STRONGER TOGETHER: Beyond the Blaring Alarm - Reflections on Fear and Compassion

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"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya reflects on the unpredictability of life's challenges, discussing fear and compassion, and emphasises the significance of approaching others' responses to fear with empathy and understanding.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

Imagine this: you find yourself on the 43rd floor of a building in an unfamiliar city, sound asleep, when suddenly you're jolted awake by a blaring alarm in your room. Disoriented and unsure of the time, you contemplate your next move.

First, you step outside in your pyjamas to see if others on your floor are reacting. No smoke, no commotion, and no armed individuals in sight. You decide there's no immediate danger or urgency—or that everyone has already been evacuated and you’re late to the party—so you take a moment to put on some pants. While slipping into jeans, you open the curtains to peer into the dark outside, finding no signs of movement or life. The alarm persists, but you stand still, thinking only, "Damn, that alarm is loud."

As your brain finally kicks into gear, you grab your room key and head out the door, now on the lookout for the stairwell exit. Ignoring the internal voice cautioning against using the lift in an emergency, you press the lift button. Still, no sign of another soul, and you start feeling like the last survivor in a post-apocalyptic scenario. You press the lift button frantically until the doors finally open. No smoke, no immediate signs of danger, it is safe to exit. Wait, that’s an emergency evacuation from a plane. Damn. The doors close again. Mind racing, what to do, what to do. Eventually, you press the down arrow, get in, and the lift stops on the 10th floor. The door opens, but no one is there, kicking the apocalypse story into overdrive.

Reaching ground level, the lift doors open to a long corridor. The alarm persists, but you spot about 15 people gathered around the front entrance of the building. You breathe a sigh of relief as you realise that you are safe, and calmly exit the elevator, thankful you took the time to put on pants.

Heading across the street, you wait to see what unfolds. It’s at this point you realise you can’t see anything more than 10 metres in front of you because you forgot to put on your glasses, and you have no idea what time it is because you aren’t wearing your watch and didn’t grab your phone. Over the 10–15-minute period that followed, people casually exit the building, some geared up for a run, others ready to walk their dogs. Clearly, they’re accustomed to this routine.

I would love to be able to tell you that this tale was one from my youth, at a time when I was naïve and unprepared for the unexpected events that life occasionally throws at us. The reality, however, is this happened to me last week. After a life filled with unexpected turns and challenges, I found myself on the street with nothing but the clothes on my back.

I share this story because fear is a funny thing.  For some, fears are something to be avoided, overcome, minimised, or simply ignored. Fear can also shine a light on something that we need to learn or discover about ourselves.  In that moment, I was unprepared, and it's tempting to blame the situation—unfamiliar surroundings, an early wake-up, and a deafening alarm. Waking up in an unknown place tilted my world, and fear momentarily shut down my rational thinking. Thankfully, there was no Ant Middleton scrutinising my decisions, or his head might have exploded given some of my choices in those early hours (SAS fans will know what I’m talking about).

It is easy to judge others for the poor decisions they make when faced with fear. Sometimes, because a situation is so familiar to us, we don’t appreciate the fear that the same situation may create for others. The calm exit of some from a potentially alarming situation may not signify complacency but rather a unique approach to managing fear.

My experience last week was a gentle (but “alarming”) reminder to approach fear with an open mind and heart—let us not only be considerate of our own perceptions but also empathetic and compassionate toward others.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses mind-wandering, how it contributes to unhappiness, and effective techniques for fostering focus and mindfulness.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

Have you noticed that despite being physically present in a meeting, your mind seems to have its own agenda, exploring vast landscapes of unrelated ideas? Or experienced the sensation of being physically present at your desk, yet your mind seems to be on a journey of its own, in a world far, far away from the task at hand? You’re not alone.

Research indicates that, on average, individuals spend nearly half of their waking hours with their minds drifting away from the present task. Contrary to the assumption that daydreaming provides a mental escape leading to contentment, studies show that this mind-wandering is associated with decreased levels of happiness and life satisfaction.

Mind wandering, far from being a consequence of unhappiness, is identified as a significant contributing factor. When our minds constantly shift from the present moment, it becomes challenging to fully engage with and appreciate the task at hand. This lack of engagement not only hampers productivity but also diminishes the quality of experiences, leading to a sense of dissatisfaction.

The prevalence of distractions in our modern, hyper-connected world further exacerbates the issue. The constant influx of notifications, emails, and the allure of social media provides ample opportunities for the mind to wander, pulling attention away from the present and hindering the cultivation of a contented state of mind.

