Grinding Isn’t The Best For Your Mental Health: Here Is A Better Alternative 

I remember starting 2022, saying I wouldn’t hustle or grind my way through the year. Throughout my life, I’ve found that whenever I go into grind mode, I become pushy and anxious–two ways of being that are counterproductive to my achieving my goals. That was short-lived, as I juggled four extra jobs by the middle of the year. 

It is a norm for Americans to hold multiple jobs–after all, hustling is part of our culture as a people. I did some poking around to find out how common it is for Americans to have multiple jobs. According to the United States Census Bureau, over the past two decades, the multiple job holding rate in the U.S. increased from 6.8% to 7.8%. Interestingly, women have multiple jobs at a higher rate than men, and that rate has also steadily increased over the past twenty years. 

Why do we grind so much? This could be for multiple reasons, including making ends meet, an attempt to meet the demands of global inflation, or trying to keep up with our lifestyle creep. Whatever the case, grinding can be mentally and physically tasking. 

I can attest that by the fourth quarter of this year, I had accomplished so much but was burnt out and so mentally drained I couldn’t connect with these accomplishments. I’m not alone in feeling burned out from work. Forty-three percent of office workers in the United States said they feel burned out at work, according to a quarterly survey by Slack’s Future Forum. Likewise, 2022 data by Gallup shows 76% of workers feel burned out sometimes. Although you may feel ‘more productive’ when you overwork, burnout doesn’t come without consequence. According to the Future Forum survey, some effects of burnout include a 32% dip in productivity and a 60% decrease in one’s ability to focus. Let’s not discuss how burnout can increase anxiety and negatively impact work satisfaction. 

Rest Is Resistance by Tricia Hersey is a book that helped me put my feelings of burnout into perspective this year. She speaks about how rest is resistance to capitalism and expresses the importance of centering rest versus giving it to yourself as a treat for ‘grinding.’ She also says the end goal for rest shouldn’t be recharging to increase productivity because you are not a machine, sis. Hersey’s manifesto got me thinking about how I went from a place of intentional rest in January to working with very few boundaries for the rest of the year. I have also been exploring the effect that has had on my mental health and well-being. 

For one, staying in the moment has been a struggle as I’m preoccupied with future moments that consist of deadlines, work-related tasks, parenting, and household management. Grinding has added to my mental load, making a living at the moment more difficult. As the year ends, I realize the task list will never end, but I can choose to set boundaries with myself and learn to let the task list be, especially when the most important items are already done. My ability to rest won’t hinge on the completion of daily tasks. 

Grinding has also gotten in the way of me prioritizing wellness as finishing a work task became more important than taking a walk, sitting in the park and daydreaming, painting flowers, or working out. I also stopped doing things that ground me and bring me joy, like visiting new nature reserves and having beach days, because work took priority. This work may have brought me more money and some fulfillment, but it didn’t get me more joy. The less time I create for things that make me come alive, the more stress I feel. Unsurprising as research shows having hobbies can result in lower levels of anxiety and depression.

As the year ends, I plan to remind myself of what it feels like just to exist. To enjoy moments like waking up and looking out the window before checking my emails or replaying the same song for an hour to hear my favorite adlib. I want to remind myself of the importance of prioritizing my well-being not just on my work-free days but every day. Of moving slowly enough to acknowledge the flavors and textures in my food and to notice how gracefully the sun kisses my deeply melanated skin. I want to meditate on moments I felt most free this year, like when my feet would recite poems to pavements during my morning runs. And I want to be intentional about creating space for more of those moments next year. These moments are more important than grinding.

As the year ends, I’m not going to suck myself into grind mode or create a false sense of urgency to set new goals or get the ball rolling for 2023. My only aspiration for the rest of the year is to exist in my body as a Black woman and center rest. I will enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience this present moment and as many as I can after because I won’t get them twice. Please give yourself the grace to do the same in 2023 and beyond.

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