Vegan Survival Kit
Anyone who has been a vegan in an isolated environment knows the challenge of maintaining one’s equilibrium in the face of being a minority of one. Even with online support, it can become tedious to deal with the daily onslaught of questions, queries and putdowns. Worse yet are the criticisms from within the movement, from people who are a bit ahead (or a bit behind, depending on your perspective) on their vegan, human journey. Then there is the constant barrage of reality checks that come from listening to podcasts and reading articles about the dismal state of the human-nonhuman alliance in the world today. Global warming, ocean destruction, factory farming, animal extinction, human overpopulation, deforestation, hunger, desertification, exploitation scream out from every corner of the world. And then, don’t forget to smile and radiate health when you go out in the community - you have to represent a healthy veganism, don’t forget!
When undergoing clinical training as a psychotherapist in graduate school, we were taught not to “bleed out” for our clients, not to take their tragedies inside of us, or we would not live to help that client or any other in the future. First priority was learning self-care. As a manager working with forensic mental health clients, I was told that stress was the number one enemy – be sure to take time for renewal, massages,meditation and other healing arts. Now that I am working in animal advocacy, I know I have dropped some of these ideas from my daily regiment with disastrous results. This has been one tough year. It is time to build a vegan survival kit; want to come along?
Build Your Own Vegan Survival Kit
How can vegans and especially vegan activists maintain a positive attitude and high energy with such draining endeavors going on? This podcast is going to look at how to get your bounce back and keep it there. It is terribly important to learn these skills so you will not burn out.
- Connection. First of all, do a real lifestyle assessment. Is your work and play in balance? Are you getting emotionally nourished while you give of yourself to others? Do you have a healthy support system? Do you have others with whom you can talk and share? Are you around positive people who understand you and value you? If the answer is no to any of these questions, please consider what you can do to change the social dynamics in your life. No local vegan groups? Start one of your own. Yahoo meetups are available most anywhere. You need to take good care of yourself or you won’t be of any use to anyone else, and that includes the animals.
- Time. Are you setting limits on how long you work? On how much time you spend doing outreach? On the computer? On taking on new projects? Are there things you can let go of? Put off for awhile? Setting goals may help you to focus, not waste time, and limit how much time you spend spinning your wheels or going into overdrive. Some times you just need to slow down; other times you just need to focus. Look realistically at how much time you spend on activism and veganism and determine if it is a reasonable amount of time for a mere mortal. Time management skills definitely belong in the vegan survival kit.
- Body. Are you eating a healthy, balanced vegan diet consisting primarily of fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes or grains? Are you actually cooking most of your meals or eating them raw? Are you exercising daily, and working up a sweat at least three times a week? Do you stretch, do yoga, meditate, or practice any other stress reduction techniques? Are you getting out on your bicycle, going for a run or walk, and using your body enough to keep it fit and healthy? Do you sit in a comfortable chair at work or at home when you are blogging, writing, or podcasting? Do you take breaks and stretch, move, breathe? Do you walk barefoot on the earth occasionally? Do you take time to feel the sun, wind, or rain on your face and body? Don’t neglect your body; keep it healthy.
- Spirit. Are you nourishing your soul? If you love music, are you taking time to play, dance, sing, listen to music? If silence heals you, how often do you get to enjoy it? If there are birds outside your window, do you watch them, listen to their song? The earth, for all her scars and troubles, is still a beautiful place. Join her and be part of her healing process. Lay on the grass. Listen to a waterfall. Watch a bug crawl along the sidewalk. In your own way, give thanks for participating, even during these difficult times. Be glad you can make a contribution; she needs us every one. And so do the animals.
- Humor. Maintaining a good sense of humor is critical for keeping your head above those treacherous waters that bring you down. If you want to retain that bounce in your step, you have to develop a good sense of humor. Try keeping a file of those cartoons that you find humorous, and foster friendships with people who know how to laugh. Try not to take yourself too seriously; keep things in perspective. Instead of that action film, try a comedy. Laugh every chance you get; it is really healing and, while I am not a doctor, I have heard that it is good for the immune system.