This challenge has led to the development of tools and techniques aimed at fostering focus and mindfulness. One such tool gaining popularity is the Focus Mate app, which pairs users with virtual accountability partners for dedicated work sessions. This collaborative approach has been shown to significantly reduce distractions and enhance productivity.

Another effective method is the Pomodoro Technique, a time-management method that breaks work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. This structured approach helps maintain focus and prevents the mind from aimlessly drifting.

In my own experience, I've found that cultivating mindfulness has had a profound impact on my overall well-being. I would often grapple with the challenge of staying present but implementing the Pomodoro Technique has been a game-changer, allowing me to channel my energy into focused bursts of productivity.

By incorporating tools like Focus Mate and adopting strategies like the Pomodoro Technique, we can reclaim control over our attention and, in turn, enhance our overall satisfaction with life. In a world that constantly vies for our attention, the ability to stay present may well be the key to a happier, more fulfilling existence.

In our latest podcast episode, we are thrilled to bring you an exclusive conversation with an extraordinary athlete, 5 time Olympian Nat Cook. Known for her remarkable journey in the world of sports, Nat shares invaluable insights that transcend the boundaries of the volleyball court, offering lessons in resilience, determination, and the power of a winning mindset.

Nat Cook's story is not just about athletic prowess; it’s a narrative of relentless perseverance. From her early days watching the Commonwealth Games to conquering the sands of beach volleyball arenas, Nat’s journey is a compelling testament to what the human spirit can achieve. In this episode, she opens up about her inspirations, challenges, and the moments that shaped her into a gold medallist.

Resilience: More Than Just a Buzzword

For Nat, resilience is not just a concept; it's a lived experience. She delves into how resilience powered her through rigorous training, competitive pressures, and the highs and lows of an elite sporting career. Her stories provide a blueprint for anyone looking to foster resilience in their own lives, whether in sports, business, or personal challenges.

What does it take to think like a champion? Nat Cook breaks down the 'Olympic mindset' — a unique blend of focus, discipline, and positivity that can be applied far beyond the Olympics. She shares strategies for maintaining this mindset, overcoming setbacks, and setting the stage for success in any endeavour.

Building Bridges with Community and Legacy Nat’s commitment to her sport extends beyond her personal achievements. She discusses her initiatives like Athletes Australia view at Green and Gold Athletes, aimed at supporting young athletes facing barriers. This part of the conversation highlights the importance of giving back, mentorship, and creating pathways for the next generation of champions.

Inspirational Takeaways for Everyday Champions Whether you’re an aspiring athlete, a professional facing career hurdles, or simply someone looking for a dose of motivation, this podcast episode with Nat Cook is a treasure trove of wisdom. Her story is a reminder that with the right mindset, resilience, and support, achieving your dreams is within reach.

As Nat puts it, the journey to gold is about much more than medals; it's about the lessons learned, the lives touched, and the legacy left behind. Tune in to our latest episode and let yourself be inspired by one of the most resilient champions of our time.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses World Kindness Day on Monday, 13th November and the small changes we can make to be kinder to ourselves.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

The month of November is most widely recognised for ‘Movember’, where men take pride in growing (often not very good looking) moustaches to increase awareness for men’s mental health. Now while this is incredibly important, I would like to draw your attention to something a little less known, more specifically, World Kindness Day, celebrated this year on Monday, the 13th of November.

Often, we consider kindness as something that we share with others, almost like a commodity that is traded or becomes the star of an Instagram feed. But what if we flipped it into something that we did not prioritise sharing on socials, or with others. What if, kindness was celebrated this year, as something that we showed towards ourselves?

Too often, I hear the way people refer to themselves or their thoughts in an unkind and uncompassionate way. Berating themselves with a fierce barrage of scathing attacks that slowly erodes their confidence, their self-esteem, and their ability to follow their dreams and back themselves. Sometimes, their unkindness spirals from ruminating thoughts about what they could or should have done, to comparing themselves to others. Their haves and have nots, fears for their future or a lack of belief in being able to create the future that they want for themselves or their family.

Changing this negative self-talk takes time, motivation, and daily practice. But there is something that you can do today that will set the wheels in motion.

The irresistible urge to reach for our devices has become an integral part of our waking ritual, almost as instinctual as the cup of coffee. In effect, we are handing over the remote control to our thoughts, feelings, and emotions to someone else from the time we open our eyes.

