Anxiety and the Hustle Mindset

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I just got back from a conference that is very much about the hustle mindset. It’s not a bad thing—if you want something, you’re going to have to work hard for it. As a matter of fact, it’s that very same sense of urgency that helped us pull our way out of poverty.

But sometimes, the hustle mindset gets to be too much. We’re told that if we want to be more, we have to do more. If we want to produce more, we have to stay up all hours–as long as we meet our sometimes unrealistic goals.

This mindset, which is meant to inspire from a place of abundance, can lead to a feeling of scarcity and, ultimately, anxiety. Why am I not achieving as much as the person next to me? I’m working so hard, but not seeing results! If I just push harder—wait, how the hell am I supposed to get all of this done?

I think as strong as the hustle mindset is in our community, there’s also a massive amount of anxiety that goes along with it which remains largely unaddressed. I’m all about working to make your situation better, but if you find yourself overwhelmed or tearing yourself apart, take a deep breath and remember these things:

We DON’T all have the same amount of time in a day.

This is such a harmful saying!

You see that saying? I hate that saying. It’s the biggest pile of crap I’ve ever heard.

Mathematically speaking, we are all on the same oblong orb that spins around the sun at an identical rate for all of us each and every day.

But practically speaking? It’s just not true.

When I think back to 22-year-old Femme, I’m thinking of a completely different life with completely different obligations. Sure, I had a job where I worked 40 hours a week. Then I’d come home and sometimes hustle a little bit, but mostly I had time to do whatever the heck I wanted. In this lifestyle time frame, I had the time to take on the most Herculean of tasks: starting a blog.

Fast forward six to seven years. It’s not just me, anymore. I still work full-time, but also have children. I have to shuttle them around and give all that extra love and care at home. It’s rewarding, but it doesn’t leave time for much else.

Except that there is much else.  I have to fight with insurance at least once a year to keep my kids on their plan (which could be a full-time job in and of itself.) Then I get to battle invalid insurance claim denials a few times a year. Some of our family lives in a food desert, so we help out every once in a while with transportation to the store.

None of these things are bad or anything I begrudge doing. But they are obligations outside of myself. Twenty-two year old Femme had to deal with none of it. There was so much time for hustle.

Maybe you’re twenty-two and have a lot more obligations than I did. Maybe you’re my age and have a lot less. Age is irrelevant. The point is, we never know what’s going on in someone’s life, and just because they don’t have the spare time to dedicate towards extraneous work-related endeavors doesn’t mean we should pass judgement. That includes not passing judgement on ourselves.

Taking breaks is good for you. And your business.

swimming tulum ruins

Constant hustle is straight up draining. I don’t care how bad-a you think you are compared to the rest of the world. Study after study shows that we as human beings only have so much energy we can exert before our cognition starts to deteriorate.

They also show that taking a break inspires greater creativity, and can make us even more effective and good at what we do when we come back. It’s why Google schedules play time for their employees like they’re ten. That space for childlike fun is still important when we’re adults.

By the same token, vacations are good, too, whether they’re extravagant or super budget. Taking time off is important for your soul, body and business. You do not have to be on all the time. In fact, if you are,  you’re probably not performing at your optimal level.

But I can’t take a break…

I hear you. If you’re operating from a place where resources are scarce, you might not have the option of slowing down. If you want to talk, email me. I’ve figured out some ways in my own life that have led to increased income and good financial habits so I don’t have to hustle as much to keep food on the table. I’d love to see if they could help you, too.

But if you’re not operating from a place where resources are scarce, know that you’re ultimately acting out of a place of empowerment rather than necessity.

Money is nice. Success and recognition can feel good. But all of it is for naught if you don’t cut yourself a break every once in a while. Acknowledge the power you have not just to be materially successful, but also to take care of your mental health as a human being. Ultimately, the latter is much more important and will have a much more positive impact on your life.

