Obviously, becoming an AcroAlly for a PWA can be a life-changing event, whether you chose the role, were asked to take it on, or just found yourself doing it one day. Regardless of how you got here, you may sometimes feel like you have little left to give. Compassion fatigue is real and it’s something to watch out for. To avoid a burnout situation, there are certain things that are important for any AcroAlly to remember:
You are not selfish if you need time for yourself
You know the safety briefing on airplanes that we’ve all heard countless times? Surely you remember the part where they tell you to “your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” The reason is simple: If you don’t take care of yourself first, you can’t help anyone else.
The same principle applies to being an AcroAlly. You cannot effectively help a PWA, provide support for them, and make a real difference in their lives if you don’t take care of yourself. Taking a break every now and then is a fundamental and crucial element of self-care. Whatever that means for you – long walks, meditation, ice cream, silly sitcoms, murder mysteries, online chess – whatever it is, make the time to do it,then do it.
No one is super-human and “compassion burnout” is both normal and a signal that you need a break.
What you can do
Luckily, there are many accessible ways you can deal with compassion fatigue.
Stress reduction: yoga, breath exercises, meditation, massage.
Constructive communication: Ask for help and accept it when it’s offered. One example is asking your employer for more lenient attendance policies.
Schedule breaks: Put them on your calendar and respect your own time as much as you respect others’ time.
Reach out to friends and family members to help lighten the load: Let others assist with housekeeping, meal prep, gardening, and minor home repairs. Even kids can pitch in to walk the dog or pull weeds.
Get financial help/advice from a financial planner, a banker, a CPA, or tax preparer.
Talk to a healthcare professional about organizations devoted to specific diseases like acromegaly, rare diseases in general, caregiving/supporting, or related advocacy groups that you can participate in. (See the list in the Resources section below.) Talking with others who are in the same boat can be highly therapeutic and lead to resources you may not know existed. Many of these organizations have insights into effective self-care techniques that come from direct experience.
Maintain your ties to community (church, school, neighborhood associations), and nurture your friendships (friends’ night out, movie night, bowling, whatever your thing).
Professional counseling: An experienced therapist can help you explore ways to reduce stress and find balance.