But there is another way. Tonight, I encourage you to take your phone into a room other than where you sleep to charge it. Put your notifications onto silent.  Okay, enough with the eyerolling - stay with me. Instead of turning over in the morning to check your phone, consider using the first eight minutes of your day to sit quietly and set your intention for the day. Imagine what this intention, this thing, looks like, feels like, sounds like. What thoughts come up for you when you imagine it happening for you.

Creating time and space for ourselves to imagine what is possible before we get interrupted by life – that is the pinnacle of kindness towards self. Visualising our hopes, aspirations, ambitions, and dreams first up in the morning and then allowing them to gradually grow and manifest from dreams to reality.  

There are lots of excuses we can make about why we can’t do this. My challenge to you is to instead put time and energy into thinking about all the ways that you can. I promise you that it is worth it.  Personally, my miracle morning practice has left me feeling more grounded, more focused, and notably less stressed. By taking control of the beginning of my day, I set a more positive and intentional tone for what follows.

So, this World Kindness Day, I challenge you to do this one thing for yourself. Break free from the habitual morning phone check, reclaim your mornings, and take back control of your life. The positive difference it could make may just surprise you.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses perfectionism, social media, and the toll it takes on our mental health.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

In today's digitally connected world, social media has become a stage where many of us showcase curated versions of our lives. Picturesque vacations, flawless selfies, and tales of unending success often dominate our feeds. However, the truth is that appearances on social media can be profoundly deceiving. Beneath those seemingly perfect lives lie complexities that may never make it to the Instagram grid or the Facebook wall.

As I reflect on this, I am reminded of a friend whose online presence always seemed enviable. Her posts were a collage of impeccable moments – stunning travel photos, impressive career achievements, and seemingly flawless relationships. Her life appeared to be the epitome of perfection. But as we got closer, I began to see a different story unfold.

The facade of her perfect life on social media masked the emotional struggles she endured. The pressure to maintain that illusion of perfection took a toll on her mental health. Her achievements were hard-won and came at the expense of countless sleepless nights. The beautiful travel pictures did not capture the moments of loneliness and homesickness she experienced while abroad. The seemingly perfect relationship she presented had its share of conflicts and compromises.

In the age of filters and selective sharing, it's crucial to remember that what we see on social media is often only a fragment of someone's reality. The pursuit of perfection can lead us to filter their lives, hiding their vulnerabilities and challenges behind a carefully crafted facade. It's a stark reminder that comparing our lives to others' highlight reels can be a fruitless and disheartening endeavour.

Perfectionism, whether driven by personal standards or the pressure to meet external expectations, often plays a role in perpetuating these misleading appearances. The desire to present oneself as flawless can lead to a disconnect between our real experiences and the image projected online.

So, what's the takeaway in this era of picture-perfect profiles? First, it's essential to approach social media with a critical eye and an understanding that appearances can be deceiving. Remember that most people share their best moments while leaving the rest unspoken. Second, it's vital to practice self-compassion. Embrace the imperfections and acknowledge that nobody's life is devoid of challenges.

The next time you find yourself scrolling through a friend's feed, marvelling at their seemingly ideal life, remember that beneath the filters and perfectly crafted posts lies a human being with their own set of struggles and triumphs. After all, the pursuit of perfection may be an admirable endeavour, but it's essential to remember that perfection is not a requirement for happiness or success. In embracing the authenticity beneath the facade, we find a path to genuine connection and personal growth.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses the introduction of a new IMPACT Hall of Fame initiative, recognising long-serving staff that live the IMPACT vision and values.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

As I was preparing my speech for our annual celebration over the past week, I found myself searching for inspiration. This may seem strange, especially given the nature of our work and the fact that we were honoured with the presence of five-time Olympian Nat Cook as guest speaker at our annual celebration.

At the time, I didn't have a clear idea of what I was looking for, but I was confident I'd know it when I saw it. I searched through quotes, journals, and blogs, hoping to stumble upon an idea that could serve as the focal point.

I found an overwhelming number of search results online about change –289 million to be exact. Of course, I didn't go through all of them, but I did get through a few pages. While there were some good one’s, nothing really stood out.

And then last week at our bi-monthly All Staff Teams meeting, there were all these familiar names and friendly faces in front of me. On that day we had over 70 staff from across all our sites. Aside from the usual updates and meeting formalities, we always dedicate time to sharing positive and uplifting stories.

