Cultivating compassion. These two words say a lot about our work as animal advocates. Whether we are explaining our plant-based food choices at family gatherings or reaching out to the public to talk about what happens on factory farms, we aim to speak out for the animals in the best way possible. Animals suffer less when we help others grow empathy and choose more plant-based meals. But our own needs must be nourished, too. And that is why self-care is so essential.
Maintaining a conscious awareness of animal cruelty is draining, even without being on the front lines. And creating the time and space to recharge can feel like just one more thing on our to-do lists. We’re committed to nonviolence for the animals. But what does nonviolence look like on a personal level? And how will you know when you’ve achieved a good balance between advocacy and self-care? Can you keep it up? Where do you even start?
CAA believes that every advocate should have a self-care toolkit, a collection of practices and activities that support your mental, physical, and emotional health. Being intentional about which tools you select for your kit, as well as how they are used, is key. It will help sustain yourself and your activism for that long haul.
Check out these tips to help build your kit.
Cultivate a practice
A regular practice can help your mind, body, or spirit. The key is to find something you love. Need ideas? Yoga or meditation can help clear the mind and connect it to the body. Find an exercise you enjoy, which might be one you’d never thought of. Sleeping on a regular schedule and committing to limited screen time before bed can work wonders.
Plan regular visits with those you care about
Friends, family, and animal companions are obvious choices! Pencil them into your calendar. Try new things together. And knowing which people in your life understand how important animal advocacy is to you can be a huge help. Make it a habit to reach out to them regularly.
Are you already an artist or writer? Make time for your craft. If not, try anything creative that piques your curiosity, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box! Make a music playlist that’s your go-to when you’ve had enough. Cook or bake something you never have before, or if cooking is not your thing, frozen meals and cereal can be your best friends.
Connect with other advocates
Make it a goal to build diverse and meaningful connections with other advocates. Seeing yourself in others builds comaraderie and can reduce stress. Along those lines, have you joined the CAA volunteer Facebook group?
Finding in-person events like one recently hosted by Unny Nambudiripad, one of CAA’s founders, can build connection. His Wellness Day for Animal Advocates at the People’s Movement Center attracted more than thirty people. They meditated, did qigong, got massages, discussed sustainable activism, journaled, and created a gratitude board. Participants left with a list of support resources.
You can also consider attending the 2018 Healing Retreat, designed for animal advocates and hosted at the Metta Mediation Center in Janesville, Minnesota.
Another recommended resource is pattrice jones’ book Aftershock: Confronting Trauma in a Violent World: A Guide for Activists and their Allies. Check it out!
Seek help if you don’t know where to turn
In Defense of Animals provides free mentors for activists by phone, text, email, and online chat: www.idausa.org/activistsupport.
And if you need it, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at (800) 273-8255.
Moving forward as an animal advocate, embrace compassion not just for the animals, but for yourself. We hope that these tips will help sustain your activism for many years to come, creating a world where all are free, happy, and cared for.