We asked special needs parents for their top tips to maintain good mental health...

Here's what they had to say - 

1. Exercise - Without regular exercise I know that my mental health would suffer. Periods of my life when I didn't make time for exercise are some of my lowest. 

It's not just any exercise - I need to get my heart rate up, feel a sweat and be out of breath. That doesn't mean I have to go for a 60-minute run or hit the gym for a long session.

A 15 minute HIIT session, some skipping in the back garden or even a quick fast/slow run up and down my street makes the difference.

2. Medication - It took me a long time to accept that I needed medication to help me with my mental health. I refused the prescription on a number of occasions.

It was only when a friend said, 'Now if you had a heart condition or an infection you wouldn't hesitate to take the medication prescribed.' She was right. 

It took a number of tries to find a medication that worked and only a short time to see a massive difference.

3. Mindfulness - When I first heard about Mindfulness I thought it was just a fad, a trend, something that would be forgotten about.

For whatever reason I found myself spotting more and more adverts on social media about Mindfulness apps.

So when one was available for a free month's trial I thought I'd give it a go. My husband and I now do a short session each evening before bed using an app.

There's lots of them available. It has taught me ways to manage stressful or anxious times in day to day life.

4. Cut down on the alcohol - It was a long time before I realised that I had developed a bad relationship with alcohol following my child's diagnosis. 

It sort of crept up on me.

Although I was never drunk, I realised that I began to crave or even rely on my evening glass of wine to help me relax or wind down after a chaotic day. 

Weekend wine, became everyday wine and one became two glasses - I was not on a good path. 

Now I very rarely drink and have taken up some hobbies instead. I've got back in to sewing which was my pre-children passion.

5. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - I was very lucky that I was able to access CBT through the NHS after a fairly short wait. I know others aren't so fortunate.

My therapist really helped me take a step back and re-evaluate my situation and make better decisions. So for example I can now say no, it's not my role to be everything to everyone.

6. Diet - So simple but so effective.

I used to forget to eat all the time. So busy sorting meds out, rushing to appointments, fitting in therapy, picking up prescriptions.

Then I'd find myself absolutely starving so I'd grab the nearest bar of chocolate or fizzy drinks.

Sugar high, followed by sugar slump.

I knew this couldn't continue. I wasn't setting my kids a good example for a start.

At particularly stressful times in life, I find even the smallest things difficult to cope with including PMT. 

I never realised how following a good healthy diet would not just help my body but also my mind. 

Having a good diet has made a massive difference.

7. Friends & family - Being around people has always been important to me. I'm part of a large family.

Following my child's diagnosis. I did cut myself off from others. 

I didn't know how to answer their questions. I didn't always want to see their typically developing children or hear about their 'normal' lives.

The downside of this was the loneliness which had a major impact on my mental health especially as I was such a social person.

I took it step by step - starting going to some family occasions or friends get togethers for very short periods.

I'd pop in for 30 minutes eventually building it up until now I'm glad of the support of those closest to me.

What are your top tips for maintaining good mental health - comment below!

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