We do this deliberately because we know that after a while, we can become desensitised and take for granted the ‘specialness’ of the work that we do. We often overlook the significance of our clients’ achievements, the choices they make, and the change they create.

It was in that moment I realised I had fallen into the same trap, taking for granted the amazing work that our people were doing to inspire change daily. The inspiration I had been seeking was, in fact, right there in front of me all along.

2023 has been a big year, probably the toughest in my time working with IMPACT. And that is saying something because there have been some doozies over the years. Since walking through the door of what was then Bundaberg Skills Centre on the 15 November 1999, it has been a baptism of fire for this former bank johnnie with no experience in working in the not-for-profit sector.

Over the years, our team has ridden the highs and lows together, with unwavering commitment to the vision of improving lives. There are no words to express my gratitude for their support and the inspiration that they give to me through their actions and the work that they do. I feel genuinely blessed to work with our people – watch them develop, learn, grow, get frustrated, grow a bit more, and when they are ready, they leave us to try new things.

Yet there are those special few that believe so much in the work that we do that they decide to stay and make their IMPACT job their career. They live the vision, the values, the mission, they are inspired by the change that they see within their clients. And sometimes, even within themselves.

This year, we have had 5 of our long serving staff decide to call time with IMPACT. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Daniel Leary, Sharelle Steinback, Steve Beer, Wendy Lindeman and Tim Van Kooten for the change that you have inspired during your combined 95 years of service and thank you for the legacy that you have created.

These good people have ridden some of the biggest, most challenging waves with IMPACT and in their personal lives. Yet, all of them have remained steady. They have carved out their own unique journey with IMPACT, yet their joint experience brings richness, connection, and a knowing that they have committed a huge part of their work life to making a difference to something bigger than themselves.

To celebrate this legacy, and those who went before them, I am pleased to announce that IMPACT has created a Hall of Fame, which will celebrate and immortalise staff who have left the organisation and contributed a minimum 15 years of service. The Hall of Fame will serve as a lasting tribute, preserving their IMPACT, showcasing the enduring legacy they've left behind, and inspiring us to continue ‘improving lives’ as we step into the IMPACT Community Services building each day.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses the complex and sensitive subject of trauma.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

“Words matter because clarity in words is a part of clarity in thinking, and because some words carry great emotional and symbolic weight, and thus should be not used lightly.” —Jeffrie G. Murphy

These words resonate deeply in today's context with increasing awareness around the importance of mental well-being, specifically regarding psychological trauma and the devastating impact that it can have on individuals, families and even communities.

Almost daily we hear people referring to trauma, sometimes even using it to label or explain another person’s experience. Let’s call this out early: unless you are a mental health professional or have lived experience, we should not label other people’s experiences. One person's experience of trauma can vastly differ from another's.

It is easy to understand why trauma has become somewhat of a catchphrase today. For too long, people have struggled to share their experience, perhaps even feeling misunderstood, unheard, or invalidated when speaking up or sharing openly that they are not coping. Sharing that you or someone you know is traumatised however, is not as easy to ignore.

Sometimes we feel stuck, uncertain if what we have gone through, or are going through, is trauma. It is a loaded word, often used to explain the discomfort or pain that we are experiencing. And sometimes, it is even used to justify poor behaviour that has resulted in a negative impact or outcome. 

Trauma is an ever-evolving field, and this article has a limited word count so let’s keep things super simple. Trauma literally means ‘wound, injury or shock’ and is the emotional, psychological, and physiological residue resulting from a stressful event.

Simple trauma is often overwhelming and painful, and rarely would anyone who has experienced simple trauma, refer to it as ‘simple.’ It is often a single event, something that may be life-threatening or cause serious injury, and may include things like natural disasters, car accidents or being the victim of a crime such as a rape or home invasion.

In comparison, complex trauma goes beyond a one-off incident and generally includes multiple incidents over a longer duration. Complex trauma tends to be repeated, may be difficult or impossible to escape from, may occur within a personal relationship or may begin as early as childhood, and can be something that an individual carries with them through to adulthood. People who experience complex trauma often feel disconnected from the support of others.

Even though simple and complex trauma are similar in many ways, they have some important differences. One thing to highlight is the element of shame and secrecy that often accompanies complex trauma. Simple trauma is usually validated, sometimes through acknowledgement, media coverage or recognition from family, friends, law enforcement or other societal systems.

In comparison, complex trauma is ongoing, with very little opportunity to recover before the pattern is repeated. It often occurs in secrecy and may be accompanied by threats and behaviours that compromise the safety of individuals or others within their family.

