Wellness Wellness Wednesday

Hustle Culture and the Importance of Rest

Happy Wellness Wednesday!

While trying to take a step away from the abnormal psychology of female serial killers to focus back on wellness, the same question has been on my mind: Why is it so hard to stick to a wellness routine? Well, I think I’ve finally come to a conclusion… It’s because of hustle culture.

Hustle culture refers to the pressure on individuals to work tirelessly, without rest, constantly being productive and making money. It’s the suggestion that Americans should still find a way to work even when there’s an opportunity to rest, and revolves around the idea that in order to achieve success, one must continuously prioritize work. Social media glamourized this lifestyle during the ‘stay-at-home’ phase of the pandemic, as it became a trend to have a side hustle (because now that we’re home, we all have the opportunity to randomly create businesses – while still working our current jobs – and make extra money, and if you aren’t, you’re wasting time). This culture change has led many to burnout as working too much, feeling under constant pressure, and having a poor sleep cycle can cause exhaustion, counter-productivity, difficulty with concentration and memory, and even emotional imbalance. Fatigue can also develop, which, compared to exhaustion, can be more long-term and can cause further damage to a person’s mental health and well-being.

Often, the onset of burnout can lead to the realization that the fulfillment promised from working hard and completing some of our biggest goals doesn’t always make us feel happier. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, nearly one-third of workers are emotionally exhausted.

The belief that overworking can overcome any economic challenge is worrisome, as it does not offer a realistic plan for overcoming financial difficulty and ignores the concept of enjoying life. Bankrate states that 45% of, or 70 million, working Americans reported having a side hustle along with a full-time job to make ends meet or have additional income and/or savings. That statistic rises to 50% among millennials. In the 2022 United states of burnout analysis, when asked what the top cause of their burnout was, 72% of Americans said work.

Rest isn’t unproductive: Communities fighting back.

Many communities have taken efforts to address their mental health concerns and combat the notion that their lives must revolve around work. One such way is the viral concept of “Quiet quitting, defined as doing enough to get by and “quitting the idea of going above and beyond” (also known as “acting your wage”). This concept has become the guide for a better work-life balance and the framework for defining and setting boundaries. It’s also the way that young professionals are putting their self-care first (by declining additional responsibilities outside their pay grade); and pushing back on hustle culture and a historical narrative held by older generations, where productivity disproportionately defines personal worth.

For people of color, hustle culture existed even before it went viral. The stereotypes imposed on marginalized communities surrounding their ability to succeed directly contribute to the behavior of the community. “For hundreds of years during enslavement, Black folks were used as labor, and we were only as valuable as our ability to work,” said Natasha Reynolds, a psychotherapist at Bloom Psychology & Wellness in Toronto. “So, our humanity was stripped from us, and the generational legacies around needing to work to survive still exist today.” As a result, many Black women feel they must work at 150% while most others can follow the status quo. This causes many women to doubt themselves, adding to feelings of exhaustion and inability to be as intentional in how we move through the world.

Tricia Hersey, activist and founder of the Nap Ministry, a collective that describes itself as an organization that examines “the liberating power of naps,” created the “Rest is Resistance” framework promoting the benefits of rest for mental health. This concept – now widely adopted by Black thought leaders, mental health advocates, and the public – aims to fight against systems of oppression through physical rest and to show Black people the power that rests holds.

The Rest is Resistance movement helps Black people unlearn the relationship between labor and value and is an aid for healing from ongoing racial trauma, says Reynolds. As asserted by Ebony Butler, a psychologist in Texas, the feeling that more work is required from Black people may also be related to the idea that many Black folks have or had limited access to resources throughout their lives — like attending a school with less funding than schools in white neighborhoods or not getting a mortgage because of discriminatory housing practices. “One of the things the rest movement says is you can take a break … giving us permission to not be in survival mode all of the time,” Butler added.

“[This] can become radical in terms of being able to arm ourselves. Rest arms us with the ability to be our best selves and to live with more intention,” states Lewis.

Rest doesn’t only mean just sleep.

It also doesn’t mean simply taking time off and returning to your busy schedule. Rest is prioritizing inactivity or any form of activity that makes you feel restored and refreshed. According to Butler, “whatever makes you feel fulfilled and gives you a better quality of life or a shot at a better quality of life – that’s what rest is.”

