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How To Let Go Of Hustle Culture And Slow Down In 2022

Article Written By: Molly Ward, LSCW (She/Hers)

In today’s fast-paced society, the culture of hustling has become the norm. Sayings like “work hard and you can get anything you want!”, “no pain no gain”, or “rise and grind” have instilled that our value comes from working hard and reaching high goals.

It’s lead us to believe that the standard isn’t too high, we just aren’t doing enough. Hustle harder! Have more ambition! Do more.

Achievement and being productive are valued most in hustle culture, while rest or caring for other needs is less ideal.

What is Hustle Culture?

Afrina Arfa writes in an article for Taylor’s University “in today’s standard, hustle culture can be defined as the state of overworking to the point where it becomes a lifestyle”.

The Finery, an Indonesia-based online media that observes and analyzes the ways the creative industry works, reports “hustle culture can be understood as a fast-paced environment that feeds off long working hours and a restless sense of striving for some type of goal”.

Image of a young businessman with a briefcase running fast in a city street on a background rush hour

Hustle culture is the belief that our value solely comes from how much we’re invested in working toward a goal, typically work-related. It implies that rest is lazy and the 40-hour work week is for less ‘successful’ people.

“No one ever changed the world on 40 hours a week”, says Elon Musk, who endorses 80-100-hour work weeks for himself and his employees.

Why is it so cool to be busy all the time? Why are we praising “performative workaholism”, as Erin Griffith coined in her New York Times article? Based on The Great Resignation period going on right now, maybe hustle culture isn’t working.

Hustling can be exciting and help you achieve goals; engaging in unhealthy limits of performative-based hustle culture can be harmful.

Why is Hustle Culture Harmful?

So, what exactly is so wrong with hustle culture? Big picture; this narrow description of what success can look like creates an incredible amount of space to question our worth, value and identity. It doesn’t leave room to maintain a healthy well-being.

There are a lot of factors at play as to why we may be working or moving at the pace that we are, and it’s not always as simple as working less. For many, working more than 40 hours a week is necessary to make ends meet.

Hustle culture is the energy behind the behavior. It is engaging in high levels of performance to prove value and worth regardless of the strain it may cause on our overall well-being.

Here are the ways that hustle culture directly impacts you and your mental health:

Hustle Culture Increases Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

Hustle culture means long days and often little time to properly care for ourselves.

There’s no way to engage in hustle culture without sacrificing something else in your life, and often the things that are sacrificed are the things we need the most. Stress gets built up throughout the day and there tends to be little time left to release or manage it.

Image of person running fast, taking big leaps on ascending logs to successfully reach the top

Or maybe there is time, but you’re too burned out or distracted by thoughts related to the grind to really be in the present or enjoy things.

Our physical health, relationships with others, and interests and hobbies all need to be nurtured in order to help manage mental health issues, like anxiety and depression which can manifest from the build up.

Another trend that tends to show up, is that people are investing their time into work to distract or avoid something else – usually something that seriously needs to be looked at.

When we avoid conflicts, internal struggles, or other feelings, symptoms of depression and/or anxiety tend to increase. With schedules already jam packed and limited time to care for mental health, it gets even harder to keep heads above water.

And what happens when we’re no longer able to do the one thing that we’ve invested everything into, or it falls apart?

Something like this can not only spiral to intense feels of depression and anxiety, but also thoughts of suicide.

Hustle Culture Leads to Sleep Disruptions and Insomnia

When the day is full and there’s little time left to decompress, it can make it extremely difficult to quiet the mind. Unmanaged stress and anxiety can lead to trouble with falling asleep, staying asleep, or even having dreams about work.

These disruptions and deprivations in sleep can have big impacts on day to day life, like becoming more forgetful, having a smaller window of tolerance for stress, feeling less creative, and increasing other symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders.

Hustle Culture Increases Substance Abuse Risk

Due to the limited time that people often have to play or relax, subscribers to hustle culture tend to be looking for quick fixes and solutions.

Image of tired adult woman drinking while drinking wine sitting at home with laptop and notebook. 

Many people experience coming home exhausted at the end of the day, having little energy or motivation to exercise, clean, cook, or anything else that might help take care of themselves. It becomes so much easier to turn to a glass of wine or a puff of that joint in front of the TV, as that seems to take less energy.

