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A common misconception about veterinary sciences is that it’s all about puppies and kittens, but that’s not always the case. Like other care providers, vets can have it tough in the service of the community and there is a lot of active work being done to ensure the vet industry, its people, the community, and not just the animals, can thrive.

Join us as we speak with Dr Lydia Pethick, veterinarian, motivational speaker, and television presenter about working in policy and biosecurity as a vet, the state of mental health and wellbeing in the veterinary industry, and the actionable things we can do to positively impact our mindset and prevent burnout.

Note: This episode contains a content warning. Please see the show notes below for more information.

About Dr Lydia Pethick

Dr Lydia Pethick is a policy veterinarian at the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) in Western Australia where she works in the area of Biosecurity and Sustainability, to grow and protect WA's agriculture and food sector.

She is passionate about increasing wellbeing, resilience, collaboration, and camaraderie within the Veterinary profession, raising awareness of mental health struggles in the wider community, and journeying from a place of judgement to joy. She uses her veterinary, permaculture, and wellness training to holistically, creatively, and practically integrate animal husbandry, therapeutic horticulture, and regenerative practices to build resilience within self, family, our communities and beyond.

Lydia is a speaker at national and international conferences, where she shares her passion about the exciting work in the veterinary industry to improve the health and lives of animals and humans, and is also a TV presenter on Garden Gurus.

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  • [00:10:00] Lydia's journey to veterinary science.
  • [12:40:00] Biosecurity through veterinary science.
  • [04:46:40] What biosecurity policy entails.
  • [02:53:20] Mental health and well-being in the vet space (Content warning: mentions of suicide, emotional blackmail)
  • [00:43:20] The initiatives to raise awareness and support vets and their communities.
  • [22:00:00] Bringing in broader professional skills and support at the university level for future vets.
  • [06:13:20] Support at the industry board level in this capacity across multiple sectors.
  • [12:46:40] SMART, and strategies for managing individual well-being.
  • [22:13:20] 'S' is for self-acceptance, state of mind, and self-care.
  • [19:13:20] 'M' is for mood boosters like morning sun, movement, and music.
  • [13:03:20] 'A' is for awareness.
  • [09:53:20] 'R' is for relationships.
  • [22:56:40] 'T' is for treasure hunting.
  • [05:46:40] Take things a little at a time to improve yourself or your situation.
  • [02:36:40] Lydia's own experiences with burnout and a desire for change.
  • [22:53:20] The stigma and loneliness of personal struggles and wanting people to know they're not alone.
  • [04:36:40] Horticultural therapy in Lydia's life and work.
  • [05:56:40] Finding coaches for your own direction finding.
  • [21:30:00] What advice would you give someone who would like to do what you do, and what advice should they ignore?
Michele Ong

A common misconception about the veterinary sciences is that it's all about puppies and kittens, but that's not always the case. Like other care providers, vets can have it tough in the service of the community, and it takes a lot of active work to ensure that the vet industry, its people, the community, and not just the animals, can thrive.

Join us as we speak with Lydia Pethick, veterinarian, motivational speaker, and TV presenter, about working in policy and biosecurity as a vet, the state of mental health and well-being in the vet industry and the actionable things that we can do to positively impact our mindset and prevent burnout.

I'm Michele Ong, and this is STEAM Powered.

Hey, it's Michele here. Before we begin, this episode discusses mental health in the vet industry, and we do briefly mention suicide and emotional blackmail as part of some of the less positive aspects of vet work. If you would like to avoid this section, please check the show notes for the relevant timestamp.

And if you need support, the show notes also include links to Australian and international resources. Please take care.

Good afternoon, Lydia. Thank you so much for joining me today on STEAM Powered. I'm really looking forward to speaking about your journey.

Dr Lydia Pethick

Thank you for having me.

Michele Ong

It's great. So we'll get straight into it. And you are a vet.

Lydia's journey to veterinary science.

Michele Ong

So how did you get into veterinary science?

