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5-4-3-2- “I’m the (1)” Challenge.

Stricken with a combination of panic and humiliation, Gio slouched in the back row of the meeting. He had not finished a project that was to be discussed today. He knew his boss, Lily, would ask him about it.  Just as he suspected, Lily asked him about the numbers. Gio was surprised he had the answers, yet he just sat there anxious and someone else chimed in.  It felt like the whole room was staring at him as his face flushed red. He felt like he couldn’t do anything right and became very worried about not having any skills. He started thinking about his lack of abilities- “I’m not good enough! I can’t do anything right!” That’s when it happened again; the feeling that always preceded an anxiety attack. One hand shook while the other held tightly to a pen. With his hands still shaking, he took a deep breath and remembered the 5-4-3—2, I am the challenge. He learned this technique in therapy to help him get through moments just like these ones.

First, he named five things he has done well in his life. “I’m a father to 2 small children I love so much, he began, I am the first person in my family to go to college, I once saved my son’s life from choking on a piece of food, I overcame negativity when playing sports and I earned awards for art.”

Gio’s breathing slowed. He calmly went to number four. “What are four things I like about myself?” I am kind, loving, smart, and really values others. Gio’s thoughts turned to three of his talents – I am an amazing artist, kick-ass juggler, and a good father. He began to smile until he realized his breathing had interrupted itself once again. His mind instinctively turned to negative beliefs, but those were replaced with the words “I’m open to positive change.”

Gio moved on to number 2, he laughed thinking about when he tried to help his husband, Abel by finishing the painting in the bedroom with the kids. It was a disaster; the kids only painted themselves. He thought of his mother-in-law who he always helped with chores. She was amazed by how fast he did everything and told him the reason she didn’t hire anyone to help her was that he was so fast.  This made him smile too because he knew that helping people made him feel happy and that helping his husband and mother-in-law made them feel happy.

Even before he completed the challenge, Gio felt that his anxiety had begun to dissipate. As he continued to think of positive things, it became easier for him to feel good about himself and be less self-doubting.  Lasty, onto the final challenge, Gio was able to think of a one unique quality about himself. This allowed him to complete the challenge and no longer be anxious. With a clear mind and a happy heart, Gio was able to focus back on the meeting, after all he was a little behind. Anxiety can be scary and self-doubt debilitating but it’s important to remember that you’re awesome, even on the worst day! This challenge is a great way for anyone who needs a little help getting there. We know this has worked wonders for people like Gio and it may just work for you too!

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