How Mel Robbins and the High Five Habit challenge transformed me
The Naïve Dream before the Hive Five
In June of 2023, I gave birth to my second child, a baby girl. Before starting maternity leave, I was excited and anxious. Excitement for the fact that I would be home with my child and able to bond with her. I had all of these grand plans in my mind. The fact that my baby would be born in the summertime meant that I could take advantage of outdoor activities. I expected to go out and do all of these outdoor activities with her.
I was also excited about the fact that as the owner of my private therapy practice, I wouldn’t have the same restrictions regarding leave as when I was working as an employee. But as I began to prepare for the arrival of my child, I realized that I would not be making any income for a period of time. And that created anxiety. I was certainly not high-fiving myself.
Being your own boss is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, I had the flexibility to take as much or as little time as I wanted away from the business, but the tradeoff was that if I do not see clients, I do not get paid. There is no income, and therefore there is a great awareness that without income, there are sacrifices that would have to be made. It was also anxiety-inducing, realizing that I would have to walk away from the business that I devoted three years of my life to and I may have to start from scratch when I returned. I became uncomfortable and scared.
The Life of the Worker Bee
Previously, with my son, who was born in the Fall of 2019, I was employed full-time. I worked and got paid, accumulating vacation and sick time. For as long as I could tell, I considered myself to be a worker bee. I was part of a collective and I did not make waves. My life was predictable and I did not take risks. I made a decent salary of $50,000, but I was not making enough for my husband and me to live off of without working a part-time job. As is expected in any job, when I became pregnant, I was expected to give notice to my employer regarding time off. I was lucky in that I could take 12 weeks off from work, the reality is that 12 weeks did not feel like a long enough time frame to bond with my baby.
I worried about the “what ifs” that came with having your first child. What if I don’t know what to do? What about if I experience postpartum depression? If I don’t heal properly, what will happen? What if I don’t want to go back to work? I could not live in the land of what if’s, and I had to inform my employer about my plan so that they could plan accordingly for a temp. I was due to give birth in October and I would return to work in January.
The Countdown to Change Begins
So, before my son was even born, I knew that the clock was ticking. The ticking to allow my body to heal. The countdown clock to begin creating a freezer stash of breastmilk. Ticking to find childcare and figuring out how we would pay for it. And as Murphy’s Law typically goes, all of the “what if’s” came to fruition. I had an emergency C-section, which put my recovery time well beyond what I expected. Life felt overwhelming. I now suspect that I was experiencing some form of postpartum depression during the early days. I also ended up with a breast infection and got really sick. Days were filled between being in bed recuperating, attending physical therapy, and attending support groups.
Suddenly, the idea of returning to work full-time became daunting and anxiety-inducing. I also realized that the grind of life that I was so used to and comfortable with no longer appealed to me. I did not want to be a stay-at-home mom. But I also realized that I did not want the hustle any longer. I wanted more for myself and to be more than just an employee. I did not want to be at the mercy of an employer and the 9-5. And for me, because I never made a lot of money, the hustle often meant working on nights and weekends to pay for everyday expenses. But as in most things, you resign yourself to what is in front of you, not what you want.
While I had previously committed to returning to work, the reality is that when it came time to return to work after 12 weeks, I was in no physical and/or emotional condition to go back to work full-time. I was still going to physical therapy twice a week and support groups once a week during the day, so I couldn’t feasibly work a standard 40-hour workweek. I could commit to working the 9-5 job three days a week. The pay cut hurt and it didn’t feel good to be a woman in her 40s with two Master’s Degrees with a newborn making $26,000 a year. So, I started doing contract work at night and on weekends doing therapy.
A global pandemic changes everything
In March of 2020, the world as we all knew it changed. All of a sudden, we were all homebound and I really couldn’t work outside the home. Within my primary job, I learned how to work from home, but I also had to work with a baby at home because daycare was closed. Add to that, the critical need for mental health providers, and my client load doubled almost overnight. I had to learn how to do teletherapy and I was seemingly working non-stop on nights and weekends. And I couldn’t see clients via telehealth because I had the baby in the background and no privacy, so I rented office space to be able to do therapy. As you can well imagine, the burnout from this experience was real and palpable.
I missed many of my son’s first milestones. Dinnertime with him when he discovered applesauce. Weekends bonding with him and getting those first words.
I finally broke down when I came home one night and my husband told me that our son took his first steps. I missed my son’s first steps because I was working my part-time job. Luckily my husband caught it on video. This prompted my husband to encourage me to branch out on my own and start my own private practice. It also happened to be around the time that my employer had insisted that I decide on returning to work full-time or leaving as their business was growing and expanding. I could not bear the idea of returning to work and having a cap on my salary as well as a set schedule. And I could not continue on this schedule. So as in most things in life, it is only when you hit rock bottom that you make a change.
The transformation begins
So I began the work of changing my life. I started to build my own private practice. The learning curve was steep and there was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Yet I was creating a life that gave me more autonomy. BUT, the tradeoff became that if I wasn’t seeing clients, I wasn’t getting paid. So, while I had time freedom, my income continued to stay low.
So now fast forward to 2023. I have a private practice that I have paused, either discharging clients or telling them that I plan to return in 12 weeks. I am sitting in bed with my daughter, nursing her, and recovering from my C-section. All the grand plans for outdoor activities have largely fallen by the wayside, either because I am physically unable, or it is so hot outside that it is unbearable to be outside. I am luckily not experiencing the postpartum symptoms, however, the same nagging feeling about maternity leave began to show up. I now have two children that require my nurturance, and I don’t want to necessarily be sitting behind a desk or in a chair seeing client after client. As I have reflected on my journey of motherhood, the questions are at times overwhelming.
