The Whole Veterinarian

Take A Moment featuring Dr. Sarah Montgomery

October 01, 2020 Sarah Montgomery, BA, PhD Season 1 Episode 13
The Whole Veterinarian
Take A Moment featuring Dr. Sarah Montgomery
Chapters
The Whole Veterinarian
Take A Moment featuring Dr. Sarah Montgomery
Oct 01, 2020 Season 1 Episode 13
Sarah Montgomery, BA, PhD

I am so excited to share my conversation with Dr. Sarah Montgomery! Sarah is a PhD in Curriculum Studies (she teaches people how to teach people!) and is also a Certified Mindfulness Instructor. She gives a wonderful and scientific overview of the basics of mindfulness and why it can be so helpful to veterinary professionals. She's got all of the science-backed data and experience to explain why YOU need to take a moment and just BREATHE.

...

About Dr. Montgomery!
Sarah is Founder and CEO at Peace Within. She is a Certified Mindfulness Educator who has been practicing Mindfulness since 1999. Sarah has 20 years of experience in K-12 and higher education and has published research and given national presentations on Mindfulness. She has taught Mindfulness to adults both face to face and online. Sarah has a B.A. in Psychology from Kalamazoo College and a Ph.D. in Curriculum Studies from Indiana University. She is passionate about Peace Within because stray cats and dogs tend to find her, and every time, the support of veterinarians is amazing. Sarah wants to use her research and teaching experience to help the veterinary profession.

Contact info:

Email: [email protected]

Website: https://www.peacewithinmindfulness.com 

Instagram: @peacewithinmindfulness

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peacewithinmindfulness

Twitter: https://twitter.com/4peacewithin

...

Resources!

Mindfulness for Veterinarians Free Preview: https://www.peacewithinmindfulness.com/demo

Free Well-being Resources for Veterinarians: https://www.peacewithinmindfulness.com/resources

A wonderful, science-backed article to check out for more info!
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_state_of_mindfulness_science

A free app recommendation from Stacey:
Gratitude

...

Ways to connect with The Whole Veterinarian!
Instagram: @thewholeveterinarian
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thewholeveterinarian/
Email: [email protected]
www.thewholeveterinarian.com

....
Music Credit: Journey of Hope by Alexander Nakarada

Show Notes Transcript

I am so excited to share my conversation with Dr. Sarah Montgomery! Sarah is a PhD in Curriculum Studies (she teaches people how to teach people!) and is also a Certified Mindfulness Instructor. She gives a wonderful and scientific overview of the basics of mindfulness and why it can be so helpful to veterinary professionals. She's got all of the science-backed data and experience to explain why YOU need to take a moment and just BREATHE.

...

About Dr. Montgomery!
Sarah is Founder and CEO at Peace Within. She is a Certified Mindfulness Educator who has been practicing Mindfulness since 1999. Sarah has 20 years of experience in K-12 and higher education and has published research and given national presentations on Mindfulness. She has taught Mindfulness to adults both face to face and online. Sarah has a B.A. in Psychology from Kalamazoo College and a Ph.D. in Curriculum Studies from Indiana University. She is passionate about Peace Within because stray cats and dogs tend to find her, and every time, the support of veterinarians is amazing. Sarah wants to use her research and teaching experience to help the veterinary profession.

Contact info:

Email: [email protected]

Website: https://www.peacewithinmindfulness.com 

Instagram: @peacewithinmindfulness

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peacewithinmindfulness

Twitter: https://twitter.com/4peacewithin

...

Resources!

Mindfulness for Veterinarians Free Preview: https://www.peacewithinmindfulness.com/demo

Free Well-being Resources for Veterinarians: https://www.peacewithinmindfulness.com/resources

A wonderful, science-backed article to check out for more info!
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_state_of_mindfulness_science

A free app recommendation from Stacey:
Gratitude

...