Dr Lydia Pethick

I think a lot of veterinarians start when they are young and children. And for me, I grew up in a household with a lot of pets. My mother is an animal lover and I think that sort of got transferred onto me. She taught me a lot about animals and loving animals. And my dad was into, um, he's, he's a medical doctor and I think he was my role model in the sense I wanted to help people as well.

And in university, I got redirected away from human medicine into veterinary medicine. I think that was how I got into it, you know, combining my love of animals and my strengths in science and, you know, wanting to help people, help animals.

So, yeah, it's all come together.

Michele Ong

It really has come together.

Biosecurity through veterinary science.

Michele Ong

And part of your work that you do right now is with the Department of Primary Industries, in the area of biosecurity and welfare. And biosecurity is hugely important in Western Australia, but how did you find your way to biosecurity?

Dr Lydia Pethick

My journey, my vet journey has been a convoluted and very interesting one. I started off in small animal medicine, you know, Dr. Harry, Bondi Vet, All Creatures Great and Small, that was where I sort of started. And I did that for a couple of years. And then I moved into the biomedical field for about 11 years.

And then the state government decided to shut down our facility, which then prompted the pivoting and a change in direction. And so, um, the Department of Primary Industries in WA was hiring. And so that's how I got into policy, veterinary policy in the biosecurity space, because they also use veterinarians in animal biosecurity, preventing diseases from coming in, preventative care and, yeah, managing all these emerging animal diseases.

What biosecurity policy entails.

Michele Ong

That's very cool. So I know that's part of the policy side, but what does that work actually entail?

Dr Lydia Pethick

It's quite varied. There are quite a lot of teams and we manage different projects. For myself, it's working in the import space. So animals coming into WA, working with Quarantine WA, working with biosecurity officers and field vets to ensure that the processes are in place to prevent animals with diseases coming in.

We work also with the plant biosecurity space because it's not just animal diseases, it's also plant diseases. And so for me, imports is one of the big things, but I'm also serving on the Vet Board of WA. So there's also the element of regulation and legislation and managing the veterinary policy in that sense.

Michele Ong

That's very cool. So how do you make those decisions on what can and can't be brought in?

Dr Lydia Pethick

It's not just within WA, I think that at a federal level, we think of what happens Australia-wide and what we want to prevent coming in, because we have things like Foot-and-mouth disease and a lot of diseases that are on our doorstep, in nearby countries, and then we work at a national level, and there's also a lot of work with stakeholders to work through what are the diseases of concern.

We have diseases-- I think there's a regulated list for what we want to prevent happening and establishing within WA. And then we work within that space in the surveillance and control. So they're doing a lot of these checks to make sure we are free of these diseases.

We also work in emergency management, if something does come in, how do we quarantine and set restricted areas and prevent it from actually getting bigger. And how do we eradicate? And so there are different levels, but we also, because it's state government, it goes through the minister of agriculture and there's also biosecurity councils.

There's a lot of different committees, working groups, to ensure that we're all doing things in unison consistently across the board as well.

Michele Ong

Yeah, that's so cool because it involves working with so many different other types of specialists as well, not just vet sciences, agricultural people, you're also looking at epidemiologists and pathologists, all those kinds of things that work together, that impact our biosecurity. So it's such a wide and varied range of fields to be able to bring together to collaborate on these kinds of policies.

It's very neat.

Dr Lydia Pethick

Absolutely. And really, we draw upon the strengths, like you said, epidemiologists and, and pathologists, and we have, we work very closely with the laboratory where they do all the testing and, and verifications.

Michele Ong

Such an interesting space.

Mental health and well-being in the vet space (Content warning: mentions of suicide, emotional blackmail)

Michele Ong

So you're also not just passionate about the animal and the agricultural and all the, you know, the non-human side. But you're also very passionate about the human side and often talk about mental health and well-being in your profession. And I'm always fascinated to hear you talk about this because it's so many aspects of veterinary science and the industry that we don't think about.

But for our audience, what are some of the issues that are faced by vets in this space?

