They’re phrases we hear every day: The hustle never stops. Good things come to those who grind. #TeamNoSleep. No matter your career path or life goals, the through-line to success hinges on working hard—and sometimes, that means at a breakneck pace.
The sentiment behind it makes sense—set your goals, reach your full potential, live the dream—but that can easily spill into territory that lauds busy-ness over productivity, grind culture over mental health, and occasionally, a short term sprint vs. the bigger-picture marathon.
We're living in the age of anxiety, spurred by an always-on mentality influenced by the culture of social media. FOMO lurks around every corner—all day long, your feed is filled with friends and influencers documenting their work wins, social gatherings, and envy-inducing vacations, which can lead, all too often, to the feeling of "I'm not doing enough."
What started as a culture of sharing moments has turned into a constant cycle of one-uppance and showmanship that can leave onlookers feeling lonely, defeated, and lesser than. The perceived cure? Throwing yourself into work, social situations, exercising, jet-setting, and the like—filling your time with people and things that should make you feel happy, worthy, and fulfilled, without a minute to spare.
Of course, the notion of being constantly busy is not a direct outcome of social media—it has been around for far longer—but it seems now, more than ever, we are reeling from the effects. Earlier this year, burnout was recognized as a legitimate medical diagnosis by the World Health Organization. If that’s not a signal for us all to do a little reflecting on our own mental states and daily habits, we’re not sure what is.
Do you really have to respond to that email right this second? What’s the worst that could happen if you took a day off when your anxiety is through the roof? Perhaps the better question is, what’s the worst that could happen if you DO go into work when your anxiety is through the roof? Not making space for the mental clarity can result in impulsive actions, lashing out at coworkers or friends, or otherwise compromised decision-making. Constant busy-ness lacks space, and space is necessary for balance.
All of this is to say—being busy isn’t inherently bad or good. Challenging yourself in healthy ways to fill your life with meaningful work, community, and societal contributions is honorable. But so is a life commitment to maintaining a healthy balance, however that looks for you, that keeps your mind sharp and spirits hopeful. Always look out for number one—and when persistent busy-ness starts to creep in, ask yourself–at what cost?