Ways to connect with The Whole Veterinarian!
Instagram: @thewholeveterinarian
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thewholeveterinarian/
Email: [email protected]
www.thewholeveterinarian.com

....
Music Credit: Journey of Hope by Alexander Nakarada

Stacey Cordivano :

Hey guys, welcome to the whole veterinarian. My name is Dr. Stacey Cordivano. And you know we've got some stuff going on in this profession of ours. On this podcast I will speak with outside of the box thinkers to hear new ideas on ways to improve our day to day life. I want veterinarians to learn to be happier, healthier, wealthier, and more grateful for the life that we've created. Now let's get started. I'm super happy to be joined today by Dr. Sarah Montgomery. Sarah has a BA in psychology and a PhD in curriculum studies and is also a certified mindfulness educator. She is the founder of peace within mindfulness, an online platform geared specifically toward veterinarians. Thanks for joining me today. Sarah,

Sarah Montgomery :

thank you so much for having me.

Stacey Cordivano :

I'm excited. This is a topic I've been dying to talk about, because it's been so helpful for me. So I was hoping you could give us a little bit about your background on how you got into mindfulness and how it's been applicable for your life.

Sarah Montgomery :

Absolutely. So I was fortunate that when I was 19, at home in the summer from college, that my dad said, let's do this Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program. I was actually an intern in human resources at a local hospital that was putting on that program. And he just thought it would be a great opportunity for us to be together and explore this topic. And it was life changing. And I think since then, it's always just been a part of my life and a part of my toolbox of kind of resilience strategies. But then about six years ago, one of my students, I'm an education Professor, came and said she wanted to research mindfulness and education. And from there, it kind of took off and what had previously been my personal life intersected with my professional life, which brings me to our conversation today. And we can get into more of that later. But in terms of how mindfulness has helped me, I think it's just shaped my ability to respond to the world as opposed to react. There's so many things about our situation right now, and parenting, and you name it, that are really pretty tricky. And I think it's given me a chance to kind of look at things more holistically, and maybe reframe things and focus on what really speaks to me or aligns with where I want to be or how I want to be in this world. It's also just given me concrete tools to teach others and that feels really fulfilling.

Stacey Cordivano :

That's amazing. Yeah, I love that. So let's for listeners, you know, mindfulness is sort of a vague term and meditation is could be an out there subject for some people. Can you define it for us?

Unknown Speaker :

Absolutely. So according to Jon Kabat Zinn, who is the founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program, which has had a long standing series of research done on it in the past three or four decades, he defines it as the act of paying attention, on purpose, without judgment to the present moment. It seems simple, it's not, but just the idea of just paying attention to this moment, and noticing how you feel noticing what's around you. And you know, sometimes that can be beautiful to actually notice, like, wow, the leaves are changing colors, or my child, you know, is smiling and playing having fun right now. It can also be hard to notice, like, wow, I feel really sad, I feel exhausted. But to just be with that, and to lean in and notice it and honor it and kind of work with it, as opposed to beating up on yourself about like, Why do I feel this way? This is terrible. It shouldn't be like this. And it's like, this is what it is right now. And I'm going to notice it. So that's a little bit of a definition. Yeah.

Stacey Cordivano :

The without judgment piece was the mind blower for me, when I started trying to pay attention. It's one thing to pay attention, it's another thing to just cut yourself slack for what you're feeling,

Sarah Montgomery :

right. And that, for me has been a huge growth area, I would say even in the past five to seven years is the self compassion piece. Just noticing when I can be kind of hard on myself or critical or you know, judge whatever the situation is. So yeah, I totally agree with you if the judgment pieces is powerful.

Stacey Cordivano :

Yeah, and I am going to generalize here. But I think most veterinarians, we're pretty hard on ourselves. So I think that's definitely an applicable aspect for this my population of listeners.

Sarah Montgomery :

Absolutely.