Dr Lydia Pethick

So the areas in the mental health and well-being space faced by vets, I think within Australia, particularly, the data shows that vets are four times more likely than the general public to take their lives. One every 12 weeks takes their lives. So the losses are great and there's a lot of burnout in the industry.

And I think it comes from different factors. It's a multifactorial thing. I mean, individually vets are high achievers, also people-pleasers, always wanting to do the right thing. And you have an industry which is not just puppies and kittens. You have industry that has a lot of sick animals, there's euthanasia, so they're really emotionally charged areas and also unlike a human medicine, there isn't the subsidies, we don't have Medicare.

And so when people realise the real costs of medicine, it can actually put a lot of strain and a lot of tension in there. Yeah, so there are a lot of different factors. And also like when COVID hit, the number of pets and the number of pet ownership actually just skyrocketed. But because of the restrictions of people coming in, the workforce was smaller.

And so it should put a lot of strain on the existing workforce. So, yeah, you have a lot of emotional blackmail that happens and people who are not really aware, and when they get faced with the high costs or the actual costs of medical care, and then, you know, you have things said like, you don't really care about animals, why are you charging us this much?

And also with the advent of social media and how people can get really harsh and cruel to each other and then, you know, putting up stuff out there that may or may not be true, can be really hard on vets who are trying their best to do the very best job they can. So it's a combination of different things, unfortunately.

But I think the great thing is that there are many people who recognise this and want to be part of the solution and want to work together to help at different levels at a federal, state, individual teams -wise, as well as an individual level, to try to improve things culturally and try to prevent the ill health that we face.

The initiatives to raise awareness and support vets and their communities.

Michele Ong

Yeah, absolutely. And because it comes from so many factors, there are solutions that need to come from all parts of our community because it's not just within the industry. It's not just the individual practitioners, but it's also raising awareness. And an understanding within the community of what vets actually do and what their responsibilities are and what their responsibilities are as a pet owner.

And yeah, as you said, people can be extremely cruel because they're not thinking about the perspectives beyond their own current needs. So what sort of things are being done in this space to help improve the situation?

Dr Lydia Pethick

There's promotion to try to get pet owners to take up insurance, to help them with the costs of healthcare. The other things that can help at a federal level or the state level, they're trying to see if they can also raise funding for subsidies or Medicare kind of policy for pet owners, also recognising on also promoting the fact that pet ownership, there's a responsibility, there's that monetary aspect to it.

And I think there are different types of payment plans available now that help people pay back in installments, or there's AfterPay, and all the other different things that are happening at the clinic level to help reduce the financial strain. And then at different levels, there are different groups.

So the Australian Vet Association, they've come up with a thrive initiative, which they're rolling out in some pilot studies in clinics to see if that can improve things at a business level. And there are other initiatives are happening globally in the UK and the US where people are joining and as part of their membership, they can indicate that they're very serious about these issues and about how to reduce their impact and um, share resources so they're not reinventing the wheel, but globally sharing resources so that we can together help reduce the struggles that we're facing and improve the strengths.

So, there are also other initiatives that have been birthed from trauma and tragedy. Things like Sophie's Legacy, things like Flynn's Walk, where, you know, they're raising awareness and also fundraising, and also doing campaigns within clinics with posters to actually remind clients to be kind and to also just to share awareness of what vets go through and build community so that we can support each other a bit better.

Bringing in broader professional skills and support at the university level for future vets.

Dr Lydia Pethick

At the university level, I'm not sure about all the other universities, but I know in Murdoch, for example, they have started a program, I think, over the last 10 plus years called Vet Professional Life where they teach not just the technical skills, where they also teach the non-technical skills of communication, emotional awareness, emotional intelligence, learning our strengths, learning our personalities, how to work together in teams. They get vets in to share their journey. There's also mentoring programs in place. So I think those things are really helpful.

And I know a friend of mine who's now teaching in the- at Murdoch university in emotional intelligence and doing a PhD in that space as well. So it's just really great that we're actually building capacity and resilience in the new graduates before they even become veterinarians. And then we have initiatives that help vets at conferences and other programs that are out there.

