A collection of 3 graphics about positive climate, self-directed social play, and nature connection.

Rest and the Nest: Grind Culture and Evolution

I’m reading Tricia Hersey’s Rest is Resistance at last! She names the American culture many of us have been raised and trapped in as “grind culture.” Reading it, I’ve been thinking about reasons why grind culture feels so bad– and is so bad for us as humans. 

There are lots of answers to this– top of mind for me is the set of needs we evolved for millions of years and how grind culture forcibly dismantles all of them. Darcia Narvaez and colleagues have been demonstrating that for 99% of human history, kids were raised in small bands of hunter/gatherers, and that these cultures tend to have common ways of raising kids. 

Read on to learn more about what has been termed the “evolved nest,” and ways to take care of ourselves even within grind culture.

What is grind culture? 

Hersey created the Nap Ministry as a resistance to grind culture, and I strongly recommend you check out her work. Here’s an interview to get you started, but you can also find great podcast interviews with her, visit her website, and of course, read her book. 

In that interview she states: “Grind culture is quick-paced, fast, gotta do it now, quantity over quality, scarcity over abundance, and ‘if I don’t do it, nobody’s gonna do it.’ That only allows you to continue to abuse yourself.” 

An image of the cover of Rest Is Resistance by Tricia Hersey.

In Rest is Resistance, she talks about how grind culture: 

  • Treats bodies like machines
  • Pushes us to do more– even when that damages our health
  • Is “a sinister collaboration between capitalism and white supremacy.”
  • And “the ‘success’ grind culture props up centers constant labor, material wealth, and overworking as a badge of honor.” 

Using evolutionary wisdom to challenge grind culture 

For 99% of human history, most kids grew up in environments where they were cared for by multiple responsive adults who were generally positive and affectionate (with frequent touch), and kids engaged in spontaneous, imaginative play. This system of care, play, and responsiveness to needs is called the evolved nest. You can see the whole list of the nine components of the evolved nest at the website. There’s also a checklist for thriving as an adult at the very bottom of that page, so scroll down!

I’m not saying we should all try to live like small-band hunter/gatherer people– that would make many of us miserable (myself included). But I appreciate knowing that the grind culture in which I grew up is very far from the home culture that my body evolved to expect. This helps me not judge myself for feeling out of place, missing a home I never had, or feeling stressed, anxious, etc. And in my own choices and re-parenting of myself, I can keep in mind how my body and brain evolved to be raised, and meet that as much as possible. 

Ways to meet evolutionary care needs 

Let’s look at some of the care we evolved to expect and how to provide it for ourselves now. (Quotes in this section are from evolvednest.org.)

Positive climate 

“A welcoming community of support.”

Of course this extends beyond me and into the people I keep close in my life, but in terms of this post and solo actions I can take, this includes how I speak to myself. Grind culture is not kind to growing humans and a lot of us have very negative self-talk. I try to bring curiosity and playfulness to disrupt places where I’m still mired in negative self-talk. Plus, I can put reminders in my space to help me feel safe and cared for. 

Positive moving touch 

“Carrying and rocking promote neurobiological health.” 

Get out your weighted blanket and enjoy rhythmic movements. This also intersects with the Nap Ministry in that touch can be a path to rest. Whether we cuddle up with another person, a stuffed animal, a weighted blanket, space out with a fidget, rub any part of ourselves that’s sore or needs care, we’re providing touch to strengthen our mind and body.

Responsive relationships 

“Responsiveness to needs and cues.”

When we’re little kids, it’s ideal to have adults around who pay attention to the cues we give about what we need and then work to meet those needs– especially when we’re younger than five. It’s not always easy to directly say what we feel, especially at this age. But grind culture has people working so hard and pushing kids to become perfect productivity machines, so that kind of responsiveness doesn’t generally occur as much as kids need it to. 

As an adult, I realize that I sometimes neglect my body in a way that’s like ignoring the cues and needs of a young child. Often the first step is for me to get curious about what my body is signaling. What are the cues that I need rest, movement, nourishment? And then I can play with ways to meet those needs. 

Self-directed social play

“Frequent play with multi-aged mates.”

For myself, play is typically a kind of imaginative rest, and there are so many kinds of play! I strongly recommend a wide range of multi-aged mates, not only in the external world, but also within ourselves. My younger and older selves have a lot of wisdom and also a joy in shenanigans– I’ll bet yours do too!

Nature Connection

“Nature nurtures us. When we care for it, we heal.”

Connecting with nature takes so many forms. Ashton wrote a great blog post about this, which you can read if you want to learn more.

What are ways you find yourself pushing against grind culture? I’d love for you to share them in the comments so we can build a collection of strategies that might work for different folks. You can also share them on my Facebook or Instagram pages, both @rachelgoldauthor.

A low-key bibliography for this post:

Darcia Narvaez, Embodied Morality: Protectionism, Engagement and Imagination (Palgrave-MacMillan, 2016)

Darcia Narvaez, Contexts for Young Child Flourishing: Evolution, Family and Society (ed. with Braungart-Rieker, Miller-Graff, Gettler, Hastings; OUP, 2016)

Tricia Hersey, Rest Is Resistance: A Manifesto (Little Brown, 2022)

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Why is this novel about mental health?

