You’ve Gotta #Hustle: Managing Anxiety in your Career

By Aliza Tropper, LMHC

Scrolling through social media you’ve surely noticed an overwhelming amount of content around “hustling” (as if it’s a new trend to push hard at work). Nicely designed graphics, encouraging comments, and creative posts flood our feeds with the same message – you’ve gotta #hustle. Immediately, we feel that we’re not doing enough and should be working more.

Let’s take a step back for a minute and examine the facts. Does hustling really bring in more revenue and increase productivity? Or is it increasing stress and anxiety, and leading to burnout? Is all the hype about hustle well founded, or is it an illusionary trap??

In today’s business climate there is an unavoidable pressure to constantly be available. The rise of mobile technology had rendered the 9-5 job a rarity. Responding to 11pm emails, attending after hours meetings, and running around to networking events on weekends is the new norm. And on top of all those demands, instead of using the few minutes that we’re not busy to just breathe, we’re stuck with the feeling that we’re wasting our time and should be grinding harder.

There is no question that our non-stop culture is leading people to become anxious overachievers. Without a healthy work life balance, burnout is inevitable and creates a clear risk for anxiety, depression, and medical problems.

More centrally, our pressure to hustle may actually be a result of anxiety. It’s true that some people like pushing themselves to achieve because they like a challenge or because they simply have lots of goals for themselves. But many (most?) people today are more driven by negative reinforcement: That is, they feel pressure to always be achieving, and they feel anxious and uncomfortable taking a break.

The reality is that working more doesn’t necessarily mean more success. In fact, in addition to the personal emotional and physical toll of chronic stress, sometimes people make costly decisions because they are overly stressed. Ask yourself: Have you ever regretted what you wrote when you responded to an email late at night? Did you ever make a bad business decision because you were too tired or overwhelmed at the time? Has your health suffered, or your relationships, because you are working too hard? All of these are indicators that you’ve gotta STOP #hustling instead of pushing harder.

To that end, here are some concrete tips to preventing burnout in the workplace:

● Set time limits with yourself and others: Pick a reasonable time each evening when you will turn off noficiations and stop responding.
● Take care of your physical health: Eat three meals each day (especially breakfast!), drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids throughout the day, and exercise at least 3-4 times a week.
● If you have a desk job, take small breaks every 90-120 minutes to get up and stretch.
● Connect and spend time in person with family and friends, at least every 36-48 hours.
● Devote significant time each week to something else besides work (e.g., a hobby).
● Be mindful when you are doing too much and STOP yourself.
● Accept and love yourself unconditionally. Learn to be ok with your own limits. Speak up and articulate your needs at work.
● Set attainable goals and be flexible when it doesn’t go as planned
● Tolerate your mistakes when you mess up: You’re a human being, it happens!
● Celebrate your accomplishments, big and small.
● Seek out help from others and mental health professionals when necessary.

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