping strategies and crisis management for those with chronic illnesses, substance use, and anxiety. You can follow her @mentalhealthformillenials or schedule a session with her at Arvon & Associates in Aventura, Doral, or Virtually by calling 305-936-8000.

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