So it's just, we're all trying to work together slowly, but hopefully collaboratively.

Michele Ong

Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, as you were saying with the university level kind of education, because I think I remember we were having a conversation about this once and you said a lot of people would come into vet science thinking it's puppies and kittens and not quite understanding what the full scope of the work would involve and, you know, having these kinds of programs where you can teach about the human side, the communication side, the emotional side and having capacity, resilience to be able to be that kind of support in the community in that capacity is such an important factor of the profession that a lot of people forget about or overlook. So, you know, it's great that it's coming in through from, you know, when you're first getting trained in the technical skills as well. It's very awesome.

Support at the industry board level in this capacity across multiple sectors.

Dr Lydia Pethick

The other thing I would like to mention as well, I think the veterinary boards, the ones that regulate, it's a bit like AHPRA for medical, but the vet boards in different states and territories are learning how to improve their communication because it's a very stressful process whenever there's complaints.

So the vet boards are also trying to, they recognise, you know, how they can reduce their impact during the process to support vets better. So they're doing a lot of training in that space, but also trying to collaborate with global and national initiatives to try to be better to reduce ill health.

Definitely.

Michele Ong

Yeah, definitely. And even the medical sector is already doing all these sorts of programs in terms of operating with respect and how the surgical boards are talking about how to improve communication and relationships between practitioners and patients.

And you can see that happening in different kinds of specialist organisations around the world and it only makes sense that the vet industry has similar things because you're servicing the community in the same way. You're having the similar sorts of interactions with hostilities and stressful situations because people are under health pressures and financial pressures that comes with having to be a service provider in that capacity.

So yeah, being able to see that the boards are also incorporating these sorts of practices and strategies to improve the relationships between patient and practitioner is great to see.

SMART, and strategies for managing individual well-being.

Michele Ong

So those are the sorts of things that are industry-wide. But you also speak about how the individuals can improve their own situation when they are under these sorts of pressures.

And you just recently did a talk about SMART. So can you tell us a bit about that?

Dr Lydia Pethick

So I recently spoke at the Vet Expo in Melbourne and the title of the presentation was "Living our best lives: Strategies for daily well-being" and I grouped it under SMART so that we could remember it easily.

'S' is for self-acceptance, state of mind, and self-care.

Dr Lydia Pethick

And I think for us individually to improve our well-being, one of the things that can really help is that 'self-acceptance'.

I think that studies had showed that fulfillment and happiness is a lot higher when we're kinder to ourselves. And one of the strategies that I shared to actually help us accept ourselves a bit more is to do that high-five in the mirror and, you know, high-fives are associated with cheering people on, encouraging motivation.

And when we actually high-five ourselves in that mirror, we smile at ourselves and tell ourselves, you know, you've got this, you're going to have a great day. We're transferring all those positive emotions over the decades that we've associated with high-fives to ourselves, and Mel Robbins is the one that actually started the High 5 Habit, and she's got a free five day high-five challenge that people can take if they want to know a bit more about this, how to be kind to themselves, how to utilise this high-five to improve their motivation, improve their confidence, reduce stress and ill health.

So that's something that they can try. The other thing with 'S' is also our 'state of mind'. You're wanting to improve our state from a sad, depressed one to something that's a bit better. The three components that sort of feed into our state is our focus, the other thing is the language that we use, and the final one is our body language.

And so, you know, high-five is a very cheerful thing. Posture like Amy Cuddy's got the whole TED Talk on a strong power pose can also help shift our body out of that fight flight or that curled up feeling depressed to something a bit more expansive, and the 'self-care' that comes with learning to accept ourselves is also very important because our best deserves rest and a lot of us, I think growing up, particularly myself in Asian culture, it was productivity, you know, you are affirmed when you achieve and then when you're not, you know, it's tough, but learning to rest is so important.