If you read the interview over at GayYA, you’ll know I wrote My Year Zero in honor of my first girlfriend. (If you haven’t read the interview, feel free, I’ll wait.) When I met her we were both 16, both Scorpios (born nine days apart), both dark-haired and bright-eyed. And both struggling with our mental health.

She was the first person I’d met who was forthright about having a diagnosis. From my perspective, she was totally cool about it. (From her perspective, I’m sure it felt a lot less cool.) She had bipolar disorder and was on meds for it and would talk about it openly. She was also great at listening to me without judgment and without a lot of advice.

To understand how important this was to me, let me tell you a bit of my story. Bipolar’s not my disorder — ADHD is (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Despite the name, ADHD isn’t just about paying attention. It’s a change in how the brain’s executive functions work that pervades areas of focus, engagement, social cues, emotional regulation, impulsivity and hyperactivity.READ MORE

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My next book’s cover has been revealed

The header at the top of the site gives a hint of it, but for the whole cover for My Year Zero, head over to GayYA. (There’s also an interview with all kinds of info about the new book.)

If you want to kept in the loop, sign up for my newsletter (over on the right-hand side of the page) or bookmark the My Year Zero page on this site. I’ll be updating that with new info periodically.

Also for fans of Just Girls and Being Emily, there is a sequel in the works but this isn’t it. In 2017 we’ll return to the stories of Tucker and Nico. In the mean time, I think you’ll find a lot to like in My Year Zero.


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Just Girls wins Goldie Award (and that’s not even the best part!)

I had a wonderful time at this year’s Golden Crown Literary Society conference — even before the awards ceremony. Meeting Dorothy Allison and Rita Mae Brown was fantastic! I first read both of them at 16-19 when I was coming out and starting college. They both impacted my writing and seeing them speak reminded me of all the reasons they’re amazing and I should keep aspiring to follow the paths they blazed.READ MORE

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144 trans people we should talk about more than we talk about Caitlyn Jenner

Media stars and public figures coming out can be great for trans visibility, and I suspect it takes boatloads of courage to come out in a hugely public way no matter who you are. But I’m getting tired of seeing a news feed that’s all pics of Caitlyn Jenner, so here are some alternatives:


Parinya Charoenpho on whose life the film “Beautiful Boxer” is based — go watch the film!


This wonderful list of 10 trans icons from around the world, including Parinya Charoenphol (and if you have not seen the film about her life, “Beautiful Boxer,” run to Netflix and watch it): http://www.towleroad.com/2015/06/10-trans-icons.html

Deva Ozenen who is running for a parliament seat in Turkey: http://www.naijapromo.net/2015/06/meet-transgender-woman-who-wants-to.html

Manabi Banerjee, India’s first trans college principal: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/05/india-transgender-college-principal-150527080214140.htmlREAD MORE

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Gaming, writing & mental health – I’m teaching at The Loft!

In August, I get to play games and talk about brains while teaching* teens at The Loft.  (* and by “teaching” I mean tossing out really cool ideas and watching the class make them more awesome.)


My shiny ADD/Anxiety brain is so like this … except when it isn’t. How’s your brain?

I’m deeply excited about this for a few reasons:

  • Gaming + writing = super fun writing
  • Gaming with teens = radical creativity at play
  • I haven’t taught teens before, but I have taught lawyers and teens have to be immeasurably more fun (with apologies to my lawyer friends)
  • My next YA novel (out spring of 2016) includes radical ideas about mental health (like the fact that sometimes the person with the disorder is the perfect person for you to date)
  • It took me at least 10 years to figure out how to work with my brain to get novels written and I’m excited to share what I’ve learned and hear what works for other people


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Kimchi for the innocent, the timid and the neurotic

Adapted from the Yummy Kimchi recipe suggested to me by Allison Moon and the recipe in “Brain Maker” by Dr. David Perlmutter. Altered to be more digestible to people who can’t tolerate FODMAP foods (like me) by removing all onions, leeks, scallions, garlic and the like. If you’re on a very strict FODMAP-avoidant diet, do not use the jicama either. (If you don’t know what that means, you probably don’t have to worry about it.)READ MORE

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Blog Tour Highlights

“Brilliant … this kind of book should be required reading in school. … JUST GIRLS is written in such a way that you are enthralled, sympathetic, empathetic, and wondering why the hell this topic is not covered sooner in your life, especially in this day and age.” http://tiffyfit.blogspot.ca/2014/10/blog-tour-just-girls-by-rachel-gold.html

“I want to marry this book … gorgeous … Gold does a FANTASTIC job weaving the debate between the radical feminists and the transgender community into the narrative. Most importantly, perhaps, the book is fun. Yes, bad things happen, but good things too. It’s life, with all its bumps and twists. And as in real life, friendship and love trump fear.” http://jamescfemmer.com/2014/10/i-want-to-marry-this-book/READ MORE

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