Hustle culture and toxic productivity are ruining your brain

The grind never stops, they say

A day in my life: wake up at 7 a.m. and grind. Some days, my “hustle” starts as early as 5 a.m. if I work a morning shift that particular day. Other days it’s 8 a.m. if I want to “sleep in.” I eat breakfast and start my day with planning and getting work done until I leave for work most afternoons. After work, I come home, do more assignments, work on different projects and repeat the whole “grind” the next day.

As the name implies, hustle culture is the social pressure to constantly be working harder, faster and stronger in every area of our lives. It’s the idolization of workaholism and the mindset that you should be overworking to the point of exhaustion.

This way of living is driven by capitalism, and big corporations and social media perpetuate it. Everywhere you look, people are constantly posting and sharing their “hustle” and “grind.” It’s not uncommon to hear things like, “sleep is for the weak” or “never stop hustling.” This has the potential to cause people to feel pressured to overwork because of this ingrained idea that excessive work means success and the only way to survive in this world.

Successful entrepreneurs love to glamorize this toxic culture.

When asked by a Twitter user about the number of hours one needs to work each week to “change the world,” Elon Musk, founder, CEO, CTO and chief designer of SpaceX, replied that it could range from around 80 to over 100.

Another example is Ross Simmonds, founder and CEO of Foundation, a content marketing agency. He said, “The hustle brings the dollar. The experience brings the knowledge. The persistence brings success.”

I can’t help but think that this culture is dangerous for students, especially, and people like Musk and Simmonds are setting up such unrealistic and unhealthy standards for the people who idolize them.

A study published in Occupational Medicine in 2017 suggests that longer working hours are associated with poorer mental health status, and increased anxiety and depression symptoms. Long weekly working hours were also associated with reduced sleep time and increased sleep disturbance. These results confirm the importance of maintaining regular weekly working hours and avoiding excessive overtime work in order to reduce the risk of anxiety, depression and sleep disorders.

We live in a society where overworking is praised, and it needs to change.

According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Stress in America 2020 survey, Gen-Z adults, ages 18 to 23, reported the highest levels of stress compared to other generations.

Last semester, I practiced this hustle culture religiously and compared other people’s achievements to my own. I struggled with balancing being a full-time student, working 20 hours a week, and keeping up with my side “hustles.” I believed that the only way to succeed was to constantly work without taking breaks.

I started to feel guilty for resting; that’s when I knew I internalized toxic productivity.

Toxic productivity is when no matter how productive you might have been, there is always a feeling of guilt for not having done more. To me, this looks like developing unhealthy habits like skippings meals, not drinking enough water, and not sleeping enough. Anxiety attacks and breakdowns were part of my daily routine.

The hustle culture is pervasive, and it left me emotionally and physically drained, and most importantly, disconnected from reality.

This philosophy is extremely harmful because it drives other students to burnout, too.

On an Instagram poll I created last week asking my followers whether they believe hustle culture is toxic for them, 51 people voted yes, and 13 people responded that they were alright.

James Taylor, a first-year Economics student at Concordia University, says that he struggled with balancing his four classes, working 20 hours a week and his side business of making prints.

With the current world and technologies like Facebook and Instagram where people always seem to compare each other to one another, it’s forming an ‘I must hustle, or I’ll be eaten’ type of environment,” Taylor explained.

David Nguyen, a graduate student working on his Master of Business Administration at Laval University, also agreed and said that hustle culture can be avoided with the right mindset and approach.

I think the key balance is finding a balance between hustle culture and straight-out sloths. Both extremes are toxic,” Nguyen suggested. “Work at your own pace, but you’ve got to put in the work,” he added.

As Nguyen said, it is all about balance and taking care of yourself. Kiana Gomes, a first-year Journalism student who owns a newly-started bakeshop business, said that her hustle isn’t toxic. According to Gomes, it actually motivates her to work harder while making sure to rest.

When asked how she managed to work 12 hours a day during the Christmas break making chocolate bombs and cakes, and delivering them, Gomes said, “I was obviously tired and a little anxious, but the rush I get from success is worth it.”

While some can manage the workload, the mentality is overall harmful. I think it’s important we understand that “hustling” is not effective but dangerous to our well-being. Productivity is not bad; over-exhaustion is.


Graphic by @the.beta.lab

Exit mobile version