STRONGER TOGETHER: Questioning where our focus lies on the ‘bigger picture’

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"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses the power of questioning and expanding our focus.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

If you have a piece of paper grab it, or simply imagine one, place a single small dot anywhere on the paper, and look at the page. What do you notice?

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director
Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

This isn’t a puzzle, or a cryptic riddle. It’s a reflective exercise to understand how and what you might focus on.

Some people will become fixated on the dot, what it looks like, represents, and reminds them of.

The same thing can happen in our daily lives. We can become engrossed in certain things; tunnel vision takes over and everything becomes relative to the dot.

When this happens, we can become preoccupied and lose sight of what is important to us.

But what if we also considered the blank space?  

If we shift our focus from the dot to the page, there’s a wealth of space to a comparatively small dot.

This space can be indicative of many things, opportunity in particularly. The space for creativity, for change, growth and for something other than a singular fixation.

Being able to look at the bigger picture and interrogating what we see and why can be liberating.

By practicing this kind of reflection, you can give yourself permission to consider alternative situations, context, and the flexibility of reality.

However, broadening one’s focus is sometimes easier said than done. We bring with us past experiences and education which can shape our response to stimulus, alongside our present mindset and busyness which can influence our focus.

Mindful practices can be used to help create the time, space, and ability to step back and reflect.  

Breathing exercises are among the most accessible and simple tools to creating such a space. Some techniques include box breathing; whereby you inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds and then exhale for four seconds, repeatedly. Another exercise is belly breathing and mindful breathing.

There are numerous apps and resources online with further information on breathing and mindfulness techniques.

If you have a spare moment today, consider if there’s something you’re fixating on and what you might see if you broaden your focus.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya focuses on the power of visualisation.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Making your dreams a reality undeniably requires a lot of dedication and hard work; but there’s several simple and fun tools that can give you a hand along the way.

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director
Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

The power of visualisation as a form of mental practice is not only attested to by numerous high-performing athletes and business professionals, but recent research has revealed this type of rehearsal can influence memory, motor control and planning. 

To maintain momentum in the pursuit of your dreams, creating a Vision Board can be an effective means to help promote manifestation as you work towards bringing your dreams to reality.

When creating a vision board, get clear on what you want. Consider your values and goals, and also think about what you would like to achieve, what kind of person you would like to be, how you want to feel.

It’s important not to spread yourself or your Reticular Activating System too thin. As mentioned last week, your RAS is located at the base of your brain and works like a filter processing the sensory information that you are exposed to

Your vision board can therefore assist your RAS to focus on what is important to you.  The key is to double down on 1-2 key themes, and once you are clear on those areas, get your creative juices flowing!

Dream big. Spend some time collecting photos, images and quotes that represent what you want. Vision Boards can be anything you want them to be – traditionalists will display on a cork board, however they can be created online and displayed as a screensaver on your phone or laptop.

The most important part is that you display it somewhere that you will see it daily. A Vision Board serves as an anchor to your dreams and displaying them loud and clear in front of you on a daily basis helps to consistently work towards them.

And don’t be afraid to change it up once you have achieved a certain goal.

That’s the beauty of a Vision Board – you’re in control of what goes on it!

If you’re looking to improve your wellbeing and resilience ahead of entering or re-entering the workforce, the ADAPTABLE program might be just what you’re looking for.

ADAPTABLE is part of IMPACT Community Services’ free and voluntary WORKFit program, which delivers resilience training to people looking to identify and develop their inner strengths.

Jobseekers can now benefit from a resilience-building based program that will promote well-being and empower them to navigate the job search landscape and deal with the challenges of a new job.

ADAPTABLE Mentor Jonathan Bailey talks through some of the questions about the program, resilience and wellbeing below:

What is wellbeing?

Wellbeing is the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy, and there are many factors that can contribute to increasing an individual’s wellbeing. The better our wellbeing is, the better our life experiences are.

What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity. It’s the ability to grow and thrive in the face of challenges and the ability to move forward when there’s an opportunity to do so.

How do I build resilience?

Research has shown that wellbeing and resilience are closely linked. The better our wellbeing is, the higher our levels of resilience are. And the connection goes both ways whereby, the more resilient we are, the more likely we are to have better wellbeing.

Throughout the ADAPTABLE program, clients will take part in discussions and activities which help boost wellbeing and resilience. The activities are simple to do but have powerful affects. One example is the ‘three positive thoughts for every negative thought activity’. In this exercise we write down any negative thought that we may have experienced recently. Then we must write down three positive thoughts to help counter that thought or feeling.

According to research, for us to flourish, we should have at least three or more positive emotions to outweigh the experience of a negative emotion. This activity is a simple yet powerful exercise to help us succeed in this area.

Why is wellbeing and resilience important when looking for a job?

Life can throw many positive and negative challenges our way and looking for work is no exception. By looking after our wellbeing, increasing and maintaining our levels of resilience, we can ensure we’re in the best space, both physically and mentally, when searching for a job.

Can working be good for my health?

Absolutely yes! Research has found that being engaged in good and fulfilling work leads to improved self-esteem, mental health and reduces psychological distress. The right job can be great for our wellbeing.

If you have any questions about the program we haven’t answered here, give the team a call on 0459 860 928.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya focuses on the Reticular Activating System in the human brain and how we can use it to help up us accomplish our goals.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

It’s often said that the human brain is like a supercomputer, and just like a computer it has various systems and filters that can be used to our advantage when we know how they work.

