OPINION: Hustle culture is harmful; it’s okay to take a break

Elise Ledesma | The Arbiter

In today’s society, the pressure to constantly be busy and stay on top can be crushing. 

What many people don’t realize is that there is no winning. It won’t matter how many long hours you work or how fast someone gets a job done; there is always another project to complete and more people to impress.

The early manifestations of productivity culture started in the 1970s and have been made worse by the internet. “Hustle” or “grind” culture is the idea that people need to be maintaining high levels of productivity at all times. It demands that people be constantly working on their goals, whether they be work or personal. 

This culture glamorizes the idea of overworking and bases self-worth on how productive someone has been. It is the voice that tells someone they cannot feel good about themselves until they check everything off of their to do list. 

Hustle culture has a number of negative affects on people both mentally and physically. This culture fosters anxiety and burnout, and can even increase risk of disease.

In an article from Sampoerna University, they state that people who work more than 50 hours a week have a higher risk of cardiovascular (relating to the heart) and cerebrovascular (relating to the brain) disease. Working these long hours can also cause increased blood pressure and heart rate. 

The risk of mental health issues are also increased since burnout can cause workers to feel defeated and lack motivation. Psychreg explains that hustle culture creates an environment of fear and guilt and glorifies overworking that can lead to severe anxiety. This anxiety stems from fear of failure if a person slacks off.

This fear of missing out on time that they could be working holds people back from taking the vacation time off that they’ve accumulated. 

Dr. Michelle Bengston states, “Over 46% of Americans admit to having unused vacation time accrued, and almost 20% admitted to having a week or more unused vacation time at the end of the year.”

[An office desk covered in sticky notes.]
Elise Ledesma | The Arbiter

It’s okay to take time off! In the same article from Dr. Bengston, it’s explained that idleness is healthy and beneficial. Idleness is the state of being inactive and choosing not to do anything for a certain amount of time. 

Idleness can increase creativity, help us solve big problems, conserve energy and lead to health improvements. We can practice idleness quite easily by making time for hobbies and passions, setting boundaries and allowing our brains to wander without external stimulation. 

With a culture and lifestyle so ingrained in our society, it’s difficult to combat it. However, there are a number of ways to start combatting productivity culture, and it starts with practicing mindfulness. The recovery from burnout doesn’t happen in one step.

The main thing is to focus on creating a work-life balance that allows for healthy work time and breaks allotted to relax and decompress. This is much easier said than done, so where do we start?

In an article from Cleveland Clinic, experts say to put physical distance between work and home lives, disconnect when at home and to prioritize self-care and take vacations, even if they’re only staycations.

For those who do much of their work at home, it’s especially important to dedicate certain spaces for work and others for relaxing. Working from home may be nice, but after a while the comfort of the space will be associated with work and productivity, making it hard to unwind. 

The days will not run away when you choose to rest for a while. Treating ourselves kindly and prioritizing mental health over a never ending work cycle has greater benefits in the end anyways. 

Even just taking a day every once in a while to sleep in and watch a movie or taking an evening off to get dinner with friends. It’s crucial we allow ourselves to enjoy things and let our mind wander.

Self-worth is not measured by how productive one has been, and our bodies will thank us for giving them time to rest and reset.

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