Irrespective of the type of trauma, unresolved symptoms such as anxiety, sleep problems, low energy, fatigue or an overreliance on drugs and alcohol will have an adverse effect on an individual’s mental and physical health and wellbeing. As a community we therefore have a responsibility not to offer responses that are unhelpful, judge or blame victims as this further disempowers them and leaves them a target of ongoing threats, violation, or violence. 

Trauma, and the reactions of others, can have lasting effects on a person's mental and physical health. However, it doesn't have to shape their future. Trauma can be treated, and if you or someone you know can relate to the content here, it is important to seek support. With the right support and guidance, the challenges of trauma can be overcome.

If you would like more information about trauma, jump on and check out the resources at blue knot: https://blueknot.org.au/resources/blue-knot-fact-sheets/talking-about-trauma/

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses the different types of mental health professionals and the services they offer.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

Life can throw some significant challenges and hurdles at us, so getting access to the mental health support and help that we need, when we need it, is important.

Yet when it comes to getting help, who do I need to see?

This is a common question and can be frustrating and overwhelming for many of us. However, the bigger concern is that it is even tricker to navigate if you are experiencing mental health symptoms and have not asked for help before.

In today’s column, I therefore wanted to demystify the different types of mental health professionals and the services that they can provide. It can be challenging to understand the nuances between the various types of mental health professionals, but it’s essential to know what each one does so that you can get the help you need. Let’s dive in!

Psychiatrists are medically trained doctors who specialise in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. They can prescribe medication and provide therapy.

Psychotherapists are trained in a range of therapies to improve mental wellbeing, including shifting unhelpful patterns of thinking, or overcoming emotional challenges. They provide therapy and counselling, but they cannot prescribe medication.

Psychologists are degree-qualified and trained to assess, diagnose, and treat mental illnesses. Clinical psychologists have a Masters or Doctorate and focus on the diagnosis and treatment of more complex mental health conditions. They both provide therapy and counselling, but they cannot prescribe medication.

Counsellors are generally diploma qualified, and are trained to help people with personal problems such as relationship issues, trauma, or grief. They provide counselling and support, but they cannot assess, diagnose, or treat mental illness and they cannot prescribe medication.

Peer workers are people who have lived experience with mental illness, and ideally are qualified with a Certificate IV Peer Work. They provide support and guidance to others who are going through similar experiences, including role modelling behaviour. They can also link you with higher level clinical supports if needed.

Support workers are qualified at minimum through a Certificate III in Support and provide emotional support to individuals experiencing mental health concerns.

Now, what about the Mental Health Care Plan that I have heard people talking about?

To obtain one, you'll start by visiting your GP. They will assess your mental health needs and, if necessary, refer you to the appropriate mental health professional. Your GP will work collaboratively with you to create a personalised Mental Health Care Plan. This plan typically includes a specific number of subsidised sessions with mental health professionals, and may involve psychologists, counsellors, or psychiatrists, (or maybe even a mix) depending on your individual needs.

As Mental Health Month unfolds, remember that seeking help is a commendable (and courageous) step toward a healthier, happier you. Mental health professionals are here to support you, and they recognise that your wellbeing is a priority.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses Mental Health Month and the One Foot Forward Challenge for the Black Dog Institute.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

As the calendar flips to October, a month of real significance unfolds – it's Mental Health Month, and here in Queensland, we kick it off with Queensland Mental Health Week from the 7th to the 15th. This year's Mental Health Week theme, 'Awareness, belonging, connection,' underscores the importance of fostering a sense of belonging and providing a space for conversations about mental wellbeing. It's an invitation to unite, learn, and support one another on our mental health journeys. My plan therefore during the month is to use this column to raise awareness and understanding about mental health and wellbeing within our community.

This week, I wanted to give a big shout out to our team at IMPACT Community Services, who are committed to making a real difference during this Mental Health Month. We've taken up the Black Dog Institute's One Foot Forward Campaign, a challenge that encourages us to walk with purpose. This campaign is a step toward understanding, empathy, and support for the one in five Australians who experience a mental illness every year.

The One Foot Forward Campaign invites participants to set their own goals, be it 40km, 60km, 100km, 150km, or any distance that feels right to them. This symbolic journey reflects the real-life struggles faced by those living with mental health issues. By taking part, we not only raise awareness but also crucial funds for mental health research and support services provided by the Black Dog Institute.

