A young Black man sitting on the ground in the park and staring into the camera.

Dealing with hustle culture as a neurodivergent young person

  • 4 min read
  • 17 June 2024

Author: Evan, 21

Topics mentioned: university, self-care, self-esteem, burnout

About: Evan shares his tips for breaking away from hustle culture as a neurodivergent young person, recovering from burnout and putting his mental health first.

We are prone to comparing ourselves to the lives and work styles of neurotypical people.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished”.

I’m a neurodivergent university student who has personally been affected by hustle culture, so I wanted to talk about it. In my experience I’ve found that hustle culture can impact neurodivergent people to an even bigger extent, as our journey in life is more likely to be different to others. We are prone to comparing ourselves to the lives and work styles of neurotypical people.

First, what is hustle culture?

Hustle culture is the pressure to believe that you need to constantly pursue achievements and be productive. It’s a lifestyle that prioritises study and/or work above everything else, especially your mental health.

Hustle culture determines your self-worth and whether you’re “good enough” by your achievements, such as your grades.

If you’ve never heard of hustle culture, you may have heard the following toxic quotes it puts out onto social media:

  • “I’ve got a dream worth more than my sleep.”
  • “Don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you’re done.”
  • “Join the 5am club.”

Hustle culture is ingrained in social media and the influencers we often come across. It can make you feel like it’s the perfect lifestyle to have and the only way to achieve success (I know I once did!).

In my experience, I’ve found that hustle culture holds much toxicity and is a risk for exhaustion and poor mental health.

How do I break away from hustle culture?

  • Set realistic goals

    There’s no need to try and do multiple things at once. Instead, set realistic goals for yourself. If it’s a big goal, break it down to smaller and more manageable goals or tasks. Take the time you need to accomplish them.

  • Practise self-care

    This is anything that makes you feel good. It’s not always spa treatments and bubble baths. It can also be watching your favourite Netflix show or playing with your pets.

  • Set boundaries and prioritise your mental health

    Do you feel like you need to turn down opportunities because you’re too stressed and burnt out? It’s okay to do exactly that.

  • Develop a growth mindset

    Mistakes are a part of learning and improving. Embrace imperfection and see it as a learning opportunity.

  • Learn how to “live slow”

    This is where doing less can actually improve the things you do. Unlearn the need to always be doing something. Practising mindfulness is a good way to do this.

  • Rest is important too

    Remember that you can prioritise rest and still be successful.

  • Unlearn your perfectionist mindset

    Perfectionism will only enhance stress and mental health struggles. Replace the need to be perfect with realistic thinking and progress – it’s okay to learn as you go.

It is not your responsibility to make everyone understand your life choices and journey.

Hustle culture can make you feel ‘behind’ in life

Have you ever looked at what someone else has accomplished and put yourself down for not achieving as much as them? Comparison is a common self-esteem stealer and can cause you to feel behind your peers.

Within a society full of hustle culture, it’s important to know:

  • You don’t need your whole life figured out right now.
  • This is your journey and therefore will be unique to you.
  • It is not your responsibility to make everyone understand your life choices and journey.
  • Taking small steps still leads to big things.
  • There is no universal timeline or race for success and fulfilment.

Hustle culture and burnout

To some people’s surprise, I do not believe ‘laziness’ is a real thing. Hustle culture ignores the importance of your wellbeing which can lead to burnout.

Here are some signs of burnout to help identify if you are experiencing it.

  • lack of motivation
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • becoming irritable
  • feeling stressed
  • problems with concentration
  • increase in anxiety/depression symptoms
  • neglecting your needs
  • feeling drained
  • procrastinating

Burnout can hit you hard and impact your life and mood, but it doesn’t need to last forever.

You are not lazy. Your body is telling you to stop and rest.

To help recover from burnout, find balance in your life. Hustle culture can compromise your work-life balance, so find ways to develop and maintain a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle that balances your work/study with your hobbies and enjoyable activities. It can be helpful to make a list of tasks you need to prioritise and a list for enjoyable tasks.

To end this blog, I want to say that your true value has nothing to do with how productive you are. You deserve to have a happy life outside of your work and/or study.

You are not lazy. Your body is telling you to stop and rest.

More information and advice

We have tips and advice to help you find the support you need. Take a look at our guides.

Where to get help

However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.

Become a YoungMinds blogger

Find out more

Spread the word