As a special needs parent it can be really easy to forget about our own mental health as we are so busy focusing on our kids.

But this month is mental health awareness month so it’s the perfect time to put ourselves first and have a bit of a mental health MOT. 

The first thing to consider is do you need to talk to someone? 

If the answer is yes, then don’t keep putting it off. 

Putting yourself and your needs first is vital for your children’s well being as well as for your own. 

Visit the mental mutha website to find some great resources who can help you. 

There’s even a panic button if you are really struggling.

The following tips are designed to help you to put yourself at the top of the list & maintain your mental health but please do visit the website above if you need real support right now.

1. Exercise - Regular exercise is great for boosting you. 

It doesn’t have to be a full on cardio workout though, a short walk with the dog is better than nothing and will get you out of the house.  But if you do fancy something a bit more full on then your local gym is a great place to meet people who aren’t in the special needs bubble so you can work out and get some company too.

2. Mindfulness 

Whether you prefer deep breathing or guided imagery to help relax your mind, meditation and mindfulness can have significant benefits on your mental and physical health. There are a lot of different ways you can practice mindfulness but knowing how busy you probably are I’d suggest you start with an app like Calm

3. Cut down the alcohol 

Reducing your alcohol intake may sound like a crazy idea when you are a special needs parent but trust me!  Having a few weeks of cutting down, or cutting it out completely, will help to clear your mind.

4. Friends & family

As a special needs parent it can sometimes feel like you are either isolated when they are not as helpful as you’d like, or are drained when your whole contact with them is focused on your disabled child.  But it is important to lean on friends and family and take time with them outside of the special needs bubble.  So if you can, try and make some time to spend with friends or family.  Ideally for me this means having times when we aren’t just talking about disability, and in fact I will actively try and steer the conversation away from that sometimes.  But it might be the opposite for you. 

If you are not in a position where this is possible then lean on your online social circle and try and organise a meet up.  Being with people in real life can really help to lift your spirits and reduce your stress levels.

5.  Get back to the old you 

That might sound impossible right now but what was it you loved to do before you had kids?  Maybe you had a hobby, loved to ride a bike or visit museums, whatever it was try and get back into the habit of making time so you can do those things again.  It might take a bit (ok a lot) more planning these days but it’ll be worth it.  Make the most of the time the kids are at school to go and take some valuable ‘me time’.

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