But what am I to do? And as I contemplate this question, quietly asking the Universe for help and guidance, I feel this urge to go to YouTube. I begin scrolling randomly and come across Mel Robbins’ channel. The channel is her podcast in video format. And in that one morning of watching two or three videos, the seed for change gets planted.
Who Is Mel Robbins?
Mel Robbins is an author, motivational speaker, and personal development coach. She is best known for her books and motivational talks, which focus on helping people overcome self-doubt and make positive changes in their lives. Years ago, I discovered Mel Robbins when I read her book “The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage.” I read the book while I was training for a half-marathon, working one of my many part-time jobs, and completing one of my many certifications.
I then re-read the book in 2020 as I was getting my private practice off the ground and got overwhelmed. The book helped me stay motivated and just kind of get these things done so that I could “succeed”. The book, if you haven’t guessed, introduces the simple but powerful technique of counting backward from five to one to interrupt negative thought patterns and encourage action before self-doubt and negativity start to kick in. She uses science and research-based articles to support her concepts, making her a highly trusted figure in the space of empowerment and change. As someone who is a bit of a nerd about science and research, seeing her work was inspiring. And the method worked.
So now it is the summer of 2023 and I have come across Mel Robbins again, only this time she is describing this new concept called the high five habit.
What is the High Five Habit?
Mel Robbins published the book in 2021, but I came across a few of her YouTube videos which spoke of this habit and the research behind it.I haven’t read the book, and it appears that there is a morning routine that accompanies the habit, but for the sake of giving myself a pep talk, I simply wanted to give the high five habit challenge a try.
As Mel Robbins describes it in her videos and podcast, every day, it is important to “greet your biggest ally and best friend—you,”. The high five is a universal symbol that tells your brain “You got this” or “You can do it”. And as you tackle every day or challenging things in your life, giving yourself a high five encourages you to go after the life that you want or your dreams. The steps are simple. After you brush your teeth, look in the mirror, set an intention for the day or something you want to achieve for yourself, and then proceed to say to yourself loving and positive affirmations, then simply high-five yourself in the mirror. Seems straightforward enough. Now, I just had to come up with an intention.
At this stage, I was home bonding with my baby, and the intention could simply be to bond with her and love up on her, but I wanted to challenge myself to face scary things. And the scary thing was my private practice and how I wanted to work once maternity leave ended. How I could best serve myself, my family and clients. How could I reduce the possibility of burnout or missed moments with my family?
What I did with the High Five challenge
So, as I sat in meditation and prayer, I asked the Universe to help me figure out my dreams and what I really wanted. Several ideas came to my mind. One was to devote more time to blogging, possibly to monetize it in some way. Second, was to really foster my YouTube channel into something more than just a passing fancy. I got the idea that I could offer mental health tips to a larger audience. I could support people’s mental health without just sitting one to one with a client. So the dream was planted, and so was the overwhelm and doubt. I began to do a brain dump about how to go about achieving these avenues. As I did this, the doubt about what it would take to make this a reality started to kick in. I decided to give the high five challenge a try.
As you can imagine, with a newborn it can be hard to get time to shower and brush your teeth, let alone set an intention. But I was committed. I had a brain dump list and a to-do list. The goal was figuring out how to blog and YouTube. After that, I set the intention to learn as much as I could and implement when possible. Every morning, I looked at myself and I set the intention to start in the creator space. I imagined that on the other side of the mirror was the future me. The reflection was me that made it to the other side.
High fiving myself was hard
I told my future self about all of my fears and what-ifs. It was hard. Present me got emotional. I expressed doubt and was critical. Present me saw flaws…wrinkles and flab and baggy eyes. I saw fatigue. I saw doubt. But I high-fived myself and my reflection said to me “I am waiting on the other side for you to see your greatness….you can do this”. And I gave myself a high five. That first day was hard, but I then spent the day with the baby in my arms watching videos and watching modules on a blogging course. (I had previously signed up for a blogging course but hadn’t completed it or implemented many of the steps). It felt good. I felt like I was accomplishing hard things.
Every day afterward, I set an intention and high-fived myself. I felt energized. I felt like my dreams were actually possible. Every day I spent some portion of my day, while the baby slept, learning and jotting. I wrote down blog post ideas. Google became my best friend. I wrote a to-do list. And I felt inspired and motivated. I also started watching YouTubers and gaining insight into their story. They offered tips that were helpful and anxiety-inducing. I don’t know anything about recording or editing or thumbnails. Self-doubt continued to show up.
After 2 weeks, the critic and the doubter I saw in the mirror before were slowly being replaced by the future me. That future me told me to keep going. It is still telling me to keep going. It may be a long road, but she is waiting for me on the other side. I have even started intentionally giving my 3 ½-year-old daily high-fives. And he seems to feel good about his milestones (i.e. getting dressed by himself and brushing his teeth daily).
I am in the beginning stages of this process, and I hope that my efforts at the high five habit will lead to success (whatever that means), however, what has taken root is the belief in trying things that are new and foreign to me. I am reminding myself on a daily basis just how strong I am and that I am capable of doing more things than I think I can do. After five days, I have written 2 blog posts and recorded 2 videos for YouTube. This journey will require patience and consistency, but with a high five, I can work towards helping lots of people and building a life that I love.
My name is Eddie. I am a mindfulness-based therapist in Bordentown, NJ who specializes in trauma, anxiety and Mom stress. I provide online counseling throughout the state of NJ. Find me on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. #stressreduction #anxietyreduction #gratitude #selfcare