How well equipped are you as a parent to cope with the emotional rollercoaster that having a SEN child can often bring? Fortunately, there are ways to keep your own well-being intact, whilst protecting and promoting that of your child.
Notice the signs
We are the best people to notice internally when things are not right, however, we need to be prepared to notice. Are you noticing changes within your own behaviour, feelings or emotions? Are others noticing similar things? Are you struggling to balance your commitments or continually running out of time, or not meeting deadlines? Is your mood, appetite or sleep being affected? Are you experiencing loss of energy or unusual levels of fatigue; Worrying constantly or obsessing over trivial things? Becoming angry or fearful at the slightest thing? If any of the above seem familiar to you, then you may be experiencing a form of psychological stress, burnout, anxiety or depression. There is also the phenomenon of carer fatigue, which can have a very sudden onset.
Prevention is better than cure
These types of symptoms rarely occur in isolation or without triggers; they are generally the result of a situation or set of circumstances producing sustained or high levels of stress. Often these triggers are unavoidable, such as caring for a loved one, so what can be done?
When it comes to maintaining good mental health, it is vital to take early action to prevent a difficult situation from developing. What do you do to release the pressure? We often fail to give ourselves opportunities to unwind and relax. While this is not always possible, where we can, we must find time for ourselves, be that 10 minutes for a coffee with a friend, a walk around the park, or losing ourselves in a good book, for example. A regular regime where we find at least a little time for ourselves can prove very beneficial to our mental health in the long term.
So when things get too much, what should we do? It is important, as stated above, to take action to maintain our mental health, but what if things have gone too far and your mental health is beginning to suffer? It is never too late to turn things around, but if the situation is getting serious then we must seek help, in some way, shape or form. This might initially be reaching out to a family member, either for emotional or practical help, but it might extend further, reaching out to statutory agencies eg. social care services or medical professionals. There is a lot of help available for carers, for example, such as day care and respite services and these can offer much needed relief. There are also services available to the individual, such as counselling or medical care, which can be used to effectively treat the symptoms of mental ill health. You are rarely, if ever, alone to deal with these things and you must ask for help when it is needed most.