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director
Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

One such system is the Reticular Activating System. A bundle of nerves located at the base of our brain, our RAS works like a filter processing the sensory information that we are exposed to; from images, to words, colour and sound.  

The average person is exposed to more than 74 GB in information a day, therefore our RAS will support us by setting filters on the information we feed it – what we focus on, what we tell ourselves, the information we consume, the people we spend time with.

Sometimes though, mindlessly exposing ourselves to information without considering what is most important to us can result in the consumption of social media and other content filled with misinformation, doctored images and toxic messages. This can become detrimental to our wellbeing if we don’t create awareness around it and check in with how it aligns to our own beliefs and worldview.

Fortunately, our RAS can help us with this.

Imagine this.

If you struggling to get fit, write down what you need to do to get fit. Put that list somewhere that you will see it, write your main goal in big letters so that it stands out, read fitness blogs, get a personal trainer, create a vision board of things you want to achieve from being fit. Do whatever it takes to ensure that your RAS takes notice and supports you to reach your goal.

When we understand how our biology works, our RAS can be used to our advantage; the key is continual reinforcement, focus on what is important and consistency which can be achieved through the practice of positive mantras, vision boards and even visualisation.

Understanding the tools available within the human brain can be lifechanging, supporting us to focus on specific goals and take the necessary steps to achieve them.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya focuses on time and how spending it doesn't have to feel like a loss.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Noticed yourself or others talking about how quickly the year’s gone? If so, you’re not alone.

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director
Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

In today’s fast-moving world, it feels like we’re losing time – we simply don’t seem to have enough hours in the day to do the things we need to do.

These feelings of loss associated with how quickly time flies, are aligned to a scarcity mindset.

It’s easy to lose yourself in this state-of-mind amid the daily hustle of work and life. Without realising it, we start to articulate this as experiencing loss or lacking something. These thoughts can be insidious, and they can creep into other areas of our life.

Viewing ourselves, our situation, and opportunities that come our way through a scarcity lens, can seem like everything is a ‘win-lose’ situation.

But what if we turned this into a ‘win-win?’

For many, their waking hours are largely consumed by work, with precious little time available to check off things on the ‘to do’ list, much less engage in wellbeing activities like exercise or socialising.

So, is a lack of time the issue, or the feelings associated with how we do spend our time?

Everyone gets 24hrs a day, and a choice about how that time’s spent. Work, childcare responsibilities, volunteering, medical appointments and household duties dictate our time be spent in certain ways, but this isn’t necessarily a loss of time.

By using the phrase ‘I get to’ rather than ‘I have to’ flips the script on loss and instead immediately increases the value to something we want to invest our time into. 

Deliberately scheduling your time or imagining every minute has a dollar value, and therefore needs to be allocated well is another means to reduce this feeling of scarcity.

As is, including engaging activities that leave you feeling less busy and stressful, especially when feeling ‘stuck in the daily grind’.

What we want is to experience the feelings that come with these changes, and the shift in mindset from scarcity to a place filled with abundance.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya focuses on hurry sickness and the power of slowing down.

By Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services' Managing Director

In a world where connectivity is constant and productivity is associated with success, it can be hard to say no.

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director
Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

Struggling to say no to jobs, no to meeting up with people and even no to opportunities that we think we could accept but don’t really have the capacity to prioritise is something some people have difficulty with.

It’s what happens when you’re in a ‘hurry sick’ cycle. This pattern takes form in multitasking, rushing, and becoming irritated when obstacles arise.

The over-committed and fast-paced busyness of life with a lack of boundaries and unrealistic time expectations can contribute to a state of hurry sickness.

When people can lose the ability to stop and think, it can lead to an increase in errors, efficiency, direction. Most critically it can have long-term health implications.

While hurry-sickness isn’t a formal diagnosis, it is patterned behavior that reportedly increases your output of cortisol which can lead to burnout and depression. Moreover, staying in a heightened state of urgency and overstimulation can influence levels of fatigue, anxiety, and the ability to relax.

Identifying you’re in a state of hurry sickness can be akin to overcoming motion sickness, you need to slow down and stop. Stop rushing, stop being in a hurry.

Being able to say no to someone or something when you are at your limit is crucial to your quality of life and work.

You need to be able to prioritise yourself and interests with time. You don’t want to be too busy making a living you forget to live a life.

Practicing mindfulness to clear your mind can lead to personal and professional proactive leadership, rather than running on autopilot.

When you stop multitasking, you can start to question why you’re being asked to do something or why you’re spending your time on a particular project and whether it warrants the stress and immediacy you previously applied.

Prioritising work that is time critical rather than undertaking all the opportunities, projects or jobs with a perceived sense of crisis.

Briefly pausing to be present, in the moment not the thought, can have myriad benefits to your wellbeing, mindset and decision-making skills.

You must give yourself permission to take a break and know that there is support available.

Taking a break can take many forms, for some it can be as simple as saying you’ll get back to someone with a response instead of giving an immediate definitive answer.

It can also look like momentarily stepping away to regather your thoughts and composure if situations are heated or uncomfortable. For others it can be switching out language which is unnecessarily rushed – ‘I’ll pop out’, or ‘I’ll quickly get that done too’.

Some of the ways to practice mindfulness include breathing and tapping into your senses (stopping to breath for a minute and taking note of what you can hear, what you can see, what you can touch and what you can smell).

There are plenty of online resources you can access for information about mindfulness and breathing exercises.

Take time to experience life’s simple moments rather than just observing them.

When you slow down and identify what you value, it can become easier to say no to things that aren’t serving you.

Next week I will be focusing on how to determine your values and maintaining boundaries to preserve them.

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