Like, you know, iPhones or smart devices all need to be recharged. And likewise, if we don't, our body breaks down in some way. And so learning to engage daily in activities that refuel us, and that's going to be different for different people and finding out what it is that energises us and doing and engaging in those things to really help us then manage the stresses that then draw down on us.

'M' is for mood boosters like morning sun, movement, and music.

Dr Lydia Pethick

And so the 'M' that I talked about in SMART was 'mood boosters' that we could utilise.

So one of the biggest things is 'morning sun', and it's free and a lot of us don't use it enough. But morning sun before 10 a. m. I think it's just getting, you know, some morning sun and how we utilise it. You know, it could be just drawing the blinds and making sure the sun's coming in, getting out, doing a bit of gardening, doing a bit of walking, doing some stretches.

But the beauty of morning sun is because when we get exposed our skin, our eyes to morning sun, we produce serotonin. And serotonin is so important in mood regulation. But in the evening, serotonin converts into melatonin, which helps us sleep. And so morning sun exposure regulates our circadian rhythms, gives us the energy in the day, that's a natural boost of energy without caffeine, and at night helps us to go to bed. So the Huberman Lab, they have a lot of work done in terms of sunlight exposure and how much dark and light we require, and I think that's one of the areas that people can actually utilise to improve their mood if they're feeling a bit low, and that's why you have the Seasonal Affective Disorder, the SAD, when it goes into winter time and even when it's cloudy, you know, possibly getting a little bit more exposure through the clouds still, it's really good, but they also mentioned the research, not doing it through a window screen or through sunglasses, actually letting your body get that morning sun and not doing it in the afternoon because that's where the UV rays get a lot higher and that's where you know your risk of skin cancer goes up.

So yeah, morning sun between about 7 and before 10 a. m. Depending on where you are, depending on cloud cover, depending on exposure and sensitivity, yeah. That's where they sort of recommend 5, 10 minutes or more depending on the research.

The second 'M' that I was sharing was 'movement' and how it produces endorphins, how it's stress relieving.

About seven weeks ago, I signed up to a gym. I don't normally go to gyms, but this is really good because it was 30 minutes and it was like full-body kickboxing with trainers. And it- what I shared was do movement that you find fun and do movement where you actually get accountability to do it.

Like if you don't show up, they will ring, they write, you know, texts. Or I go for walks with friends, it sort of really gets you, you know, you're like, they know because you swipe in and that sort of gets you up and going. And then the more you do it, the stronger we get and the more resilient we are to the different things are happening as well, and that's what today I was looking forward to actually going to gym and you really get a full body workout because you're just sweating at the end of it and they really push you. It's like three minute rounds for nine rounds and it's a great workout for busy people because you go in, you get out, you get really good workout, you actually feel good because you've got those feel good post-workout high. And so I really, really recommend people moving their bodies. It doesn't have to be such an intensive workout. For me, I also love doing nature walks and that helps. Very calming, very grounding. Walking is also another one that's really good for creativity and de-stressing.

But yeah, finding movement that people enjoy, that they will stick with and have friends or accountability, will really keep them going.

I forgot to mention the fact that music can really change our state of mind. We can have playlists for different things, morning, energising playlists, night time wind up.

Definitely, it really can help with mood as well. So definitely using it as one of the tools can be very helpful for people.

'A' is for awareness.

Dr Lydia Pethick

'A', um, when I talked about 'A' was 'awareness'. Self-awareness. And awareness precedes change. And if we want to live our best lives, we want to keep growing, we need to know where we're at and what might be in our way. What are the things that we're doing well?

And so what I shared was this table which was a circle with 12 different segments and people can put in different things in those 12 segments. It could be like finances, their attitude, their relationships, their careers, and then they can put a dot on the outside of the circle if they're doing really well or somewhere near the middle if they're not.

And then just getting really curious about why is that they're feeling this way. And this self-awareness self-assessment tool was one that my friend Amelia, she's a veterinarian, and she does Life Boost with Amelia that she shared in one of the emails and I found it really helpful and she's got a free resource again if people are interested to go through this self-awareness tool to work out where we are at, which are the areas that are really life-giving, energising, which are the areas that we're struggling with, and then why.

