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Remember counting down the days until winter break when you were younger? You would cross off each day on your calendar in an almost ritualistic manner, brimming from ear to ear in anticipation of presents and your newfound freedom of afternoons with no homework. Yeah, those were the days.
If you’re newly vegan and it’s your first time celebrating the holidays with family this year, a feeling of dread may start looming over you instead of holiday cheer. “Bah humbug” you may think to yourself as you imagine having to explain to your family and friends exactly why you won’t be eating their butter cookies or slicing yourself off a hearty portion of Grandmom’s glazed ham.
As a matter of fact, you’ve imagined this scene before and it always ends in awkward tension with you looking like ‘the smug vegan’. Totally not what you were going for. In fact, all of this holiday anticipation may make you want to ditch the holidays completely and book a solo flight to anywhere far, far away from family dinner time.
Completely understandable, but absolutely not necessary! This holiday season it’s time to bring back that ear to ear smile and reclaim your holiday cheer with some much needed vegan self-care. So cozy up with a hot beverage of choice (although this vegan hot apple cider is highly recommended) and check out NoPigNeva’s tips for vegan self love.
Being vegan in a non-vegan world can be rather daunting, and at times emotionally draining. This is more evident if you’re just switching to a plant-based diet and need all the support you can get. From the endless list of questions from friends and family to the moments when you find yourself in a heated debate about factory farming with your sister in-law, it all becomes so clear that the world isn’t as vegan friendly as you would like it to be. And this clarity becomes even more crystal during holiday family get-togethers.
While the idea of self-care may seem a bit selfish, it is indeed quite the opposite. Self-care simply means caring for yourself so that you may care for others. An easy way to look at it is that you can’t give from an empty cup, at some point you must replenish.
Vegan self-care in a non-vegan world is an important part of living a vegan lifestyle. Many vegans are faced with the task of emotionally processing their newfound reality of ongoing animal cruelty and slaughter all over the world and, for some, it can be very draining. Others may simply be exhausted from having to constantly defend their choice to eat plant-based to their friends or family. No matter your reasoning for adopting a vegan diet, everyone can benefit from a little self-care.
Now if you’re thinking that you can’t afford self-care, please remember that self-care doesn’t have to mean spending a day at the spa or a grandiose shopping spree. While treating yourself every now and then can be part of your self-care routine, recharging your body, mind and spirit shouldn’t have to cost you anything but a few minutes of your time.
Speaking of time, one of the best things you can do as part of your commitment to self-care is to set a morning routine. While not everyone may consider themselves a morning person, getting into the habit of waking up just a little bit earlier to give yourself time to face the day can have major mental and physical benefits, including enhanced productivity and focus. Once you commit to not hitting the snooze button, make sure to include time to eat a healthy vegan breakfast such as these no fuss coffee and coconut cream overnight oats or a hearty vegan fried egg with a side of baked vegan hash browns from The Lazy Cat Kitchen.
Remember, your morning routine can be as complex or as simplistic as you’d like. The whole point is to set time aside to focus on yourself and your wellbeing. This could include taking some time to do a quick yoga routine for stress relief, quiet time on the couch with your cat, or simply enjoying your cup of coffee or tea in silence.
Sometimes being vegan can bring about some intense emotions that can be difficult to process, especially if you are a vegan activist and are faced with constant confrontation. Taking the time to sit down and note your feelings on paper can be very therapeutic and can drastically improve your mental health. Start off by finding a journal that speaks to you; if you’re a nature lover, find a design that calls out to your inner tree hugger, and if you’re into the old fashioned leather look, but want something cruelty free, there are plenty of vegan leather journals to choose from. Once you select a journal that is all you, start out by dedicating at least ten minutes each day as part of your self-care routine to writing down your thoughts and feelings. You’ll be surprised at how easily they will spill from pen to paper!
Getting out into nature can be extremely therapeutic, especially if you feel a bout of anxiety coming on. A short stroll down a greenway, a walk through your backyard, or taking a weekend camping trip can all be part of your self-care commitment. Nature therapy is a type of therapy that is being studied for its many mental and physical benefits, but this type of therapy isn’t new. Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, has been prescribed in Japan for health and wellbeing since the 1980s.
If you find yourself plopped on your sofa staring blankly at the TV or mindlessly scrolling through social media as a means to distract yourself from the stressors of the day, you may want to consider replacing those activities with some solid bookworm time. If you’re into fiction, try to find a book that will sweep you away into another world and give your brain something positive to focus on instead of scary news headlines or contemplating why you can’t afford to travel the world and not work like everyone else on Instagram. You can also dedicate your reading time to some awesome self-help books that are specifically dedicated to dealing with burnout as well as help on living vegan in a non-vegan world.
If you care for a dog, cat or even a horse, make sure to spend some quality time with them. Take them out for a long walk, give them a new toy or even bake them a vegan treat. Simply hanging out with furry friends can add a lot to your self-care routine, including many physical and mental health benefits. If you don’t happen to share a space with a four legged companion you can always choose to volunteer at your local animal shelter, animal sanctuary, or even offer to take your friend’s dog out for a walk.
Part of your vegan self-care practice should include a little indulgence every now and then. A long, hot bubble bath, a night out with friends, or simply watching your favorite movie with a bowl of gourmet vegan popcorn. Whatever you decide to make your special treat, the key is to not feel guilty about it. If you’re taking a long hot bath and don’t want to be interrupted then silence your cell phone to make sure you’re not disturbed. If you commit to a decadent vegan treat, don’t complain about the carbs and calories, it’s your gift to yourself and you deserve it, no strings attached.
Now that you have established a vegan self-care routine and have committed to taking care of yourself, it’s time to finally release all that ‘bah humbug’ holiday dread and get into the holiday spirit. You can start out by planning some easy vegan holiday recipes that your loved ones will be sure to enjoy, or just simply focus on giving back to the community. Either way, your cup is now full thanks to your decision to give yourself the gift of self-care this holiday season.