Stacey Cordivano :

And so how did you kind of intersect that study and research with the veterinary industry

Unknown Speaker :

To get back to my story after that student wanted to do research. And then we started doing some research in schools, like with kindergarteners, and I did work with my future teachers and the classes that I teach in the undergraduate and master's level courses. I just noticed what an impact it was making for them. They could articulate tangible changes in their day to day lives and in their performances, educators and I thought, Gosh, I got to keep going. They just kept asking for more and that pushed me to study more and to learn more and to become certified in this and along the way. My husband walked in one day and I was making mindfulness videos, just quick things for my master students who are fully online. And he said, Sarah, you've got to share this with more people like you could help more people. This needs to be beyond your class. And so there was an entrepreneurship program through the University of Iowa that was taking place in our community about a year ago. And we decided to go for it and take that class and learn like, what would that be? How would that look and we walked in saying, like, we're going to help teachers. That was our plan, like, that's my world that I've already been doing this work. And I want to figure out how to make that happen. And then the first week that we started the class with that plan, my husband was at a coffee shop, and he ran into our dear family friend, who's also a veterinarian, and they were talking and the friend asked, you know, what I was up to, and my husband told him about my research and my teaching, I was working on a book project at that point on mindfulness in higher education. And he stopped and he said, Wow, veterinarians could really use this, you should help us. And it was like, mic drop, pause, like wake up, you know. We did not previously understand the stressful components of the profession. And so that was for us a call to action. And so we started leaning into that, and doing some work with that. And we showed up to our next entrepreneurship class and told them, you know, we're thinking about pivoting and changing and helping veterinarians. And it was silence. Like, they all just looked at us like, Why, what are you talking about?

Stacey Cordivano :

They play with puppies and kittens all day.

Sarah Montgomery :

Exactly,there was just, I mean, I remember the look at our teachers face, and he's brilliant and talented. It was just this huge confusion, like, Where did this come from? And why? This is fine. This is not a problem. And as we continue to investigate further and educate them further, it became so clear that there's a real need for some stress reduction and strategies to help with how to navigate the components that are so challenging. And so part of our class was to interview veterinarians, because that's what we chose to focus on. So we ended up interviewing over 100 veterinarians, and that's how it got started. I have a background in curriculum development. And so that idea of taking content and tailoring it to the needs of specific groups of people or students is just what I do. I think our friend asking for help was a wake up for us to say, let's do it. Let's try to help. So here we are.

Stacey Cordivano :

That's amazing. I'm so grateful that you're here. Not that the vets listening really need to belabor what's wrong with our profession, but what were some of the top takeaways that you guys found in that survey?

Sarah Montgomery :

We interviewed, it was over 100 veterinarians, some of them were survey, but most of them were face to face interviews, or over the phone or on zoom. And we talked to folks who work small animal, large animal mixed, they were like industry folks, and even like in the research sector. So there was a wide range of people, which was really interesting. And every single person was just so incredibly kind and talented. And you could just see the threads of the community, just that strength. But then in terms of what's challenging, I would say it's three overall things. One is the compassion fatigue. As our friend, the veterinarians wife, likes to say, he's bearing witness to the suffering of not only the patients, but also the clients as they make tough decisions and work through that. And then there's that roller coaster of like, okay, I was just in this appointment with a really tough decision, a tough case. And now I've got to go in and welcome a new addition to a family a kitten or a puppy or whatever, and put this huge smile on my face. And there just isn't time to process the emotions that one feels as a human, you know, and that exhaustion, that potential numbing even is that compassion fatigue with that secondary trauma piece. And then the next part was client bullying, which we did not realize. That could be clients being very disrespectful or clients going online and posting negative reviews or hateful things on social media. It also was clients saying things like, if you really cared about animals, then you wouldn't charge me. Yeah, it shouldn't cost that much.

Stacey Cordivano :

SThat's a classic.

Sarah Montgomery :

Well do it for free. So it's like taking why many people seem to have gotten into the profession and like flipping it into like, you're not caring, when clearly everyone we talked to was just an incredibly empathetic person. And then the last was what we would call financial squeeze. And that has three parts. One is the financial decision making pieces and limitations regarding clients and their own budgets. And so the fact that patient treatment is so tied to what the clients are able to pay or what they choose to pay is really hard. And then the next piece is the student loan debt being so intense. And the last is just the economic realities of like a small practice, especially standalone practice. Just this barrage of economic realities.