'R' is for relationships.

Dr Lydia Pethick

When I talked about 'R', and that's our 'relationships', we are all built for community, for belonging, and one of the key things that I shared to help improve belonging and community and our well-being is daily acts of kindness for other people and could it be a need that we meet, or seeing a strength and affirming it, writing a positive review, sending a positive note, just every single day finding ways that we can really be kind and encouraging to someone else.

It lifts them, it lifts us, and it's just something that really just improves that social connection score for all of us.

'T' is for treasure hunting.

Dr Lydia Pethick

And I think the final one is one of my favorites. So 'T', I shared about treasure hunting at the end of the day because sometimes we are so tired, but we can't go to sleep because you know, our brains are so wired. So I was sharing about how we can treasure hunt.

So the first thing we treasure hunt for is things that went well, things that we're grateful for, the highlights, because it may not be a good day, but there's still good in every day. And when we start looking out for these wonderful things that have happened, it just uplifts us and helps us realise, you know, there is something worth living for.

And, and it just uplifts us and also helps us become more solutions focused and helps us feel happier that sometimes life has this parallel tracks of difficulty, but also some really good things.

The second thing I encourage people to treasure hunt for was their daily wins.

So oftentimes we struggle with imposter syndrome because we struggle with feeling like we're not good enough, or who are we to do. But when we start logging the daily wins, even the small victories, we start building that evidence that we can then challenge when the negative imposter thoughts come to say, Hey, look, you know, we've done all these wonderful things.

And then the final thing I sort of encouraged people to treasure hunt for is lessons.

So things that may have gone wrong are mistakes that we've made. Re-framing them as lessons that we've learnt and then recording it so that you know, tomorrow we can do better.

So those were the things that I shared with SMART for individual resilience, well-being, improved happiness and more purposeful living.

Take things a little at a time to improve yourself or your situation.

Michele Ong

Yeah, and these are all extremely actionable things, which makes it such an incredible acronym to be able to keep in mind all the time, because when a lot of people talk about spoons or capacity and how much executive function is needed for a lot of these things, many of these things can count as little things, you know, trying to get out of bed can be hard, but just see if you can get some sun.

You don't have to do anything. Just lie there for a bit okay, it's all the stuff that you can practice in small amounts in whatever capacity that you can do, and if you keep practicing it becomes habit and even you know small things like you're talking about kindnesses and frame of mind those all require practice.

You know, it's not always easy to be kind. It's not always easy to think positively about yourself and of other people. But you can practice. You can get used to it. And it becomes easier as you get used to doing it more often. And it's, you know, all these things together are helpful small steps to improve your life.

They're not going to solve everything, but it will get you into a place where you might be more open to the idea of how you can fix it or how you can find a path.

And that's, you know, it's such a great way of thinking about it.

Lydia's own experiences with burnout and a desire for change.

Michele Ong

So what motivated you to kind of head this direction and talk about these issues and to kind of put yourself out there for sharing and bringing awareness to these problems and how we can try and make things better for ourselves.

Dr Lydia Pethick

For me, this was birthed through my own lived experience with burnout.

I think in the profession, I hit burnout and after it, I'm a big believer that we can transform our pain into purpose, our sadness into strength. And there must be a reason why we go through these trials, if not for lessons learned, but also encouragement of other people who might have, or might be going through the same things.

And I think because of what I've been through and what I've seen happen in our industry, I have been really drawn towards positive psychology and strengths and figuring out how we can build resilience. Because we all in, in life, you're going to always have change and difficulty, but how we perceive it, how we respond to it can make a big difference.

The stigma and loneliness of personal struggles and wanting people to know they're not alone.

