I want to be known as a well rested woman. I don’t want to have any kinks in my shoulders. I want my joints to feel lubricated and to move fluidly. I want to wake up looking forward to the hours of daylight I have, and not the time I am due to go to bed. I want to reflect back on a day where I meditated more than I stressed and I gave myself time to ponder and dream, all in preparation to sleep soundly. My hope is to unsubscribe from grind culture and make rest a companion.
Grind culture is created by the internalization of the idea that success is only achieved when one uses every minute of the day to work actively towards the goals one has set for themselves. Grind culture means that a person is always hustling and always ready to communicate with others if the communication is required to meet deadlines and inch towards slow progress. In essence, grind culture means being always ready to trade rest for unrest.
For people of color, grind or hustle culture has a shadowy connection to white supremacy culture. White supremacy culture is an ideology that the ideas, actions, and beliefs of white people are superior to those of people of color. The material goods acquired by white people over the span of hundreds of years, particularly from money made through the institution of slavery, frame what is seen as success in this country. People of color sacrifice the intermissions our bodies and minds ask of us in an effort to get ahead, achieve financial freedom, and work towards establishing the generational wealth white people have had the time to build up to in America.
People of color often feel shame when we are told that we aren’t working hard enough. We grow up in households where we learn to minimize our emotions. We lose our right to be tired because “our ancestors worked harder than us in dire conditions”. Growing up I heard phrases like “suck it up, you’re a Franklin” or “why are you crying, you have nothing to cry about.” There was no room for me to sit with my feelings. There was little room for me to rest. If I was not sleeping, I needed to be working. If I wasn’t working, I was being lazy.
As an adult, my internal monologue replicates what I heard growing up as a child. I try to talk myself out of being tired and force myself to push through the physical, emotional, and mental signs of exhaustion. As a new mom and a full-time educator, I never have time to tend to myself. A few months ago, I started complaining about pain in my shoulders. I knew I carried stress in my shoulders, but the action of constantly carrying my toddler and working on a laptop had made my body feel even worse. In February of this year, I woke up with sharp pains in my shoulder blades and back. My husband told me to take a day off of work in order to get a massage, but because I wanted to avoid the stress that would come with missing a day at work, I brushed his suggestion away. I thought the pain would go away if I ignored it.
I had also started to experience a tightening feeling in my chest every so often that made me feel really anxious. The anxiety did not help the stress I was feeling. My stress level had gotten high enough that my body felt like it was shutting down. I had never dealt with any serious health issues, so I actually felt really afraid of what I was experiencing. As symptoms continued to show, I told myself to stop complaining and to work through it. I made excuses for the pain I was feeling.
While in the back of an uber one day in March, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I wound the window down and tried to meditate. My thoughts raced as I asked myself whether I had covid-19 or whether something more serious was wrong with my heart. I had the uber driver take me to my doctor’s office. After a round of tests, that came back clear, my doctor told me I had experienced a panic attack. She told me that I needed to get my stress under control immediately, or the messages my body was trying to send me through the pain and other sensations I was feeling would get worse. My ailment was invisible, but dangerous. It was then that I started to explore different strategies to control my anxiety and stress.
My story isn’t unique. We have all, in many ways, been shackled to the exhaustion and depletion of previous generations. That is what we have inherited. Unfortunately, grinding and hustling comes at a cost. Stress and burnout siphons the creativity, concentration, and energy required to achieve our aspirations. Stress is a roadblock. Chronic stress can lead to inflammation and elevated blood pressure, which can increase one’s chances of developing hypertension, heart attack, or stroke (Shaw et al.). Stress can also impact gut bacteria causing fluctuations in mood (Shaw et al.) Increased cortisol levels from stress might affect a person’s ability to sleep, their appetite, and other important bodily functions which may jeopardize a person’s capacity to maneuver through life and thrive.
The rejuvenation that comes from rest will make you more productive, more thoughtful, and will help you actually enjoy the work you need to do. One can reach a rested and relaxed state in many ways. Rest can be sleeping or taking a bubble bath. Rest can be reading a book, journaling, or taking yourself out on a date to eat a dish you are excited to try. Rest can also look like temporary isolation. Many of the diseases and sicknesses that people of color are at higher risk for can be counteracted with rest. Rest and relaxation can relieve pain, reduce blood pressure, support heart health, and improve your immune response when your body is introduced to sicknesses overall.
As I imagine my future, I often consider what I want to feel instead of what I want to own or what roles I want to have. I am not my roles. When all of the material goods and positions I play in the lives of others are stripped away, I will only have myself. Today I asked myself “What kind of woman do I want to be for myself?” My answer came quickly. I want to be a rested one.
ReferenceShaw, William, et al. “Stress Effects on the Body.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 1 Nov. 2018, https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body.
Thanks to Kampus Production for the free use photo at the top of the image, you can find the original here.