COLUMN: The Rise and Grind isn’t everything

Studies show that hustling hard is less than beneficial.

Elizabeth Okosun is a sophomore journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about social issues for The Maneater.

As the school year begins, students with loaded schedules filled with difficult classes, extracurriculars and perhaps a job or two, may fall victim to the new phenomenon of “hustle culture.” From “Rise and Grind” ads by Nike to the infamous “hustle harder” hashtag, millions of Americans are buying into the belief that the only path to success is to work themselves to the bone.

College is a time meant for honing your skills in order to succeed in your career. That is already difficult enough, so to work extensively on anything else that won’t ultimately be of benefit is almost counterproductive. However, many students are so committed to the “rise and grind” lifestyle that we take on as many things as our time permits, even when it takes a toll on us.

According to a study conducted by Dr. Cindy Liu at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, three out of four college students experience stress. To make matters worse, one out of five students have suicidal thoughts, according to the same study.

So, if we know that working so hard creates stress for us, why do we continue making things difficult for ourselves?

It’s because we’re simply preparing ourselves for the grim realities of the workforce. Even as adults, the need to push ourselves past our personal limit remains intact. Quite often, millennials experience burnout due to high-stress tasks at work. A survey by the Korn Ferry Institute suggests that “nearly two-thirds of professionals say their stress levels at work are higher than they were five years ago.”

Still, employers aren’t doing enough to alleviate the anxiety their employees experience. Having time off gives workers the chance to have a respite from their busy schedules. Results from research by the U.S. Travel Association, Oxford Economics and Ipsos indicates that 768 million vacation days went unused by U.S. workers in 2018. Ample time that employees could be taking to reset and recharge after a working too hard was left untouched in the name of productivity. However, working longer doesn’t actually mean working stronger.

Many may think this additional time added to work schedules makes employees more productive. After all, if employees have more time to work harder, their productivity levels will also reflect that, right? However, that simply isn’t the case. Countries like France, Denmark and the Netherlands consistently rank high on the countries with the best work-life balance, according to research done by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. These countries also are known for being stress-free and happy, particularly Denmark and the Netherlands.

So, how do we prevent ourselves from getting caught up in the rush of constant hustling and grinding?

First, we need to remember that not everything in life, or at school, is a competition. In an interview with The New York Times, David Heinemeier Hansson, author of “It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work,” stated that “the vast majority of people beating the drums of hustle-mania are not the people doing the actual work.” It’s our professors, employers and society in general that pushes us to compete in this rat race orchestrated by the corporate machine, all in order to achieve a limited definition of success. However, it is only up to you to determine what success is and how far you want to push yourself.

This also includes learning how to take the necessary steps to reduce stress. As humans, we all have our limits of how much work we can endure. Although it’s very easy to believe that we only have four short years to live our college experience to the fullest, it’s imperative that we implement healthy habits in our lifestyles to try to offset the external stresses that we experience. One of these coping mechanisms is meditation. The Mayo Clinic says that regular meditation not only helps reduce stress but increases imagination and creativity, which could come in handy if you’re strapped for ideas on a project you’re procrastinating.

At the end of the day, we simply can’t cause the impossible expectations of those around us to cease to exist. This is a capitalistic society where employees work tirelessly without enough time off and students undergo pressure to enter debt, only to get a piece of paper that doesn’t guarantee them a job. The best thing to do for yourself is to understand your limits and take time for yourself. After all, there’s no point in running the race if you’re too tired to enjoy the victory.

Edited by Bryce Kolk | bkolk@themaneater.com

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