I believe that our collective efforts can make a real impact. To capture the essence of our mission, I've asked some of IMPACT’s dedicated team members to share their thoughts on being part of this challenge:

Zoe Hastie: “I signed myself and the organisation up for this event because I want to help create a better future for those living with mental illness, including myself. There are still so many unknowns in mental health and the more research that can be conducted now, the stronger and more informed future generations will be.”

Amanda Ryan: " I am taking part because I have experienced mental health issues personally and don’t want anyone ever to feel alone and lost like I did and so am giving back to help support others."

To support our team and contribute to the cause, please visit www.onefootforward.org.au/fundraisers/impactcommunityservices and sponsor us. Every step we take, every dollar we raise, brings us closer to creating a society where mental health is a priority, and no one walks alone.

Join us as we put One Foot Forward on this journey throughout October, a month dedicated to improving community awareness and understanding of mental health and wellbeing. Together, we can make a difference—one step at a time.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses mattering.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

We all want to matter — mattering is a fundamental human desire that can significantly influence our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Mattering isn't just a personal pursuit; it's a community endeavour that can uplift individuals, schools, workplaces, and our community.

At its core, mattering is the feeling that we are a significant part of the world around us. It's the belief that we are noticed, important, and needed right now. When we make others feel this way, we not only improve their lives but also strengthen the bonds that hold our communities together.

Research has shown that experiencing mattering has a multitude of benefits. It boosts self-esteem, fostering confidence in one's worth. It even increases serotonin levels, often referred to as the "confidence molecule," which can positively influence our overall mood and reduce anxiety.

Moreover, mattering provides us with a sense of purpose, triggering the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin – the "happiness trifecta." These chemicals not only control our mood but also motivate us to contribute to our communities.

So, how can we create experiences of mattering? Studies have identified three key components: attention, importance, and dependence. Attention means realising that others notice us and care about what's happening in our lives. Importance is feeling uniquely significant and valued, while dependence involves knowing that someone relies on us.

Individually, we can make a difference by ensuring that the people around us regularly feel noticed, important, and needed. In schools, it means emphasising to every student that their presence completes the classroom. In workplaces, it's about recognising that each person and their work are essential for the whole. In our communities, we must work towards rebuilding systems that affirm the dignity and value of every individual.

Mattering is not a one-size-fits-all concept; it's deeply personal. It's about fostering connections, offering kindness, and acknowledging the unique contributions of each person in our lives. It is about taking notice, being prepared to look outside our own internal world and recognising the value being created by someone else. It may seem insignificant at the time, yet the impact that we can have on others – it can be truly powerful. Creating households, neighbourhoods, communities, workplaces, schools, and even a nation where every single person felt like they mattered to someone else.

Simple, effective, lifechanging. Each of us playing a role in the change that we would like to see.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses the Strawman Fallacy.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

As someone who's been in the trenches of emotional conversations, both at home and work, I've learned that misunderstandings can turn even the simplest of instructions into a tangled mess of misinterpretations. It's during these moments of heightened emotions that we might unknowingly fall into the trap of the Strawman Fallacy.

The Strawman Fallacy is like a magician's trick. It's when someone distorts your argument into a version that's so exaggerated and distorted that it's easy to topple over, like a straw-filled scarecrow. They reframe your point of view into something no one would actually believe. They then proceed to knock down this exaggerated version, claiming victory in the debate.

Let me illustrate this with a couple of real-life examples. Picture this: you ask a colleague for a simple favour, but they've had a rough day. Instead of agreeing or politely declining, they twist your words, accusing you of being demanding and inconsiderate. They take your straightforward request and turn it into a monstrous demand. That's the Strawman Fallacy in action.

Or think of a heated argument with a friend. They start making exaggerated claims about your past behaviour, distorting your words and actions to the point where you barely recognise yourself. They're not addressing your original point; they're attacking this strawman version they've created.

So, how do we recognise and combat this fallacy? First, don't get drawn into the exaggeration or distortion. Stick to your original point and calmly restate it. Ask the person to go back to the source of truth – what you actually said or meant. If they can't, point out the exaggeration.

Emotions can run high during these exchanges, but it's crucial to keep a level head. Take a moment to gather your thoughts and then restate your request or point, acknowledging their feelings but emphasising the importance of clear communication.

When you encounter someone using the Strawman Fallacy against you in a conversation, remember to be a role model by not using it yourself. Keep the conversation clear and straightforward without twisting things around – that's how you have productive discussions.

