January Stressors - Humantold

January Stressors

Kirk Pineda, MHC-LP January 14, 2022

The new calendar year is here, meaning New Year’s resolutions are in abundance. Many seek to become healthier, get more organized, learn a new skill, quit an unhealthy habit, start a healthy habit, or simply spend more time with those they love. Most (if not all) New Year’s resolutions are made with good intentions. But, in the month of January, it’s easy to look at social media and hustle culture and feel like we constantly need to work on ourselves, or otherwise fail. While this could be motivating in terms of negative reinforcement, it is neither a healthy nor sustainable approach to achieving any goal.

What is “hustle culture?”

Hustle culture (also known as “burnout culture” and “grind culture”) is a social phenomenon that emphasizes a mentality of constantly pushing yourself to your limits. While the culture was initially focused on achieving professional goals, it has spread to attain any goal. Most common examples of hustle culture can be seen in inspirational videos or social media pages sharing motivational content. Sometimes it’s even encouraged amongst the people we know. Hustle culture preaches that no matter what you strive for, you must chase after it day and night, nonstop. 

The general consensus of hustle culture is: “If you aren’t working towards your goals, you are falling behind.”

This can leave many people feeling like their road to success starts at a steep incline. What’s more is knowing how many weeks, months, or even years it could take to achieve a New Year’s resolution!

While setting New Year’s resolutions is healthy, the attitude we approach them with should be gentle and self-accepting, rather than punishing or threatening. By employing acceptance of where we stand, where we’re going, and how we’re getting there, we are relieved of the social pressure of hustle culture.

But how does one begin to employ acceptance towards themselves in the face of a culture that threatens to label people as failures if they’re not constantly working at 200%? The suggestions below could help.

Radical acceptance

Radical acceptance is the act of accepting that life is the way it is, even if it is not ideal. It is choosing not to suffer by denying reality. Examples of this are accepting traffic-ridden commutes, being okay with rain despite an anticipated beach visit, or coming to terms with a friend who suddenly just can’t see us today. Sometimes we just cannot rise to meet our goals as we had hoped. Life gets in the way, and unexpected obstacles appear. When we resist the truth, we block our ability to accept, and this creates more suffering.
Radical acceptance is choosing not to suffer any more pain than you’re already experiencing from reality. Rejection hurts. Failure hurts. Losing hurts. But we can alleviate a significant chunk of the pain we already feel from all of this by accepting—radically accepting—that this is just the current state of things.

Honoring and prioritizing more essential needs

We all have needs. We need things like food, water, and shelter. After that, we need to feel safe, loved, and accepted. Sometimes our goals make demands of us that cannot be fulfilled without first taking care of other matters. Suppose a person’s goal is to exercise more often or take up a new hobby. In that case, they have to ensure they get enough sleep, eat enough, and ensure they’re not behind on work before making time to progress on their goals.

We might have doctor’s appointments, special engagements, or a loved one in need of our attention. All of these tasks can take precedence over our goals. While goals set a destination for our lives, we have to remember all of life’s other pit stops and detours along the way are just as important.

Going slower

Speaking of destinations, our journey towards our goals is equally important as where we’re headed. Hustle culture pushes a narrative of reaching goals as quickly and recklessly as possible, at any cost. But what if we could achieve our goals without having to drain our energy or make unnecessary self-sacrifices? This is possible by going slower. Here are some examples:

If your goal was to expand your social circle, try making one healthy connection per month instead of trying every day to network. 

If your goal is to get more organized, try setting aside 15 minutes to organize one part of your room each weekend. 

If your goal is to practice a new habit, try practicing around ten to 30 minutes twice a week instead of spending hours daily.

Breaking down our goals into more tangible bits makes the initial goal much more accessible and feel more feasible. Each bit of success builds our self-confidence to make a significant change. After all, many of our New Year’s resolutions call for a lifestyle change, and we cannot expect so much of ourselves overnight. 

Disputing “all or nothing” thinking

By breaking our goals down into more manageable bits, we also relieve ourselves of what’s commonly known as the “all or nothing” cognitive distortion. Hustle culture claims this “all or nothing” approach as a motivator to achieve one’s goals (otherwise, you are a failure). Still, in reality, it hurts more than it helps to think this way. If you find yourself having thoughts like “I must achieve my goals, or else I’m a failure,” ask yourself:

How does this kind of thought help me? Does it consistently motivate me?

Is this kind of thought true about me? Is it based on truth? Where is the evidence?

Am I genuinely incapable of anything else in life if I do not achieve my goals?

Will others endlessly hound or question my worth if I do not reach my goal?

The above examples are known as disputes to assess the rationalism of our thoughts. When we dispute our thoughts and discover them to be demotivating, false, and irrational, we can make room for more helpful approaches to take their place.

Taking breaks

While taking breaks is the least-favored suggestion of hustle culture, it is one of the best techniques to demonstrate acceptance of our own human limitations. In fact, everyone takes breaks. We rest at the end of a long day to have the energy for the next one. We take lunch breaks to continue working for the remainder of our shift. We wait for a minute or so between exercises doing the next movement. Our eyes blink so that we can continue to keep them open.

Taking breaks happen all around us and within us, whether we know it or not. They are an essential component of our lives. Reaching your goals should be approached no differently. When it comes to learning something new, the effort you put into learning and the breaks you take to restore that effort, are necessary to continue progressing.

While hustle culture might say you need to constantly work on yourself, know that you are always a work in progress, whether you are moving towards your goals or simply taking a break. You are already doing the best you can, with what you have, what you know, and where you are. And that is enough.

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