Stacey Cordivano :

Okay. Yeah, so I definitely can relate to all three of those. So I was hoping maybe we could talk about specific ways in which mindfulness could help in those things. I mean, that's a huge topic. Right? But

Sarah Montgomery :

Absolutely, a couple of different things. One is trying to give yourself just a couple minutes, honestly. I know no vet that we talked to had 30 minutes, you know. It's like a five minute span potentially, where you can just stop and be, and maybe that's in your car, maybe that's in the bathroom, maybe that's stepping outside. Or maybe it's before you step back into your home space and the demands that you face as a person in your life with potential family and relationships. Just to give yourself a chance to press pause. I think that would be one huge starting point. Another in terms of the compassion fatigue, I've really been digging into the research by Dr. Kristin Neff out of the University of Texas, Austin on self compassion, and one of the key tenants of her work to respond to compassion fatigue, and to support self compassion is mindfulness. There's a lot of different things with her work. But one is knowing that you're not alone. Knowing that others experience challenge as well. And challenge is part of humanity. But then also noticing how you talk to yourself, and seeing if you can talk to yourself in the way that someone who really loves you would talk to you. Because all too often the judgment piece, right? We can really be critical of ourselves, or could I do more? Did I do the best that I can? Is there something that I missed in regards to client communication or patient treatment? So that's another piece too.

Stacey Cordivano :

So what does that look like, like in real life. So that's like, before you start your day, take 10, quiet minutes to yourself to tell yourself those things. I'm not alone.

Sarah Montgomery :

I think that it's wide open. I mean, there's not like one specific approach that you have to use. The materials that we're developing and are recommending are just these five minute opportunities to lean into some of these strategies and do them when it works for you. I personally do my mindfulness practices really early before my kids get up. And that's just a way for me to like, have a moment of quiet and like build some resilience for whatever the day might bring, especially in a pandemic. For others that might work, you know, right before you get to the clinic, or the hospital or in between appointments, if you're driving like to different spaces for treatments. Also, at the end of the day, or just during the day, like if you could step outside for a couple minutes, or do something in the bathroom for a couple minutes just to breathe and check in. So there are some specific mindfulness strategies as well like working with your breath, noticing your body, noticing your heartbeat, noticing your emotions within your body. So the breath work, the body connection, giving yourself a chance to press pause. And then I think given the work that we're learning, that self compassion piece is huge, just just a way to try to respond to the level of compassion that you're expected to show and which is an incredible, like superpower strength from those that we talk to. But it's also very draining.

Stacey Cordivano :

Yeah, that was the word that was in my head, draining. Yeah, I just wanted to like clarify a little bit. So if someone's never even heard of mindfulness, or the thought of meditation sounds way too woowoo. I just wanted to like put it in a frame of mind that they could fit it in. And,

Sarah Montgomery :

and I don't think I mean, that's one thing with mindfulness, there is mindfulness meditation, but there's also like, you can take a walk, you know, like, you could doodle. you could take a moment to send a text message to somebody you love telling them. I don't know, thank you. It doesn't have to be what some of us might classify as meditation, it definitely doesn't need to be some 25 minute thing, it can just be kind of these short opportunities to reset or reconnect, or just press pause, so that you can get back in to what it is that you're having to focus on that day.

Stacey Cordivano :

Perfect. I know there's a ton of research on mindfulness, are there any things that popped to the top of your head that might help someone who has sort of a science background get a little bit more into the idea of taking a moment to breathe?

Sarah Montgomery :

I know the science is so important, and that's a key piece of what we're trying to offer. I'm a professor, citations matter, like, I want to know your sources, I want to use primary sources. It can't just be some blog posts, not the blogs aren't great, I welcome the opportunity to talk about the science. So some of the key findings overall are that engaging regularly with these mindfulness practices, or giving yourself a chance to press pause can really help with focus. And I know that that can be so important in terms of like diagnostics with patient treatment, or just connecting with the client and your patients can't talk. So you really have to get all this information from the client, which can be really tricky, depending on how they're answering or not answering questions. Also for surgeries and procedures, improving focus, I think could help all of us. Regardless of what our day looks like for sure. The next is just that support with reducing stress and anxiety, which is so needed right now. And then that compassion piece helping you just notice. At this point, I can notice when I start to put myself down. You should have done more today. What did you you didn't get that done? And it's like, hold on, stop. I've done an amazing job today as a professional, as a parent. no, I'm not gonna listen to these moments when I'm hard on myself. So just kind of noticing that and stopping yourself and maybe reframing it. In terms of the neuroscience. I actually gave a national presentation a few years ago in San Francisco on mindfulness with kindergarteners, and Dr. Jon Kabat Zinn, who is the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction showed up by surprise.