Dr Lydia Pethick

So for me, it's, I'm still very much a work in progress, but yeah, my-- the lessons I've learned and the pain and the struggle that I have faced and sometimes still facing, it's something that's pushing me towards this passion of improving. Because I realised that when I have spoken about these things publicly, it's helped other people who've felt stigma or felt afraid to share, or just had that really lonely struggle, feel more courageous and recognise that hey, there is hope. And I think that's what I really want to share, which is hope and empowering people, elevating everyone at the same time.

Yeah.

Michele Ong

But yeah, And it's such an important thing as well, because when you're struggling yourself, you often forget that you're not always the only one, and that other people are going through similar struggles.

But it's coming through from your own struggles and your own traumas or your own challenges and thinking, I'm not the only one who's done this.

So being able to share what you've learned and what makes things work for you and being able to help improve your mindset, it's such a generous thing for you to be able to do.

I really appreciate all that you are doing, especially in this space, because, you know, as you said, the numbers of people suffering in the vet industry is very high. And many people who are not in that space will be completely unaware of it. So, you know, any, any small amount of impact that you can make in that area is such an important thing to be able to do.

Horticultural therapy in Lydia's life and work.

Michele Ong

Also, you have a background in horticultural therapy, which ties in really nicely to this human side of the work that you do. So how did you come to incorporate horticultural therapy into your life and work?

Dr Lydia Pethick

I came across therapeutic horticulture, horticulture therapy, in my long service leave. I attended a conference that somebody recommended I attend and that opened my eyes to-- You know, I always was drawn to nature and growing things, but never knew there was this huge industry that is growing, that is out there, and it's using nature and gardening techniques to improve people's well-being and it's from the very, very young to the very old, people with disabilities, people who are in detention centres, people who have suffered trauma, and a lot of people find nature really grounding and very calming and it's, it's tapping into that.

And then all the studies and research that's happening, you know, when they're showing people images of concrete jungles and urban settings versus they show them ones of parks and greenery, and then the heart rate, the breathing rate, and you know, the cortisol levels, they're showing that so much in there. For me, I was drawn to it because that wanting to help people, but also loving nature and that seemed like the perfect opportunity to also help other people, um, tap into something that was just around them, or they could bring it to the house, to the indoor plants, herbs. So it was just something that I came across and I was like, I'm fascinated by this. And then during COVID, I took-- there was a distance learning course that I took the whole year.

I actually spent doing different modules in this, which they taught me aquaponics and all the different types of things I could do in designing a herb garden, and helping people with disability, and how we could bring this therapeutic modality to support them, improve their memory, improve their strength.

And it was just something that I was, yeah, fascinated by. And so that's why I sort of decided, okay, it's, it makes a lot of sense and it can help people. So why not?

Michele Ong

That's amazing. And it's such a-- like being able to think about the way that we can incorporate nature into our lives in whatever capacity is also a great way of being able to help with our mindset and everything as well.

It's very cool.

So where to from here? Well, how are you going to put all these incredible skills and learnings together going forward for the kind of work that you want to do?

Dr Lydia Pethick

It's still a work in progress and I thankfully have good coaches that I can work with to map out and work out how I do this so that it's done strategically but giving me enough rest as well because I definitely want to learn a little bit more in the positive psychology space to equip myself, but able to also then empower others.

Yeah, so it's, for me, this has been a question that I have been mulling over and trying to work through as I think about what my focus is on 2024 and beyond, because there's also areas of my career, work career, where I know I need to focus on and possibly in areas of veterinary public health or One Health, where it integrates human, environment and animals. Yeah, so I've just been looking and still researching. I don't have all the answers yet, but I'm very open to exploring and trying to work out how I can, with all the different commitments I have, do something that will be life-giving, energising, and not cause me to have too much on. But It's good, it's exciting that we have the opportunity to dream So that's that's a good thing.

Michele Ong

Absolutely. And you know, public health in all of your areas of interest at the moment is such an incredible space to be able to consider entering into because it is a very holistic approach to the way that we handle public health too. Conversation for another day, maybe.

Finding coaches for your own direction finding.

Michele Ong

So how do you find coaches to help you in this kind of direction finding?

