Your alarm rudely wakes you – you hit snooze
After a few snoozes, you reluctantly wake up – you’re still tired, you didn’t sleep so well
Make your way to the coffeemaker – must have coffee
Feed the kids and get the kids ready
Get yourself ready – no time to eat
Rush everyone to daycare/school/work
Full day of work and meetings – zoom or in-person
Pick up kids – and get them to whatever after-school practice or activity they have
Feed family – something convenient and easy, you’re starving because you haven’t eaten all day and are too tired to cook or have been too busy to go to the grocery store
After the kids go to bed you log on – to do more work, or to mindlessly scroll through your social feeds
Finally, go to bed – but don’t fall asleep for another hour or so because you’re thinking of tomorrow’s to-do list
Next day, rinse, repeat.
If that cycle sounds familiar, you aren’t alone. It’s one that I myself stayed in for years, but even almost a decade after making significant changes, and thinking – ‘I broke the cycle!’ – I will still catch myself falling into some version of. Why?
We Become Comfortable with Discomfort
As bad for us they can be, cycles like the one above are hard to break because there’s psychological safety in the cycle of putting the hustle of our work, our family, and literally everything else above our own mental and physical health. My good friend and frequent collaborator, Alexis Lopez, LPC, stated it well:
“We’re comfortable with discomfort, because it’s a discomfort that we know.”
—Alexis Lopez, LPC
For women this can be especially hard. From the day we are born we are bombarded with images and expectations of being the caretakers and the homemakers, in addition to being bad ass girl bosses who dress impeccably, have perfect hair, and get **it done.
Our identities become tied up in the impossible expectations we place upon ourselves. Just look at all of our LinkedIn descriptions – my own included – to see what I mean. The problem starts when we become so comfortable with our growing discomfort, we don’t realize how bad it’s gotten until it truly impacts our health.
Stepping Outside the Safety of the Hustle
We live in a hustle culture – I too am guilty of posting quotes in the past like, “the dream is free but the hustle is sold separately”. It’s this ideology that makes stepping outside the safety of the hustle that much more difficult.
It requires first acknowledging that your own health (both mental and physical) hasn’t been, but should be, a top priority. It’s then giving yourself the grace to do something just for you, the permission to say no to things from time to time, and the courage to advocate for yourself for a change.
It’s basically rewiring our brains to be a little selfish. I would encourage you to think about it this way – if you don’t prioritize yourself, eventually, that hustle is going to get you. And what’s more selfish? Taking time for yourself so that you can be the best version of you for your family, friends, and work? Or hustling yourself to the point of physical and mental burnout?
Health First. Then Hustle.
When I first meet with clients (either as a Health Coach or Communications Consultant) and we outline their goals, or the scope of the project, there’s usually one or two things that we can implement right away that will make a meaningful impact in a short amount of time. Put some thought into it – what are one or two things that you can start doing to place your health first? Below are some of mine.
- Morning “Me” Time.
>Most days this is the time I use to work out, but sometimes it’s just sitting silently with my cup of coffee and getting my thoughts in order, or sometimes it’s an aimless wander around Target. But I literally do this almost every day. And, here’s the biggie – it’s blocked out on my calendar. I do not take meetings during my me time. I don’t do work during my me time. It’s MY time. Mornings may not work for you – maybe lunch time, afternoons, or evenings make more sense. But find a time and become an unapologetic protector of that time.
- Turn off the alerts and notifications.
Aside from being triggering, nothing is more distracting, or can have you chasing a squirrel faster, than the multiple alerts and notifications that pop up on our desktops, laptops, phones, and watches. “But, Shannon,” you may argue, “some of those are necessary!” Well – then start by taking inventory of all of your alerts. I think you’ll agree the majority of them aren’t. Plus, is it really necessary to have an alert go off in three or four spots every time you get an email? If turning them off during the day feels like too much, turn them off at a certain point in the day, such as after 5pm.
- Ask for help when you need it. (And, allow yourself to say, “No.”)
I will admit that of all the items on this list – this is the one I personally struggle with the most. Asking for help can feel like failure. But what feels even worse is failing to accomplish something or letting someone down when you could have asked for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work talk to your leader or a trusted colleague. Chances are there are items that can be reprioritized or resources available to help. Saying no to things can also be especially tough. When presented with yet another “thing” ask yourself; Do I capacity for this? Can I take something off my list and put this in its place? Is this an absolutely necessary thing/task/event? If the answer to any of those is no, then it’s perfectly OK to say no to the request. OR, to ask for the resources or help necessary in order to accommodate it.
- When all else fails, remember your why – your motivating factor in prioritizing yourself – to help in breaking yourself out of the hustle cycle.
Be Wary of Feeding the Mogwai
Fun fact about me – I hate gremlins. (But love metaphors, so trust me, I am going somewhere with this.)
The hustle starts with the best of intentions. Not that bad, it’s cute and fun, really. However, before you know it, it’s multiplied. Then you feed it after midnight, just a small snack… We all know what happens after that.
For many of us re-habbed hustlers, the hustle cycle will always be there waiting for us to feed it. It’s as simple as giving up your me time because someone can only meet during that time, taking a call after hours, answering an email while on vacation, saying yes to one more project, taking on just one more commitment…
It’s up to you to decide which to nourish – your health, or the hustle.