In a 2021 TED piece celebrated physician and researcher Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith described how there are seven different kinds of rest. Explaining how we often believe we’re rested because we have gotten enough sleep, when in reality, we are missing out on other types of rest we desperately need; Dr. Dalton-Smith asserts that all seven kinds of rest are equally important and necessary for a fulfilling life.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has suggested that a period of stillness and rest may be a necessary precursor to a more active mental health recovery. According to NAMI, after a period of rest, you may find that you are more motivated to engage in activities like exercise, reading, crafting, journaling, or spending time with loved ones. You are more likely to benefit from those wellness-promoting activities if you have taken time to rest first.

“We need to resist the belief that we’re not allowed to just be. It is human to rest,” declares Reynolds.

Butler asserts that in the social media realm, people paint rest as a vacation or a luxurious experience, but it doesn’t have to be that. It can include that, but it can also include simply going outside, taking a walk, getting some sunlight, reading a book, taking a bath – even staying in bed. “I would encourage people to think about all the ways that rest can show up for them in their lives that they have access to right now,” states Butler. What are the things you have control over, and what could enhance your quality of life if you took a break from them right now? This could mean avoiding social media for an hour or watching a movie instead of catching up with someone who depletes your energy — both of these things cost nothing but could add great value to your mental health.

“Rest is productive and necessary and important, and rest is not selfish. Rather it’s the opposite,” says Reynolds. “When you feed into yourself, you create energy reservoirs for yourself to be able to actually pour into others around you more effectively and also meet your own future needs as well.”

Defining rest for yourself requires listening to your body.

“Rest looks and feels different for different people, and I don’t think there’s necessarily one particular explanation for what rest can look like,” states Karen Conlon, LCSW, founder and clinical director of Cohesive Therapy NYC. “However, there could be a general consensus around what it could feel like. One might say, ‘When I feel rested, I don’t feel worried, and my body doesn’t feel tense,’ or, ‘My body feels relaxed. When I am resting, my mind isn’t ruminating.’”

In a 2015 paper published in the journal Global Qualitative Nursing Research, Dr. Margareta Asp declares: “The essence of rest is an experience of harmony concerning one’s feelings, actions, and motivation. This implies that there is a capacity for actions, which is carried out in accordance with a sensation of pleasure. Rest appears when one’s needs and longing correspond to the shape and character of the environment. Rest takes many different states, from calm, demand-free, and peaceful conditions to conditions where one is open and perceptive to pleasurable impressions.”

You must check in with yourself to figure out what rest means for you.

If your body is telling you to rest, acting on that information is essential. “Way before you hit that point of no return, your [body has already given] you signals that it needs something,” says Conlon. Unfortunately, this is often when people tend to disregard or downplay the signs. She says: “They will ignore it and say, ‘Oh, whatever. Yeah, yeah, I think I’m getting sick.’ No—you know you’re getting sick.”

“A lot of times people think, Oh, well, let me just wait,” she continues. “Sometimes it’s difficult for people to listen to their bodies because what their bodies are telling them, especially within the realm of rest, goes against what they think they should be doing.” 

Figuring that out will likely take some trial and error, but Conlon suggests that doing way, way less than you usually would, is an excellent place to start. “Cut what you’re doing by 99%.” This can feel extremely hard, but when you’re sick or burned out, you can’t expect your body or your life to function like it normally would. “That’s kind of the whole definition of going through a Bad Time; things are going to look different because things are different. The trash might pile up, or you might miss a deadline at work, or your kid might have to skip a birthday party because you’re unable to take them. This stuff happens, and it’s not a moral failing on your part if it does,” states Rachel Wilkerson Miller, Editor-in-Chief of SELF Magazine, in her 2022 story on what it means to truly rest

Rest is the foundation for intentional self-care. “The purpose of finding rest is being able to use your most precious commodity – time, more intentionally towards uncovering and pursuing your mission, with a mind, body, and heart that isn’t depleted and addicted to busyness and distraction,” states Dr. Jonathan Ramachenderan @thehealthyGP in his 2019 blog post.

Sustainable happiness comes from love and purpose and is rooted in your relationships and connections with others. Being content with where you are, helps you settle into what you appreciate and prioritize what’s important to you – whether it’s relationships, education, helping others, creating art, or all of the above.


Since completing my undergraduate studies, I've dedicated my time to supporting and empowering individuals with behavioral health issues. This blog is to be a platform for the behavioral health community; examining the history of behavioral health and the progressions made within the field while providing information and resources to those who need it.

2 comments on “Hustle Culture and the Importance of Rest

  1. Wonderful post, full of useful info and informative graphics! Will be saving for future reference!

    Liked by 1 person

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