When we’re already caught up in an avoidance cycle, these habits can quickly escalate and turn into the main coping skill used to deal with all things that come our way, leading to dependence and addiction issues.

Hustle Culture Is Not Sustainable

The truth is, hustle culture will inevitably lead to burn out. When we can’t take care and nurture ourselves to some degree, we loose the capacity to do what once could.

Our thresholds decrease and our passion starts to fizzle.

Our jobs and our work often give us purpose and meaning in life, and can be a protective factor when dealing with life stressors. But, without finding balance in life, you will lose this part completely, which could be devastating for some.

How to Let Go of Hustle Culture

Letting go of hustle culture can be a hard process and isn’t the same for everyone. Here are some ways that you might start working towards letting go:

Honor That Rest Is Productive

When we are in the hustle mindset, rest is often something that we refer to as lazy or unproductive. Rest is so much the opposite of that. Resting can make us feel more energized, inspired, creative and motivated.

It can often help us find solutions that we hadn’t seen before.

Slowing down and pausing is actually an essential part to productivity and being able to get things done. This could mean taking a nap instead of working through that lunch, making sure to fully turn work off outside of work hours, or taking that mental health day or vacation.

Figure Out What You Value

Identifying your core values can be a great way to get a better understanding of who you are and who you want to be. If you can narrow down your core values, then you can take inventory of the reality of how you’re showing up in your life compared to how you want to show up in life.

For example, you might narrow down your core values and uncover that family, nature, connection, play, and travel are at the top of the list. What are you doing day-to-day that aligns with these values?

You may realize that money, achievement and success aren’t your priorities, yet you’ve been aligning your life choices with those values. There often is room in our lives for evaluation and adjustments to better suit our goals and needs.

Learn Your Limits and Do What Feels Good

Everybody has limits or times that they’ve reached their capacity. With hustle culture, often times people tune these limits out and work to push past them, sending us toward burn out.

Instead, start to notice when your body is giving you cues, like losing sleep or increased feeling of anxiety. Say “no” to a project that you can’t take on. Set boundaries with those around you.

And don’t be afraid to quit that job if the environment is toxic.

You are valuable and worthy and deserve to be treated as so.

Make Goals or Intentions Around Your Mental Health

Image of a Black woman with hands on her heart. Read More: “What Is Mental Health and Why Is Mental Health Important?”

If you can set some intentions to take care of your mental health, it will be easier to know when things start to become off balance.

For example, if your goals are to incorporate movement into life more often or start going to therapy, but you’re finding that you don’t have enough time, this may be an opportunity to do some reflecting and adjusting to make sure these goals are attainable.

Unfollow Unhelpful Social Media Accounts

There are a lot of social media accounts that continue to encourage hustle culture and send messages of toxic positivity. Social media can often lead us to believe that others have it all figured out and we just need to do more.

Cleaning up our feeds can help immensely with feelings of inadequacy or not being enough. Instead, follow accounts that are authentic and congruent with your values. Or better yet, delete the app all together so you can take some time to focus on yourself.

Support Local and Federal Legislature

We’re still working with the 40-hour work week, an idea that stems from the 1920s. It’s safe to say there are changes that need to be made to adjust to the times.

Changing the standard to a four day work week is one way that we can make more time for our wellbeing and unsubscribe from the hustle. The 4 Day Week Global is spearheading a pilot to implement the 4 day work week and research its impact. To learn more about it or to get your organization involved, go to


While from the outside, hustle culture may look like the ideal way to prove value and worth, the reality is, it can be quite damaging and lead to serious concerns with your mental well-being.

With your well-being in mind, consider whether there might be one more thing you could to in order to disengage from hustle culture just 5% less?

How might it feel when you do?

Can you make 2022 the year you let go of hustle culture, and gain so much more???

Learn More About Molly Ward, LCSW

Molly Ward

Molly is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with Denver Metro Counseling who works with teens, young adults, families, and parents providing support for substance use concerns, healthy body image, anxiety, depression, and ADHD.

She is trained in family systems and uses a collaborative approach to helping clients learn ways of managing life and relationship stress.

Instagram: @therapy_with_molly

Denver Metro Counseling is a group of clinicians who provide therapeutic support for teens, adults, parents, and families. We help people learn to build positive relationships through identifying and building boundaries with themselves and others.

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