'For years, I subscribed to 'hustle culture'. It landed me in hospital.'

From my vantage point on my far-too-comfy couch, as I make my way through the day’s to-do list (carefully curated to allow ample room for cup-a-soup breaks, accidental naps and social media k-holes), it occurs to me that I may have finally liberated myself from the clutches of hustle culture.

I’ve hit 'unsubscribe'. 

I’ve resigned. I’m opting out. I’m D.O.N.E – and I’m not the only one. 

While the pandemic brought us an onslaught of personal and societal miseries, for many of us, it also elicited a much-needed shift in perspective. A more critical look at the quality of our lives, both personal and professional.

Personally, I learned what hustle – or perhaps the more aptly named, 'burnout culture' – can do to a person’s health years ago, with the onset of my first autoimmune disease. 

At the time, I was working my way through my undergrad, in between morning shifts as a Pilates trainer and play rehearsals at night. By the time I was diagnosed with Graves’s disease, I was days away from going into thyrotoxic shock. 

Why? Because I didn’t have time to see a doctor to investigate why I had lost eight kilos and developed a tremor, I had to hustle! Rise and grind, generate and produce!

Don’t you know opportunity only knocks if you stay up all night building the door?

Watch: How to be a woman in 2023. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

One of the side effects of getting a late diagnosis of a disease like Graves’ was that it would take another two years of treatment for it to go into remission. 

I had no choice but to put everything on hold while my body took its time healing. I traded my heavy HIIT workouts for walks and cut down on work commitments.

I had been pulled from the hustle Olympics, but only temporarily. 

It would take another six years, a second, much worse autoimmune disease (Addison’s), and finally a global pandemic to truly shake myself free from its clutches.

It helps that I’m not alone in renouncing a cultural attitude that applauds working yourself into an early grave.

The recent buzz about the four-day work week is gathering momentum with a Labour-Greens senate enquiry urging the Albanese government to fund a trial program to test its application in different sectors of working Australia. 

And in case it’s not obvious, I’m all for it. 

As a freelancer with a very non-traditional work life, I can’t imagine myself in a five-days-a-week, 9-5 (or more realistically these days, 8-6) kind of setup. 

But I could certainly imagine being far more productive, not to mention a lot happier, on one of those new-fangled four-day deallies.

Image: Supplied.


It's also heartening to see public figures sharing the impacts an untenable work schedule can have on them, with Jelena Dokic’s recent Instagram post, highlighting how "overwhelmed and exhausted" she gets when she over commits. 

She admits that she’s "not good at saying no when [she] should."

"My work will never suffer," she said in a caption accompanying a close-up photo of her face, looking absolutely shattered.

"You will never know it and I will never show it. Because I have the ability to push myself way past my limits and work under extreme circumstances. But behind closed doors I get overwhelmed…"

Like Dokic, I’ve always struggled to pass up any opportunities when they arise. 

I’m terrified of saying "no" because what if they don’t ask again? But unlike her, I no longer have the ability to push past my body’s limits. 


As a chronic illness girlie, I only have a certain number of spoons to use each day, and between my work and my toddler, I’m often starting off in a deficit. 

I can’t really take credit for my recent rejection of all things hustle, because as it is for many of us, my hand was forced. And while a personal perspective change can be a wonderful thing, involuntary as it may be, it helps when it’s sustained by a larger cultural shift. 

From the 'Great Resignation', to 'quiet quitting', our post-pandemic burnout has led us to a collective breaking point, and it’s essential that we continue to disrupt the lure of productivity in favour of a slower, and happier way of life.

I structure my days differently now, creating to-do lists that are actually achievable, and tuning in to my admittedly high-needs body to see what can and can’t be accomplished.   

Some days I’m an absolute boss, and others, I’m an out and proud “lazy gewl” like the twins, Jessie and Clare Stephens say on the Cancelled podcast.

Now, as I gear up to transition from dressing-gown to activewear to collect my toddler from daycare, I’m looking at a world that’s finally ready to meet me where I am – on my couch, no longer a capitalistic hamster wheel of late nights, weekend work and inevitable burnout.

So let me be the first to raise a glass at hustle culture’s wake, after sprinkling the last handful of dirt on its coffin.

Although, if I’m honest, I’ll probably be too lazy to go.

Feature image: Supplied.

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