As a country—and as a planet, we’ve been dealing with Covid-19 for over a year now, whether simple precautions like washing our hands and sanitizing or more substantial practices like quarantining at home for weeks or even months. All of us have been affected by COVID in some way or another this year; some of us have lost our loved ones, our health, and our sense of security, others have lost important events, landmarks, and personal goals, and even the most privileged among us have definitely had their lives rearranged.
Although suffering is not a competition, and some have (of course) had it worse than others, collectively, it’s been a shit year full of worse and worse surprises. Something that I’ve noticed—especially from my own generation—is an expectation to continue to thrive and accomplish during this time, even under the major societal distress we’re all under.
Expectations to use this time for personal and financial growth, to continuously produce, and to come out of quarantine more successful and somehow more physically fit than ever before have been wildly circulating through Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms.
My question is: when is enough enough? Our world is under massive distress right now; if there’s any time to give yourself an excuse to relax I would have to assume it would be right now, right?
Many of us are struggling day-to-day to just accomplish the bare minimum as we worry about illness, our families, politics, and staying financially afloat with the loss of many Canadian jobs.
Why are we pressuring ourselves to do more on top of the nightmare that is 2020-2021? Why does relaxing make me feel guilty? What does it mean to fall behind in the rat race? These questions all fall under the same umbrella of work and hustle culture, a culture of equating your ability to produce to your personal worth; this can lead to massive burnout and exhaustion, as well as feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness.
What is Hustle Culture?
Hustle culture is basically exactly what it sounds like: hustling. Hustling and bustling, putting every ounce of yourself into work and the pursuit of financial success, using each waking hour to in some way progress and benefit your career.
This concept is not particularly new, in Japan the past few decades have seen a rise in a work-until-you-die attitude, although there are definitely attempts to combat the over working epidemic, many people still work exhausting and borderline inhumane hours for little to no extra compensation.
However, the concept of hustle culture has been very much awakened in North America; the rise of influencers and showmanship on social media has pitted young people against each other, constantly forcing us to compare our lives to the lives of others.
How many times have you seen advertisements or YouTube videos showcasing a twenty-two-year-old “CEO” running their own “company” or an Instagram post of a fabulously rich eighteen-year-old on a yacht? It’s like a hyper narrative that makes it seem like unimaginable wealth and success can be achieved under the age of twenty-five with just hope and hustle, when the reality is that many people have been handed advantage from birth due to their financial and social privilege.
This rise in social media influence has set wildly unrealistic expectations and goals for young people behind them, suggesting that the only way to happiness, success, and even love is to work your life away chasing an unachievable goal of riches and fame.
What is Burnout?
Just like hustle culture, burnout is exactly what it sounds like as well! It’s essentially the concept that you work so hard and burn so brightly and quickly over a task, idea, or lifestyle, that you burn yourself out completely, becoming effectively useless in achieving your goals until you allow yourself to rest. Hustle-culture and burnout go hand-in-hand, living together harmoniously in a cycle of intense and short bursts of work and then complete exhaustion.
Applying yourself too intensely or too wholly will always end poorly, because, in the pursuit of a hustle-lifestyle, many people end up overexerting themselves and throwing themselves out both mentally, emotionally, or physically. Basically, much like a fad-diet, hustle culture can sound appealing but is just simply unsustainable in the long term, leading to epic highs and spectacularly disappointing lows.
The Reality About Covid-19 Burnout
Between us gals, the reality of the situation is never as glamorous as advertised on Instagram. If the world was really like Instagram, it would be made up of 90% tiny white women with big sunglasses and even bigger martinis. No, although it would be absolutely fabulous for all of us to have the financial means to support ourselves and to fund all of our own lavish vacations and big martinis, it’s just not in the cards currently for most of us.
Most of us work when we can and rest when we have to, and that is a life that should be comfortably strived for. Having some spending money and money to keep your house warm in the winter, and a job that preferably doesn’t make you want to crawl into a hole and die.
Especially in regards to the past year, very few people have the privilege—or perhaps the arrogance—to live so lavishly and carelessly. Covid-19 took 63,000 Canadian jobs in just this past December, shut down over 200,000 Canadian businesses, and cost over 21,000 Canadians their lives.
We do still see this hustle-culture promoted in our media, but it’s becoming easier and easier to see behind the curtain and to see that the reality is that many of us are just trying to keep our heads above water.
What To Do About Covid-19 Burnout?
In regards to Covid-19 and hustle-culture/the inevitable burnout, my advice is simple: ignore it. Taking care of yourself and the ones you love is a noble thing to focus on and should prioritize. Giving yourself a break is very important during this time. Do your best at the given task you’re working on, and as cheesy as it sounds,
that’s more than enough.
It’s not necessary to write the next classic American novel, or become the next yoga master while in quarantine. If writing makes you happy, if yoga makes you happy, do it, and don’t worry about profiting off of it. Participating in joyful activities without the expectation or pursuit of financial gain is normal and should be done.
Especially in times of incredible stress like this past year, burnout is very, very easy to accomplish. My advice is that your major goal should be to take care of yourself and get through day-by-day and do not worry about who’s accomplishing what. During this time, being careful, healthy, and safe is a massive accomplishment that should be celebrated.