21 thoughts on “Anxiety and the Hustle Mindset

  1. Linda @ Brooklyn Bread

    This is so very much after my own heart. I am the opposite of a hustler. I’m just not ambitious in that way. This is why I know I could never even freelance – the constant hustling. I need a paycheck that is going to come whether I have a great week, or a mediocre week. I have immense respect for people who have that energy and drive. But I think it’s ok if you don’t. For me, the energy that’s left when I get home from work is for enjoying life. Maybe I will find a new passion and energy when my children are older – that would be lovely. But for now, I’m ok in the middle lane…

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I hear you on this. But the jobs that I can get, whether from my full-time job online or my prior full-time field, don’t come with a biweekly paycheck. The pay is great, though! But that doesn’t mean I need to be doing it 24/7. It’s okay to shut that stuff off every once in a while and give yourself a break for where you are in your life.

  2. Steve

    Such a great message! I love growing my blog and getting the message out there as much as I can. But, I know that my family comes first and I know that my blog will be here waiting for me when I get there! Plus, I do find that my best writing comes when I’ve taken a break and focused my mind on other things for a time! Thanks for the refreshing post!

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Agree so much, Scott! I once heard this thing saying that writers write about what they have lived—if we don’t take the time to live, our well will eventually run dry.

  3. The Green Swan

    Nicely said and I can definitely relate. My 22 year old self had no obligations and used a lot of the spare time to relax. Now I feel like the world has really sped up with a wife, a kid, another on the way and a much more demanding day job. Thanks for the refreshing post!

  4. jlcollinsnh

    When I was maybe in the 4th grade, I remember a quiz that asked this question:

    Which is longer…

    A. An hour in the dentist chair

    B. An hour playing baseball

    Clearly the answer is A, by far. But somehow the teacher marked my answer as wrong.

    Not everyone’s 24 hour day is the same and not every hour in that day is either. 😉

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      So much truth! It reminds me of this supposedly John Lennon quote. Allow me to paraphrase:

      When he was a child he was given an assignment to write about what he wanted to be when he grew up.

      The other kids wrote traditional jobs. He wrote “happy.”

      The teacher told him he didn’t understand the assignment. He told her she didn’t understand life.

      For me, I love what I do, so it’s not like the hours drag. It’s just acknowledging that there might not be as many of them to allot to extraneous work at this period in my life—and letting that be okay.

  5. Jana @ Jana Says

    I can’t even comment because I agree with everything. EVERYTHING. Especially the 24 hours thing. That is spot on perfect.

    Hustling 24/7 is exhausting. I can’t do it, and I don’t plan to do it. If it means I’m not as successful or rich, then so be it. Quality of life is too important.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I think you can still do great work even without hustling 24/7—in fact, all that science shows that your work may be better for it! And we’re totally on the same page with success/riches. I want to make my family comfortable, but I don’t really thirst after recognition or piles of cash. If I can do a little good and provide for my family, I’m content.

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  8. Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor

    I really love this post! It’s easy to feel guilty or like I’m doing something wrong for not side hustling when I theoretically could. It’s also very easy to compare success or income to others. But I agree–kids, marriage, friends, extended family, and other commitments can dramatically change the available hours and bandwidth one has. And those commitments and relationships aren’t something we should feel guilty over, so long as we are making healthy life choices.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      So much truth. And then there’s the fact that these relationships actually contribute to health and overall longevity—social capital all day!

  9. Mrs. Need2Save

    I say a big ‘high-five’ to that because I left work early today for no better reason than it’s a nice day and I wanted to take my dog to the park. He loved it! I loved it! Now I’m goofing off and starting my weekend early. You gotta leave space to recharge the batteries.

  10. Full Time Finance

    This definitely resonates. My wife is increasing the side hustles now due to being stay at home mom. Before any time when we weren’t tending to kids or working she just wanted to rest. The change to being at home with kids made her want for that work type set of accomplishments, thus making it the right time to add a side hustle. The timing of the hustle is just as important as the hustle.

  11. My Early Retirement Journey

    Hehe…thanks for the reminder. I know in my heart I wasn’t born with the hustle mindset but since starting a blog, I’ve been trying to harvest one. I can tell you it’s not working and is a cause for some recurring frustration. MERJ, why don’t you just do x, y, z for the blog… um…but I don’t really want to…


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