In a world filled with emotional conversations and misunderstandings, recognising and addressing the Strawman Fallacy can help us navigate these treacherous waters. By sticking to the facts, seeking clarity, and modelling clear communication, we can build bridges instead of strawmen.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses Liptember and how 'the lipstick effect' drives the agenda on women's mental health.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

It’s amazing the power that something as simple as a bright shade of lipstick can hold. I recently read an article sharing the story behind Liptember, and the campaign to drive the agenda on women’s mental health.

The statistics speak for themselves. In 2022, the Liptember Foundation's research revealed that one in two Australian women struggled with mental illness last year, with one in four of those facing a severe form of mental illness. What’s more, only 49% of women will seek help because they don’t have the time or money to get help, or are too ashamed to admit they’re struggling.

These numbers are not just figures; they represent the lives and well-being of our mothers, sisters, friends, and colleagues.

Despite these staggering statistics, there's a silver lining. The power of a simple lipstick, or as economists put it, "The Lipstick Effect," can be harnessed for good. The Liptember Foundation has turned this concept into a ray of hope. By encouraging women to add a pop of colour to their lips during September, we're not only boosting our own spirits but also starting a conversation about mental health that needs to be had.

Until recently, mental health research and support services often lacked a gender-specific lens, even though women are 58% more likely than men to experience mental illness. We know women's mental health can be influenced by a multitude of factors – biological, psychological, social, and cultural. From menstruation to menopause, pregnancy to cancer, each life stage presents unique challenges. But it's not just biology; it's also societal and cultural pressures that affect women's mental well-being.

The Liptember Foundation, founded in 2010, has stepped in to fill this crucial gap. To date, they've raised over $14 million that has helped to deliver research, programs, and services tailored to the unique needs of women across Australia.

You can read more about Liptember at liptember.com.au.

Good mental health isn't merely the absence of illness; it's the ability to engage fully and effectively in society. By supporting Liptember, we're not just raising awareness; we're contributing to a brighter, more mentally healthy future for all women.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses the importance of listening to and being present with our children.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

As Child Protection Week 2023 draws to a close, it's a fitting time to pause and ponder the significant message this week carries each year. "Every child in every community needs a fair go." This year's theme, "Where we start matters," has served as a poignant reminder of the vital role our homes play in shaping our children's well-being. Within the walls of our own households, we've been presented with a golden opportunity to be fully present, to truly listen, and to lay the foundation for our children's futures.

In a recent Stronger Together column, I explored the essence of deep listening. It’s not merely about hearing words; it's about understanding the unspoken, tuning in to non-verbal cues, and being fully present. When we engage in deep listening with our children, we create a safe space for them to express themselves, fostering trust and resilience.

When we link the themes of Child Protection Week with deep listening, we unearth a powerful synergy. By being present with our children and attuned to their needs, we equip them with the emotional tools to navigate challenges, express their feelings, and seek help when necessary. In doing so, we fortify their resilience and provide a strong foundation for their growth. It’s within our homes that children learn their first lessons about love, respect, and resilience. It’s here that they form their initial impressions of the world, and it’s within these walls that their sense of security is nurtured.

To truly appreciate the significance of "Where we start matters," we must take stock of our roles as caregivers, parents, and guardians. We must acknowledge the profound influence we wield over our children's development. Our actions, words, and attitudes set the stage for their future interactions with the world.

Our latest episode of the Stronger Together Podcast went live yesterday on the topic domestic violence, and it’s a stark reminder of the painful reality that some children experience violence within their homes. Child Protection Week compels us to confront this harsh truth and take action.

As we reflect on Child Protection Week 2023, let’s remember that where we start does indeed matter. It starts within the walls of our homes, where the seeds of a child's future are sown. I urge you to commit to making your home a place of warmth, support, and understanding, where every child has the opportunity to thrive. Together, we can ensure that every child in every community truly gets a fair go, setting a brighter course for our collective future.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses glimmers, and how they can help us to fill our emotional cup.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

It’s pleasing that in today’s society, we are starting to talk openly about our mental health. Prioritising the importance of our mental wellbeing and shining a light on the source of a person’s pain. With this comes a desire to better understand what might be sitting behind a person’s reaction or behaviour. When people are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or emotional, we usually become curious about what might have set them off, perhaps using words like trigger or trauma or even fear to make sense of what may be going on.

