AUSTIN, Texas - AFWERX is encouraging physical and mental health with the “22 For You Challenge.”
Originally founded by Jeremy “Chaz” Michael, AFWERX mission design team lead and Army special operations veteran, the “22 For You Challenge” began as a grassroots campaign in 2020 called the “Ruck for 22 Challenge.” It consisted of walking at least a mile with a rucksack for 22 days, in honor of the 22 veterans who commit suicide each day. The walk was intended to bring awareness to the mental health struggles of those with PTSD.
However, in 2022 after the isolation of COVID-19, veterans involved with the challenge felt a more impactful change was necessary to help those still struggling with depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Michael created a new challenge, focused on the creation of positive habits that would hopefully continue long past the end of the challenge itself – the “22 For You Challenge.”
“Let’s do something that we can continue for more than a month, that's a novelty mental health campaign,” said Michael. “And let’s do something that benefits your mental health, physical health and quality of life. Smiling really does fill your tank back up. Sometimes we forget to do that.”
The idea of the challenge is simple: a participant will take 22 minutes each day to focus on something that brings joy in their life. The intention of the challenge is to create a lasting habit of self-care and improve long-term well-being.
For AFWERX, a far-reaching organization with members around the world, the difficulties of self-care have long been inherent with the online structure of the program.
“It was a badge of honor that we worked overtime, and we have some scars to show for it,” said Col. Elliott Leigh, AFWERX director. “By stepping out and giving ourselves a little bit of work-life balance, it gives other people permission to do the same thing. I hope that it becomes prolific throughout the organization.”
Members of AFWERX have embraced the challenge in a variety of ways, from landscaping their gardens to practicing martial arts to walking a dog and everything in between.
It is the hope of the founders that the “22 For You Challenge” will continue to grow beyond the military and AFWERX and well into the future.
“It is for everybody,” Michael said. “Yes, it is supporting veterans, but veterans want to support others as well. We’d like to share some of the love back.”
For those who are currently struggling with self-harm, whether in AFWERX or otherwise, there are always resources available for help.
“You’re not alone,” Leigh said. “Silence is your worst enemy, and if you don’t talk about it, you don’t find out that there is help and it’s pretty close.”
“Pick up the phone,” Michael pleaded. “The phone could be the heaviest thing you’ve ever picked up when everything’s wrong or you feel like everything’s wrong, but there’s an entire army of people willing to help. Together, we can fight through anything.”
Department of Air Force Suicide Crisis Hotline
In the continental U.S. call: 988, Press 1
In Europe call: 00800 1273 8255 or DSN 118
In Korea call: 080-855-5118 or DSN 118
In Afghanistan call: 00 1 800 273 8255 or DSN 111
In the Philippines call: 02-8550-3888 and press 7