OPINION: 5 low-key ways to combat hustle culture before finals

Sydney Roll

Do you feel burnt out? Depressed? Are you disappointed in yourself for not taking advantage of a pandemic to finally write that children’s book you’ve been sitting on? I’m sorry to say that you may be a victim of toxic hustle culture. 

Hustle culture is the idea that we should always be striving to work as hard as we can, and that if we aren’t using every moment of our day to advance a goal then we are doing ourselves a  disservice. This can be true for students as well, as we are all in the process of kickstarting the life we want for ourselves. There are times where it can feel shameful if we aren’t performing at 110%. 

I am not here to tell you that it is bad to be motivated, especially if you are someone with lofty life goals. Motivation, after all, is the secret ingredient that brings food from the grocery store to the fridge, so how bad can it be? But if you find yourself unable to relax, or even guilty at the thought, then it may be time to make a new goal out of taking three deep breaths every once in a while. 

So without further ado, here are five radical (but doable) steps to defeating the toxic hustle virus within yourself: 

1.Get off of social media: This is both the most important as well as the most obnoxious step. Digital self harm is real, and a catalyst for the pain can come from comparing your life to the curated lives of others on your feed. Unfortunately, these apps and websites are designed to give you just enough of a dopamine hit to not want to leave. I promise they need you more than you need them. As it has been pointed out so often as to be pushed to the brink of cliché, social media is not the real world. No one’s life is that perfect, so it’s not worth trying to reach its standards. 

2.Do something you can’t make money doing: Money is important, and there is a difference between hustling because that’s the only way to pull yourself out of poverty and pushing yourself to achieve a vague feeling of “good enough.” It is with this in mind that I invite you to draw a picture and hang it on your fridge. If you followed through on step one, then you already know that no one who isn’t in your kitchen will ever see it. It’s just for you. If you prefer, you can also take a walk, watch some TV or even make a pie. The important thing to keep in mind here is that you are not a bad person if you even decide to do nothing at all. 

3.Make “nothing” a part of your plan: Some people are more goal-oriented than others. For example, I know people who have a clear step-by-step process for each of their hopes and dreams. If you are this person, find some time in your order of operations for some “nothing” time. (Try some activities from step two, for example.) The trick here is to realize that this is just as important to reaching your goal as anything else if you don’t want to experience burnout. 

4.Realize that there is no blueprint for life: I do not consider myself to be very career-oriented because I simply value the things I do off the clock more. If you say to me “do you want to be your own boss? make your own hours?” I would say no thank you. Not everyone has to be famous, or a CEO or even middle management. If you think you want to be a doctor, but then you do your residency and the hours make you crazy, you’re not a worse person for switching to a career that better suits your needs. It’s worse to spend time doing something you think you should be doing than it is to rearrange your life to something else that makes you happier. Yes, even if you think people will be mad at you, because no one has your best interest at heart as much as you do. 

5.Watch a nature documentary: Really the point of this step is to get some perspective about your place in the world. We are organisms just like any other organism, and we don’t owe anybody anything. Lions get their work done, but they also take sun naps. All a tree ever does is grow. Unfortunately us humans have a lot of baggage, so it can be hard for us to block everything else out and just be for a while. Just remember, you are enough. 

There’s an old adage that adults like to recite to children when they’re complaining, and it goes “there’s a reason it’s called work and not fun.” I would like to amend that to “there’s a reason it’s called work and not life.” It is easy to become hyper career-focused as a college student, especially when you’re comparing your experience to that of your peers. Motivation is an amazing tool if you can utilize it, but learning to cut yourself some slack will serve you just as well as you work to build the future you dream about. 

That’s all for now. If you need me, I’ll be desperately trying to follow my own advice.