Dr Lydia Pethick

Um, I found coaches in the past through being at similar events, but also social media like Instagram and actually journeying with people over time and them encouraging and recognising, Hey, we're actually a really good fit or we're really in alignment, I really like the things that you're putting out. Yeah, and then having conversations with them and, and recognising, Hey, actually, I would really like to journey with you for, for the season and seeing how that goes.

Michele Ong

Yeah, it's a great way of kind of approaching that as well, because it doesn't have to be within your space and it gives you an opportunity to explore as well, because people with other experiences can help you find direction in other areas that you may not be thinking about.

It's very cool.

What advice would you give someone who would like to do what you do, and what advice should they ignore?

Michele Ong

So one last question for you. What advice would you give someone who would like to do what you do? What advice should they ignore?

Dr Lydia Pethick

One, be very kind to yourself. Keep being kind to yourself. Recognising sometimes we have a very strong inner critic and switching that to being our inner cheerleader where we can. I find journaling quite helpful because recently I've had to unpack a lot of things. So journal these things down because it helps you get a bit more awareness and distance as well.

And. find out what your passions are and keep pursuing them. Having people who also increase the energy. And with passions, I think sometimes innately we know when we're doing something and just time just goes by when that state of flow, that's an area that we're passionate about. And you know, how with the whole Ikigai, you know, what you're passionate about, what the world needs and you know, what you can be paid for.

Yeah, I'm still trying to get there, but you know, knowing what you're really good at.

Michele Ong

The Holy Trinity.

Dr Lydia Pethick

Yeah. And, and knowing our strengths. But for me, it's also just having really good people around me because I can have blind spots, um, having good people that I've given permission to speak into my life, they help support, they help elevate, especially during the difficult times. So to have community.

And then one, one last tip that I wanted to share, which helps with that motivation. Like if you're in the morning, you're trying to struggle, trying to get out of bed, Mel Robbins has this 5 second rule where you count backwards 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, get out of bed. If you've got this great thought again, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, act on it, write it down, do something about it.

That can be a really helpful technique because the minute we go from inertia to counting we're already starting to take action and the way we count backwards activates the brain.

So yeah for anyone wanting to do all these different things, this can be a really handy hack to help fight inertia, to help us get going in the morning or you know when you want to do that kind deed and you're struggling just 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, do it.

Michele Ong

Yeah, definitely. Like it's one of those things where like for the last few years I've been thinking about that where I will procrastinate things a lot. I will think about and overanalyse and overthink it until it never gets done or never get started. And then I started trying to go, well, think a thing, do a thing, right.

Okay. Super hard. But you know, when you think of it, put it down somewhere, commit it somewhere on paper or commit it by telling someone about it. And the counting is also you're committing to an action. So it's just, you know, finding a way that you can hack yourself to convince yourself to take action when it's really hard.

Yeah, so thank you so much for this. This has been absolutely wonderful. If people want to know more about what you do, where can they go?

Dr Lydia Pethick

They can connect with me on LinkedIn and on Instagram. So I've got two Instagram accounts. One's a gardening one, which is @drlydiapethick, and then there's one which has all the well-being strategies, and that's @choosejoyoverjudgement.

Michele Ong

Absolutely. I'll include them in the show notes. Yeah. So thank you so much, Lydia, for speaking with me today. It has been absolutely wonderful hearing about your journey through veterinary science and the amazing work that you do both in vet science as well as in the community and how we can improve our mindset and create a better way forward for our mental health and our well-being.

So yeah, it's been absolutely wonderful speaking with you today and I hope you have an amazing rest of your day.

Dr Lydia Pethick

It's been such a pleasure. Thank you for having me, and you have a wonderful day too.

Michele Ong

Will do.

If you enjoyed this conversation, please let me know. Subscribe to this show, leave us a rating, and share this with your geeky or geek-curious friends. You can also support STEAM Powered on Patreon under steampoweredshow, the link for which will also be in the show notes. Thanks for tuning in, and we'll see you next time.

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