Looking for and expecting to be surrounded by triggers on a daily basis has become our modus operandi, and depending on the day and what is going on for us, we may be more or less affected. I was therefore delighted to learn recently that there is an opposite reaction to trigger, a concept that’s delightful and uplifting and personally, warms my heart. The alternative is glimmer, an internal or external cue that brings you have to a sense or joy or safety. Think a smile from a stranger, a beautiful sunset or seeing a picture of your pet.

Often, we are encouraged to be grateful, and each day I personally write down three things that I am grateful for. I have a diary that I keep these in, and I am up to 131 consecutive days; I’m finding that my gratitude bucket is overflowing! It’s a lovely practice and the power of it cannot be understated, however some days it’s more like a thing to cross off my to do list than a genuine reflection of gratitude and can therefore feel like a bit of a chore.

Glimmers, those fragments of joy scattered throughout our days, hold an extraordinary power – the power to fill our emotional cups. Like droplets of positivity, they accumulate, gradually enriching our lives with a sense of contentment and resilience. Just as a cup is filled sip by sip, these glimmers, whether in the form of a kind gesture, breathtaking view, or a heartwarming connection, gradually replenish our inner selves.

I was therefore heartened to learn about glimmer and have flipped my practice to instead note some of those precious moments of glimmer that I experience in my day, like:

Every day we each experience these tiny moments of glimmer. These tiny moments of warmth in our hearts, a small rush of joy through our veins. Please don’t let them pass you by, and instead pause, and suck in those moments. Take notice of them, notice the feeling that you experience, write them down so that you remember them, and come back to them when you need them. That moment is unique to you and has the power to change the way that you experience what is happening around you.  

What glimmer have you experienced today?

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses deep listening.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

Dadirri, a word from the Ngan'gikurunggurr and Ngen'giwumirri languages of the Aboriginal people of the Daly River region. My initial introduction to this word was unexpected, shared with me after expressing a desire to be more consistent with my meditation practice. More than just doing it, meditation provides an opportunity to contemplate and create space for the deep listening that can occur from within. Deep listening involves more than words, instead tapping into the deeper meaning that includes unspoken needs and feelings.

Too often, we are using our head to guide our decisions and interpret the world around us. We are looking for answers from outside – seeking solutions, asking questions, hoping that someone else will step in, perhaps even step up and take responsibility. If that was the answer, people would be easily able to navigate through the complexities of life and most of the population would be experiencing a state of flourishing or mental wellbeing. Instead, research suggests that only 20% of the population experience states of flourishing at any one time (Keyes, 2005).

What if deep listening provided an alternative way?

Aboriginal writer and senior elder Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann describes deep listening as:

"Dadirri is inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness. Dadirri recognises the deep spring that is inside us. We call on it and it calls to us. This is the gift that Australia is thirsting for. It’s something like what you call 'contemplation'.”

Shirleen Campbell, proud Warlpiri and Arrente woman and third generation resident of Alice Springs Town Camp, Lhenpe Artnwe (of Hoppy’s Camp) is a family and domestic violence activist who shares her own story of deep listening. ‘In Aboriginal culture, our country and its landscape are our classroom. We connect to country as we learn and grow as adults. Our country is always ready to teach our mob and look after us.’ Shirleen refers to a painting entitled Deep Listening, that shows two grandmothers, sitting around the campfire surrounded by young boys and girls using deep listening to learn about country. This year, NAPCAN is using this beautiful artwork to prompt deep listening with children and families and to begin conversations in communities about connection, culture and belonging.

I understand. Taking time out for introspection and understand the practice of deep listening may seem to be a luxury that few can afford at the minute. Taking time to put down the phone, and just be. Taking time to walk in nature, swim in the ocean, plant the soles of your feet on the earth. Lying on the grass, looking up at the stars, holding the hand of someone you love. And allowing yourself a moment to pause, and just listen. Notice what is coming up for you in that moment. Notice how you feel, without judgement. Nothing that you need to do, nothing that you need to hold onto, just a willingness to open yourself and your heart to whatever comes next.

Too often we rely on our head to make sense of things. Yet what I am slowly learning, is that our head is limited in its capacity to provide what we often need. Our head is simply a computer processor, often bringing up thoughts that are unhelpful or choices that do not always serve us. However, there is an alternative, and that involves connecting to our heart and our soul, which, not surprisingly, will boost the power to our brain. Building community by encouraging people to explore and learn from the ancient heritage of Aboriginal culture, knowledge and understanding.

Creating better decisions, kinder humans, greater consideration for ourselves, the people around us and the land that supports us. I don’t think we can afford not to do it.

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