Today I was asked a question that I’m asked absolutely all the time by people. “Is it hard to be vegan?” My answer is always the same. “Physically, no. Emotionally, it can be crippling.” This is why I’ve decided to write a Top 10 Tips For Dealing With The Emotional Side Of Veganism. I hope these can help some of you! Please be aware that these are the things I find help ME personally. They may not work for you and that’s okay but my aim is to try to help at least a portion of you with these tips. Enjoy!
Dealing with sadness:
1. Find a creative outlet. Often when we see our family about to tuck into a big juicy steak or we see a friend eating a cheese sandwich, we find ourselves overcome with grief. It’s natural to feel that pain and mourning for the souls who were ruthlessly murdered but sometimes it can be very hard to handle. One of the things I find really helps me is to write letters to the souls who have been lost. For example, the other day when my mum ate a steak, I wrote a letter to the beautiful cow who was killed for human consumption. I told this cow that I was sorry and vented. This is my way of coping but anything that works for you is important! Draw pictures, design posters, write letters, write stories, write poems, sing, dance, if you’re religious then say a prayer… ANYTHING that works for you and will help you to vent your feelings of grief is valid.
Dealing with frustration:
2. Remember that not everyone holds the same knowledge you do. We were all ignorant at one time or another and I find that so many people are genuinely naive and think that ‘free range’ really does mean cruelty free! Of course this isn’t the case for everyone but it’s amazing how many people really don’t know. So when someone says something that really pisses you off such as ‘I’m an ethical omnivore’ (someone said this to me recently), take a deep breath and either let it pass or very calmly and politely explain the truth to them. It’s wonderful and rewarding how many people will listen and consider change if you’re polite and articulate.
Dealing with anger:
3. Don’t give in to the trolls. This one can be tricky but if there is one piece of advice I can give you, it’s to not let the trolls win. There will always be people who find it funny to post disgusting pictures or to write ‘look vegans, mm bacon.’ These people are obviously very sad and don’t have much of a life if they truly feel the need to antagonise a group of people. But what they’re after is attention. They’re like those demons that feed off fear except these guys feed off angry vegans. By sending them replies, no matter how wonderfully written, it’s showing them that they’ve gotten under our skin. The absolute most powerful thing I can advise you to do is to not do anything at all. Unless you’re directly witnessing animal cruelty in the flesh, pay these guys no heed. They’re probably just lonely people hiding behind their keyboards craving any form of attention. Don’t feed them with your anger!
4. Don’t waste your time on those who don’t care. Veganism is something that’s become most popular in our generation. Of course as time passes, more and more people are trying out the cruelty free life. But there will always be those people who have been raised a certain way and even though they’re quite aware of the truth, they truly don’t care. Do not try to waste your time converting them. Some people are just too stubborn to change and it’s only going to waste your time, breath and energy by trying to convert them. Wherever you go in life, there will always be someone who says eating meat is healthy, who says visiting zoos is educational and who believes wearing fur is environmentally sound (go figure?!?!) so don’t waste your time with them. Instead, aim for people who have shown an interest or a willingness to change. You’ll find yourself much happier in the long run.
Dealing with guilt:
5. Remember that the past is the past. For most of us, we grew up eating meat, wearing leather and using L’Oreal products. This can sometimes cause an overwhelming feeling of guilt. Whilst it’s natural to feel this way, it’s also a really wasted emotion. Unfortunately, there are no time machines as of yet so there’s nothing we can do to change our past. We can either learn from them and push forward or we can dwell on them and let guilt consume us. It’s the same with slip ups. Whether accidental or on purpose, there’s nothing we can do to take them back so we might as well see it as a learning curve and use it to better ourselves. I’m very sympathetic to those who feel this guilt as I have it myself sometimes but it’s very pointless and only makes one feel mentally ill. Try not to let yourself feel consumed by guilt, as hard as that may be.
Dealing with negativity:
6. Try to remember the positives rather than the negatives. If you’re going out with your family or friends and you know that something may upset you, try to look at things from a different angle. For example, I have to do the grocery shopping a lot because my mum is disabled. When I have to buy her meat, there have been times where I’ve genuinely broken down there and then in the shop. It’s really unhealthy and can be very depressing so it’s good to try to mentally prepare yourself. Remember all of the positives such as how much an impact you’re having by not having to buy two packets of meat. You ARE making a difference and you need to tell yourself that every single day. It can be so disheartening at times but remember it’s all about consumer demand and if you’re not demanding animal products, you’re doing the very best that you can!
Ways to feel happy:
7. Try to save a life where possible. There are actually so many ways that you can do this without having to spend money and even ways that don’t require much effort. One thing I find always makes me feel good about myself is rescuing insects, arachnids and molluscs. People say you shouldn’t interefere with nature and whilst I can appreciate that, if I’m about to have a hot bath and there’s a spider chilling out, I’m not about to let him/her boil alive. Rescue the little guys because even though they don’t make any sounds audible to humans, they’re still sentient and would definitely be grateful for the help. I find that even though it’s a small gesture, it can make me feel really positive.
Ways to keep proactive:
8. Present yourself politely. There is such a stigma against vegans for ‘throwing their lives in people’s faces.’ It can be horribly frustrating at times but one thing that I’ve learnt is that by guilt tripping, using shock tactics or getting angry at people, it’s only going to upset yourself and won’t help fight your case at all. If someone has shown they are interested in your life style then brilliant! Educate them politely, articulately and calmly. If they express that they do not wish to see cruelty footage, respect that and show them other non violent videos such as Maxine’s Dash For Freedom or Symphony’s Encore. Both of those are extremely informative, emotional and touching but do not show any sort of graphic footage.
9. Don’t do anything illegal. As admirable as the activists are who break into labs and free beagles, it’s also a little counter productive considering these people will likely face prison time. Let’s face it, all of us would love nothing more than to break into a slaughterhouse, free the animals and punch the living daylights out of the staff- but what good would it do? If we’re in prison, how can we help the animals? How can we keep fighting for our cause? I really do have huge respect for the wonderful heroes who have saved so many lives by freeing these animals but I must recommend NOT doing it purely because there’s nothing we can do from prison. Once we’re detained, we’re detained. Then who will be a voice for the voiceless?
Dealing with loneliness:
10. Network with other vegans. Lastly, one of the things I’ve found is that veganism is lonely. I come from a very small town and it’s rare that I find anyone who shares my views. This is why I will always recommend networking with as many vegans as possible. Whether this be online, via written letter or even by meeting up local events- it’s always good to talk to others! I’ve seen far too many vegans who feel genuine depression as a result of their loneliness and this is truly understandable. This is why it’s essential to involve yourself in as much as you can. Join groups- online or offline-, organise meet ups, join forums. Try not to isolate yourself if you can because vegans need to stick together to fight the fight. If you suffer with social anxiety- which is perfectly natural- that’s okay! Try to stick to online networking. But do keep in close communication with other vegans and share your recipes and love with as many people as possible! Pro tip: Follow the amazing vegansonplanetearth and vegansinyourarea to try to find like minded people who may be closer than you think!
That’s all for now folks! :)