It’s fairly often that I scroll through Instagram and am inspired to screenshot an image I want to emulate, a quote I want to remember or a product I want to know more about. But once that screenshot is saved to my camera roll, it’s not too likely that I go back to it the way I plan to. Until I ran across this image, reposted by writer Elizabeth Gilbert, and coined by photographer Jane Johnson: #RestIstheNewHustle.
It was a jaw-dropping, time-stopping moment when I felt like some of the longings of my soul had been finally heard—and then were neatly summarized into one piece of hand-lettered imagery.
It might sound like an exaggeration, but it’s actually quite true: I’ve spend the better part of the last year deliberately slowing down to a pace that actually hears and responds to my body’s attempts to grab my attention. And while I know this isn’t a new story, what’s a little different for me is that my year of rest was doctor-mandated.
I have celiac disease and it went undiagnosed for long enough that it started to cause other health issues, including nutrient deficiencies, exhaustion and internal infections. Two years of restorative, holistic treatment only got me so far, and in spring 2015, my doctor told me that the best prescription was to stop working full time for a year.
After a long process of tears, worry and lots of budgeting conversations with my nonprofit-employed husband, things miraculously fell into place for me to take a year of working only part-time to recoup and hopefully heal. And since August 2015, I’ve been learning a new definition of rest.
With the explosion of self-employment and the ability to work from anywhere at anytime (for some of us—I know this phenomenon isn’t accessible to everyone), the word “hustle” has become a bit of a badge of honor, a pat on the back for working endlessly, for turning your passion into a career. Now, it’s an entirely other post about why we put too much pressure on our passions to make us money, but this kind of round-the-clock dedication seems to be hurting us in ways we’re not always paying attention to.
Working overtime, all the time, lowers our bodies’ resilience, tasks our brains and gets us into unhealthy habits—even if we’re juicing and cycling and counting our steps with our fitness trackers. We need breaks, more breaks than we’re giving ourselves, to rest, relax and decompress.
What I’ve learned over the last nine months of working less than 20 hours a week is that what I considered rest before wasn’t the kind of rest my body and brain needs. A Netflix binge here, an hour of online reading there—what my body was craving was real, uninterrupted downtime. Downtime where I shut off my computer, step away from my phone and ignore my email, often for two or three day spans.
This isn’t new info: Wellness blogs and writers have been advocating these types of electronic fasts for years, and that isn’t the point of this post. The point is that all our well-intentioned hustling has collectively gotten us to a place where we think that feeling lethargic, needing an energy boost at 2 p.m. every day and working until midnight every night is normal. Pushing ourselves to limits (and then testing those limits to make sure we can’t get just a little bit farther ahead) is expected. Saying yes to everything at all times to make sure we aren’t missing out is just what everyone does.
We may not be able to change the culture right away, but there is a conversation percolating about self-care and self-awareness that leads to really taking a step back and examining our lives holistically. It may not be realistic for you to cut back on work right now. It may not be feasible for you to take all the time you need for yourself (moms and dads, I’m looking at you). But can we, together, begin to reshape the idea that hustle is always a good thing?
Share your experiences and thoughts with us in the comments below! And tag #restisthenewhustle on Instagram and Twitter to keep the conversation going!