Stacey Cordivano :

wow, yeah,

Sarah Montgomery :

it was a little like, Okay. And then he was super nice and helpful and kind. And we got to talk afterwards. And he said, 20, or 30 years ago, in neuroscience, if you said he wanted to study this, and the impacts, people would be like, whew, good luck. It wasn't respected. And he said, at this point, you know, in so many different fields, not only just neuroscience and psychology and medicine, but even like business and education, you're seeing this work, and it's very well respected. And so it's not uncommon. And I thought that was kind of a helpful lens on like, the timeline of this.

Stacey Cordivano :

Yeah.

Sarah Montgomery :

But in terms of the neuroscience of it, what we're seeing through that research is that when you're doing this, I was looking at a study this morning, even an eight week session, have given yourself a few minutes each day to do these practices actually can strengthen your prefrontal cortex, we can see that on these brain scans. So you can see the prefrontal cortex is strengthening and actually expanding, where's the amygdala shrinking. So now you've got evidence of what we kind of know in practice, right? That your ability to respond is overriding that reaction with the amygdala doing like the fight or flight and just, you know, reacting super quick in the prefrontal cortex helping so much with decision making, and emotional regulation and that type of thing. So the science is out there for your listeners, I mean, we offer some resources on that on our own website, which is peacewithinmindfulness.com. You can also go to places like the greater good science center in Berkeley. And that can be super helpful, especially for folks who are new to it.

Stacey Cordivano :

Yeah, we'll definitely link all that in the show notes for sure. And so then you mentioned the content that you guys are creating. And I definitely want to get into that and hear about it, because I can't wait to join, it looks so doable.

Sarah Montgomery :

That's the goal, right? Like, especially right now, we've got to make things super accessible.

Stacey Cordivano :

Yeah. So you have a monthly membership. Is that correct?

Sarah Montgomery :

Yeah. So that's how we've started, we started in April, because we thought, Well, here we are at home, like, let's give this a shot. If people could use this at any time, it seems now. And so we've launched with a monthly membership, that you get three new strategies a month, and it's two audio strategies. And then one kind of video that introduces the practices that fit together for that month with another strategy embedded in that. And then you have access to basically a library of these strategies. And we've designed them to be vetements specific, that's what I think is really unique about what we're doing. So they're five minutes or less, because that's what's real, based on who we've talked to their research base. So with every single practice, we give links to reputable either like peer reviewed journal articles, or like solid Science Magazine type websites that can then link you to those studies. And then we've used that information of talking to these 100 veterinarians to make sure that it's all really tied into the context and as applicable to not only like the daily realities and schedule, but the situations that so many people told us about.

Stacey Cordivano :

Yeah, that's amazing. I love that it's vet centered, because I think it's really helpful. I mean, it's helpful to feel like you're in your community already. Do you have one tip that you could give or a practice that you could give out to listeners now that maybe they shouldn't do while they're driving?

Sarah Montgomery :

That's right. I've got a couple. Can I give three quick ones?

Stacey Cordivano :

Oh, yeah, great.

Sarah Montgomery :

So first, the research on gratitude just continues to amaze me. And so I would encourage people, anybody, whether you've been doing this for a long time, or just are thinking about it today, as you listen here to think about one thing that's going well, and just kind of focus on that, and maybe write it down or tell someone or even just send a text message, like I'm thankful for you or somebody in your life, like, I'm really thankful, the sun shining today, whatever it might be. So that gratitude piece can be huge. The next one is to try to go outside just for a minute and listen, and maybe you hear a lot of traffic, maybe the sounds you hear aren't peaceful. And notice that but maybe you do hear birds singing, or you hear leaves crunching, it's fall here in the Midwest. And just to notice those sounds. So it doesn't need to be some big, long, elaborate thing with a script that you follow. It's just like, I'm outside for one minute listening and how does it go? Name the sounds.

