For a lot of people, 2016 has been an emotionally challenging year, and going home for the holidays sometimes only adds to that stress. If your family gives you a hard time about being vegan or an animal rights activist, we’re here to help you stay sane! Make sure that you take care of yourself over the holidays by doing these things:
1. Create a Support System
Building a community of like-minded people is key to long-term sustainability for activists. Before you go home, make sure that you have contact info for your friends and other members of your school’s animal rights group. That way, when your uncle who always makes bacon jokes just won’t stop or you’re feeling isolated and upset because there’s a lack of vegan food on the table, you’ll be able to vent to someone who understands and can remind you of the great progress that you’re making for animals.
2. Take a Long Shower or Bath
There are very few things more relaxing than taking a long shower or bath, especially with a great cruelty-free bath bomb or some bubbles. If you start feeling stressed out this holiday season, take some quiet time for yourself and soak away your worries. Tip: Try products from Lush, The Body Shop, or Bath & Body Works.
3. Go for a Walk
Nature, fresh air, and exercise are age-old healers for the soul. When you need a break from the fam (it’s OK, we all do), just take a quick walk outside. Look at clouds, notice animals and nature, and take a few deep breaths—you’ll be feeling better in no time.
4. Play With an Animal
Spending time with animals is uplifting for anyone, but it can be especially heartwarming for vegans. Don’t have an animal companion? Volunteer at a local shelter to share the love with lonely animals this holiday season. It will be the greatest gift they receive and will make you feel more relaxed—we promise.
5. Create Something
Expressing yourself creatively is essential to having good mental health. If you’re tired of continually explaining your lifestyle to family members, find another means of expression. This could be through painting, drawing, coloring, creating music—the possibilities are endless. Not artistically gifted? That’s OK! This is for you. No one has to see what you create unless you want them to.
6. Make a ‘Calm Jar’
“Calm jars” are a great tool for relaxing and calming the mind. Just give the jar a little shake and watch the glitter settle. The great thing about a calm jar is that you can take it with you when you go see family or when you go back to school.
7. Disconnect and Unplug
Social media and the internet can be great avenues for self-care. You can build a supportive community, find humorous things to laugh at, and even express yourself more freely than you may feel able to IRL. But the internet can invite a lot of negativity in as well. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or upset, sometimes it’s better to step away from your phone or computer and have some quiet time.
8. Write Out a List of Emotions or a Letter to Yourself
Activists often feel a wide variety of emotions, and it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly how you’re feeling. This can get worse if you’re in an unsupportive environment or away from your like-minded friends. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, write out a list of emotions and just keep writing until you find a word or group of words that closely relates to how you’re feeling. You can also write a letter to yourself. This is a great way to get strong emotions out on paper, which will lead to more productive conversations with friends and family members.
9. Watch a Funny Movie or Show
Laughter has a great calming effect. So cuddle up in a blanket with some delicious vegan noms and enjoy your favorite comedy. You’ll laugh those worries away.
10. Meditate and Breathe
Breathing techniques have been used for relaxation for centuries. You’ll be surprised by what a few minutes of mindful breathing can do for you. Try this simple method: Breathe in through your nose for four seconds and then breathe out through your nose for four seconds. Once you’ve mastered this, try other patterns.
11. Visit at an Animal Sanctuary
Visiting or volunteering at an animal sanctuary can calm you down and change your perspective. If you’re feeling particularly down by the state of factory farming or the treatment of animals, seeing happy cows, chickens, pigs, and sheep who have been rescued and who are living out the rest of their lives peacefully can refresh your passion to keep fighting for them. Just make sure that the sanctuary is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries before deciding to support it—some hoarding facilities and other places that are bad for animals misleadingly add the word “sanctuary” to their name.
12. Make a Green Smoothie or a Smoothie Bowl
This sounds pretty basic, but eating fresh fruits and vegetables will give you tons of nutrients and leave you feeling refreshed. Eating green foods is great for revitalization, which means that they’re a great choice when you’re feeling worn out, sick, or sluggish.
13. Treat Yourself to a Vegan Lunch or Coffee Date
Feeling overwhelmed or sad? Treat yourself to a date. Who doesn’t love a great plate of vegan food or a delicious almond milk latte? You can take some quiet time for yourself, eat a delicious meal, and refresh from a year of great activism. You saved the lives of countless animals—you deserve a treat!
So many #Starbucks #frappuccinos and Crème drinks can be made vegan! Ask for no whip, and get soy, almond, or coconut milk instead of cow's milk. No caramel drizzle and no pumpkin spice. Most everything else is vegan including mocha, vanilla, green tea, chai, cinnamon dolce, caramel (the syrup is vegan, NOT the drizzle), strawberries & crème, + more! Even if you're not #vegan, you can make an impact to reduce animal suffering just by making this minor adjustment when you buy your #coffee. ♡ #crueltyfreeliving #veganstarbucks
14. Start a New Hobby
Learning something new is great for your mind, but it’s also a great way to decompress after a long day of fighting for animals or dealing with difficult family members. You could learn to paint, knit, or even build miniature houses. And if you want to put an activist spin on your newfound hobby, you could sell your creations and donate the proceeds to a local animal shelter or PETA.
15. Find Stillness
The world seems like it spins really fast sometimes, and that can be unnerving. You’ve probably experienced this feeling during stressful finals week, when big changes happen in your life, or after an upsetting event. You can do any of the things that are listed here or find your own way to slow down, but it’s important to find stillness when you feel like the world is getting away from you. Find what works best to calm and revitalize you—animals need you to be the best advocate possible.
16. Focus on the Positive
Hearing stories about cruelty to animals or seeing factory farming videos can definitely be a downer, but the world is changing. Now, 16 million people are vegan in the U.S. alone, and restaurants are adding vegan options to their menus on the daily. And for the first time, China has accepted a non-animal test for cosmetics products. Focusing on these milestones will inspire you to keep speaking up for animals. Stay loud!