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The Rise and Grind lifestyle

The modern culture has made the ‘badge of busy-ness’, something to be proud of. We often brag about our jam-packed schedules and meetings. Even social media motivates for the same. Influencers are churning out motivational videos on working hard every day. Instagram feeds are filled with pictures of ‘strangers’ engaging in different activities throughout the day. ‘Hustle Harder’ has become the favorite quote of LinkedIn influencers. In essence, all these have led us to believe that “if you don’t ‘rise and grind’, you are unproductive”.

Why do we fall so easily for ‘Rise and Grind’ culture? We live in a culture that is 24/7. Social media is 24/7, communication is 24/7, Amazon Prime and Netflix is 24/7, everything is 24/7. We lack those fixed boundaries. Needless to say, we ‘Eat, Breathe and Sleep with our goals’. We are made to believe that being consistent with one’s goals is to chase after it day and night. As Anat Lechner, clinical associate professor at New York University says,

“We glorify the lifestyle, and the lifestyle is: you breathe something, you sleep with something, you wake up and work on it all day long, then you go to sleep, again and again, and again.”

We breathe work, we wake up and work, we sleep with work- from being part of our life for just 8 hours, work has become our lifestyle.

With pandemic and lockdown in place, the hustling culture has spread its roots deep and far wide. From students and scholars to interns and employees, all have taken to grinding themselves either in upgrading their skills or setting up a side hustle or both. Another epitome of this hard hustle is overworking of the employees. Overwork is no more a phenomenon exclusive to Silicon Valley or Wall Street. According to Forbes, “Employees globally are now working 9.2 hours per week of unpaid overtime on average, up from 7.3 hours just a year ago”. Also, the WFH during the pandemic has blurred the boundaries between personal and professional lives, forcing you into more hours of work, mental and physical exhaustion. Thus, ‘rise and grind’ has made the Jacks of today dull, stressed, and drained out.

In the culture of hustling, recovery and rest are overlooked. Completion of the work on hand is prioritized over everything else. Lack of proper sleep and nutrition results in stress and other health complications. The overworking also disrupts the biological cycle, furthering the harm. In a survey conducted by Ginger, a mental health provider, 7 out of 10 employees pointed out that the pandemic has turned out to be the most stressful phase in their professional career. Also, what’s the last thought that comes to your mind before you fall asleep? For most of us, it’s thoughts on work schedules, pending work, and meetings for a greater part. Sleeping with an unrelaxed mind affects the sleeping quality for the worse. All these show how our work life has seeped into our personal lives!

Modern work ethics view rest and relaxation as over-indulgence and laziness. Your brain is churning out thoughts, innovations, and creativity all the time and unless you allow proper rest and recovery, it may burn out and even lose its original vigor. And even more frightening are the reports that conclude that people of hustle culture usually have a short span of life due to over-exhaustion and over-burdening with tasks.

So, how do I stop the ‘grind’? Begins with a change. A change in the way you think of work. Given how entrenched our admiration for high-stress work culture is, however, halting our overwork obsession will require cultural change. While technology has made it possible for us to work from home indefinitely, it also ties us to work all day long. If there’s a group call where workers dial in from London, Tokyo, New York, and Dubai, some will have to attend it at 2 in the morning. If they don’t, the company will find someone who will — because as long as we glamourize money, status and achievement, there will always be people who work hard to get them. Our work cultures must begin to equally prioritize work and rest. Decelerate the pace when you feel burned out. There is a difference between slacking and pausing. Slowing down isn’t a weakness; you have a good self-awareness of your strength. So, don’t be the slave of the hustles; instead, be its master. Calming your nerves through meditation or a short stroll helps you slow down as well as clears your brain of its clutters.

In one of her TEDx talks, Ankita Chawla, the ‘Hustle Rani’ herself pointed out the need for creating a good rest ethic as much as the work ethic. An employee who works hard is also entitled to good rest. And rest and recovery shouldn’t be viewed as a choice. It’s inevitable for healthy wellbeing. The 4–5 hours of night’s sleep before bustling off to work the next day never counts as proper rest. Just as you engage physically, emotionally, and mentally in the work you do, your rest must be also on the same footing- physically, emotionally, and mentally.

We’re at a crossroads: either we can prioritize our wellbeing, or sending an email at 03.00 in the morning to impress the boss. Letting people work from home can only go so far in easing the burden — it has to be up to the workers to stop making burnout somehow desirable, and up to the companies to stop making the workers feel like they should.

“Workplaces can be very unhealthy environments — if there was any time to change the way we work, now is the time to do it,” says Maslach. “If you take a plant and put it in a pot and don’t water it and give it lousy soil and not enough sun, I don’t care how gorgeous the plant was, to begin with — it isn’t going to thrive.”

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