- Joy. There is a book called, The Artist’s Way, which is all about renewal to keep creative juices flowing. When I remember to follow the simple dictates, it works well. Here is one of the suggestions: schedule weekly blocks of time to do something that you enjoy. That simple; you determine how much time and you figure out the details. If you love photography, spend four hours a week walking about seeing what you might capture on your camera. If you love to swim, take a dive in the ocean. Sit in a cafe and savor every drop of coffee. You need to schedule this block of time each and every week, though. Think of it as a date with yourself. It is really worth it in the renewed energy and creativity that you will gain. Find something you enjoy, and don’t let a week go by without it.
- Explore. Maybe you need a vacation, a change of scenery. If you cannot jet off to Paris or sail to the Bahamas, perhaps you can check out something local you have always wanted to see. Do you really know the backroads nearby, or that little winery up the road? Isn’t there an old thrift shop or antique store you have always wanted to visit? Something you have always wanted to try? Pick up that drum at the thrift store and start down a new road. Begin a journal, learn to paint, volunteer at the animal shelter. If time is short right now, think about the trip you want to take someday; then make someday happen. Make a list of local outings you might take — then start taking them!
- Breathe. One of the best stress relievers is to breathe deeply, letting go of your stress as you exhale. Remembering to breathe deeply throughout the day is very rejuvenating. Stick reminders on your computer, your bathroom mirror, wherever you might notice them. When you see them, stop and inhale deeply, fully….then slowly exhale. Stretching, too, can help you recover and get you through a tough day. Stress accumulates, so that is why it is important to take deep breaths periodically throughout the day. Remember to breathe!
- Simplify. Life can get pretty hectic these days, with demands for work, finances, time, and energy. Remember, this is the life you are creating; make sure that it is the one you want. Simplifying life does not mean creating an empty life, but rather one that emphasizes what you value. Things can often own us more than we realize, with maintenance and upkeep, cleaning and insuring, taking the joy out of the original acquisition. Sometimes letting go can create a vacuum that can then be filled. Overscheduling activities is another way we often distract ourselves from what we really love. If you find yourself scurrying from one appointment to the next, stop and rethink your priorities.
- Attitude. The old saying about an attitude of gratitude has some wisdom within it. Keeping a positive outlook is good for the soul and the body, too, as well as the mind. Make certain that you are around positive people where you have choice, and trim out those that bring you down, or limit their access to your heart and mind. Finding things for which to be grateful keeps you focused on the positive. It is important when doing the difficult work of trying to educate people about how their choices are impacting others and working towards social justice.
That very old tape admonishes us, “Don’t eat meat.” Beware of “bootleg hooch” too. When making changes, integrate one change at a time. Find out what works for you; then make that change second nature before you take on another change. Even positive change can be a form of stress, so take steps slowly and incrementally. It takes a while to develop new habits, so expect some backsliding. Don’t let it defeat you, just know it is part of the process.
Activists and Caregivers Must Be Vigilant About Self-Care
Taking good care of yourself is doubly important if you are a caregiver, whether of a child or an animal. Children tend to pattern their own self-care based on what they experience as a child, so do not think by martyring yourself you are teaching your child what he needs to learn. If you are responsible for the well being of a nonhuman animal or animals, it is important that you stay healthy so these beings can survive, too. Remember that you are the role model for your children; if you want them to learn to care for themselves, you need to demonstrate good self care. That is what you want them to learn, right?
There is important work ahead. Taking good care of yourself can help you go the distance. Disclaimer: this is not professional advice, it is what I use in my Vegan Survival Kit. I hope they will be helpful in your survival kit, too. As for me, I am heading out to have some fun. Why don’t you do the same?
- Take Good Care of Yourself by Wardell Quezergue
- On and On by Stephen Bishop
- I’m Yours by Jason Mraz
- Moon Dance by Van Morrison
- Make ‘em Laugh by Donald O’Connor
- Who’s Taking Care of You? by Sheila E and the E-Train
- My Father’s Eyes by Eric Clapton
- Peaceful Easy Feeling by the Eagles
- Blue Skies by Karrin Allyson
- Button Up Your Overcoat by Annette Hanshaw
- What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong