Whether you’re a new vegan or have been vegan for a while, no doubt you’ve had very strong feelings of wanting to help ease the plight of animals exploited and abused by humans.
Particularly compassionate vegans can stretch themselves thin as they strive to help in as many avenues as possible. Unfortunately, burning the candle at both ends in an attempt to help the animals inevitably leads to complete burnout, in which case you’re unable to lend a hand to any animal, let alone your fine self. Because nobody with the intention to help should suffer a burnout, here is a list of six efficient ways you can help our furry, feathered, and scaly friends without going off the deep end.
1. Choose your focus wisely
Initially, you may be confronted with the question of “where to start?” Animals are being mistreated in a variety of industries, from entertainment to cosmetics and drug testing to the food industry and even the pet industry. I know – you want to help. Everywhere. But don’t let your compassion for the animals override your self-compassion; sleep, my dear vegan friend, is not optional, so you need to choose where to exert your efforts.
There are countless possibilities when it comes to helping animals and promoting veganism. So if you don’t want to spread yourself too thin, it’s better to focus on one or two things that truly resonate with you and do them the best way you can. For example, if there is a specific campaign with which you would like to get involved or a specific cause that truly hits home, you could find ways to focus on those. Another way to go about it would be to volunteer with a specific organization whose work you admire and let them lead the way.
2. Be realistic with how much time you can devote to activism
Go over your weekly schedule and add up the hours of down-time you normally have. Now, decide how much of this time you are realistically willing to devote to helping out.
Are you really willing to give up Friday wine nights with the ladies in order to devote more time to animal activism? If so, great! If not, that’s OK, too. Or maybe you could get creative and turn your Friday nights into a combination ladies night/help the animals night, wine optional. Which brings me to number three…
3. You don’t have to go it alone
This applies particularly if you’re an extrovert and prefer being around people. Spending time with like-minded people who understand you, and being active about your veganism alongside other vegan activists, can offer significant emotional support.
These days, there are countless avenues to meet other vegans and find ways to collaborate with them toward raising awareness for animal rights causes. Also, as more and more people go vegan, more volunteer opportunities to help the animals are popping up — and they often involve working closely with other lovely vegans. You don’t have to be alone in your efforts, and combining forces with others allows each of you to capitalize on your own strengths and help each other out with challenges.
4. Know your strengths (and weaknesses)
Repeated attempts of doing something you don’t have the skills for can lead to a lot of frustration. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to invest your energy in vegan activities that won’t lead to frustrations and burnouts?
So before you embark on an active endeavor, it’s a good idea to take inventory of your strengths and in what areas you can best apply yourself. For example, if you’re particularly outspoken, then a more active role might be suited for you. If you’re more reserved and introverted, a more behind-the-scenes role would be best for you. If you cater to your strengths and do things you like, you will be better able to spend more time engaging happily and comfortably in these activities.
5. Listen to your body — and your heart
This seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised by how many people continue to work when they are overtired or are beginning to feel burned out. You probably know a vegan or two who have been active full force for a very long time, well beyond their emotional and physical limits, only to totally burn out and take a long (sometimes even permanent) break as a result.
If you want to be consistent and effective for the animals, you have to be attentive to your physical and emotional needs. If you’re feeling tired, rest. If you’ve been working around the clock and still don’t feel like you’ve done enough, rest anyway. Breaks and breathers are essential for future productivity. If you are feeling emotionally strained from being exposed to all the horrors animals go through in the various industries, take a break and look at ways to mentally nurture yourself. A drained and tired you will be functioning less than optimally – and that’s not ideal for helping anyone.
6. Remember why you’re doing this
There’s no getting around it: Bearing witness to the way we treat animals is enough to drain the life out of most openhearted souls. It makes us sad and angry. It makes us want to yell at the people who are mistreating animals and those who financially support them. It stresses us out and makes us feel like we’re not doing enough. It may even cause us to feel hopeless.
When we experience such intense negative emotions, our activism may come from a place of resentment toward those inflicting harm on the animals we wish to protect. However, if we step back and reflect on why we are engaging in activism, it becomes obvious that it stems from our compassion and our care for the animals, and not from our resentment of the perpetrators.
Reminding ourselves that our actions originate from a place of compassion, care and love, rather than hate and anger, will help us stay grounded and centered, and we will not be as likely to be swept away in a current of negative emotions. Acting from hate and anger will no doubt cause us to burn out faster, whereas when our deeds come from a place of compassion, we will be able to work for longer, be more joyful, and be much more effective.
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is a burden too great to bear.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
Cover image: Shutterstock. Modifications: TVW.