As vegans, we face an unparalleled and sometimes insurmountable flood of visual and verbal messages that directly conflict with our personal values and ethics. At office potlucks and holiday gatherings, we are faced with visual imagery of the mass torture and carnage of animals. Omnivores constantly question our choices about the foods we eat. Driving to and from work, we pass billboards with rodeos, cheeseburgers, dairy farms, and even cows telling us to eat more chicken. Many of us only “come out” as vegans in our household and with our circle of friends. We can’t help but be affected by the things we see and encounter, and we may not even realize the internal damage that is causing. It’s in our nature to be kind and caring, which makes us more susceptible to all of this.
Sometimes, our compassion for all living creatures can outweigh a compassion for ourselves. We can be our own worst enemy. We might think we are not doing enough. Surely there is more we can be doing to stop this horrific injustice to the sentient beings and the planet, right? We are frustrated with ourselves for not being vegan earlier in life. We calculate how much better we could have done if only we had started earlier. As if the external pressures are not bad enough, we perpetuate the damage to our mental health by participating in self-loathing.
In order to protect our mental health and overall well being, we need to forgive ourselves and, most of all, LOVE ourselves. You are doing enough. You are making a difference.
- Unplug. There is only so much social media images and comments one human being can handle. There are times that I need to unplug for a few days to recover and reconnect with my spiritual self. Many of us have careers that are dependent upon regular social media connection, but get creative to find a way you can set some parameters or boundaries.
- Do what you love. Take some time and write down the things you truly love doing. Then assess how much you currently do them and how you can implement a plan for doing more. Going to animal sanctuaries, doing yoga, meditating, getting together with vegan friends, and cuddling with my dogs are all things that recharge my batteries and give me wings.
- Practice gratitude. Thank the people who have helped you along the way. Thank the person who influenced you to adopt a vegan lifestyle. Thank restaurant owners for offering vegan options. Appreciate Del Taco for carrying Beyond Meat. Thank your friends for going to a vegan restaurant with you. Celebrate your not-yet-vegan friends and family for being supportive and caring. These are just a few examples of practicing daily gratitude, which has been shown to increase happiness and reduce depression. Here are a few more.
Having awareness of the challenges we face every day as vegans is the first step in overcoming them. Implementing some strategies such as disconnecting from social media, doing more of what makes you happy, and practicing gratitude can help. There is support out there, anytime you need it. Please use it and BE WELL.
Victoria Palmenberg is an MSVA Certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator who balances a full-time job in higher education with baking and providing coaching services to those in need of support. She is also in school, pursuing a Certificate in Health and Wellness Coaching, to prepare for National Board Certification for Health and Wellness Coaches. When she is not working and studying, she tries new recipes for delicious vegan baked goods for her business Penny Power. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook and contact her by email.