Stacey Cordivano :

Yeah, that's been helpful for me in my meditation work, just naming things as you hear or feel them, it's helps me focus.

Sarah Montgomery :

Absolutely. And then the last would be to try to give yourself a moment just to connect with your body in your breath. So just pause, sit down, stand up, whatever works for you. Maybe you're in the bathroom because you get like, a minute or two to yourself in there. I don't know. And you could even put like your hand on your heart or your chest, maybe notice your heart beating. And just notice your breath and just realize that You know, you're, you're living breathing being and to give yourself that moment to just again, kind of like, I can feel my heart beating, like, I can feel my breath. Here I am. you know, and and to go from there, that's kind of I would say like the beginning of body awareness. It doesn't need to be some body scan that takes forever, although those can be great, but just a quick chance to connect with yourself.

Stacey Cordivano :

Right, I love those. That's super helpful. I'm so glad that we've gotten to do kind of an introduction to mindfulness, I hope that we'll be able to circle back around and maybe do a deeper dive at some point in the future.

Sarah Montgomery :

That would be fun.

Stacey Cordivano :

But thank you for joining me today. And I ask all of my guests, what is one small thing that has brought you joy this past week?

Sarah Montgomery :

we rescued a black mama cat in her neighborhood with her kittens a few years ago and found them all homes actually, our sweet veterinarian adopted a few they got a golden life right there. And she loves me, but she's a little standoffish. And this morning, she came in our room and gotten her bed and snuggled in parts so loud, and my husband was even petting her. And it was just a really beautiful moment to kick off in an awesome Friday morning here.

Stacey Cordivano :

That's great. I love that. Yeah, animal snuggles are the best.

Sarah Montgomery :

Oh, my goodness, yes. They really are our best teachers when it comes to mindfulness. But perhaps we could talk about that next time.

Stacey Cordivano :

That's true. A friend of mine did say like, don't you have to be fairly mindful to work around horses? And I was like, Oh, I guess you do have to be kind of calm and quiet. But I hadn't actually thought about it that way.

Sarah Montgomery :

There's so many ways that all of you are already doing this work every day in your professional spaces. I think just bringing awareness to that and using it to take care of your own needs is key.

Stacey Cordivano :

Yeah, that's great. That's good advice. So I know that you guys are on Instagram, tell us where we can find more information about you and the courses and things like that.

Sarah Montgomery :

So we're on Instagram @peacewithinmindfulness. That's the same on Facebook. And then Twitter is the number 4peacewithin and then our website is peacewithinmindfulness.com. And if you go on there, there's a resources page with video clips and audio clips and webinars that we've done and even visuals you can download as reminders to breathe and things like that.

Stacey Cordivano :

I did the breathing videos. They're great.

Sarah Montgomery :

Oh, good. And then on the preview, we just got that updated within the last week. There's two free audio practices on there too. So feel free to take a look. And I hope that they help.

Stacey Cordivano :

Definitely. Thank you. Thanks again for spending time with me today. It's been really fun.

Sarah Montgomery :

Oh, it's been a blast. Thank you for the invitation. I'm excited that you're doing this work. And I appreciate being here.

Stacey Cordivano :

Thanks. Talk to you soon.

Sarah Montgomery :

Thank you.

Stacey Cordivano :

Thank you so much for listening to the episode today. I hope you enjoyed and I hope you learned something new. And I hope you found something that may help you in your day to day life. That's the whole goal here. If anyone has any interest in joining the peace within mindfulness membership, I'm thinking that I will definitely sign up this fall. So I'd love to do it with some friends. So definitely send me a message if you have any interest in creating some sort of accountability group or anything like that. Also, if you enjoyed this episode, or if you've enjoyed any of my episodes, please share with a friend or send me a message with some feedback. It really helps keep me going and I appreciate all of the notes that I get from you. Thanks again, talk to you in two weeks. Transcribed by https://otter.ai