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Managing Stress as a SENCO: Strategies for Coping and Thriving

by | Apr 12, 2023

Managing Stress as a SENCO: Effective Strategies for Coping and Thriving

As a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO), you play a critical role in supporting students with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities (SEND). While your job can be incredibly rewarding, it can also be incredibly stressful. Managing stress is essential to ensure that you are effective in your role and are taking care of your own well-being. In this article, we’ll explore some effective strategies for coping and thriving as a SENCO.

Understanding Stress

Before we delve into strategies for managing stress, it’s important to understand what stress is and how it can affect us. Stress is a natural response to a perceived threat or challenge. When we encounter stressors, our bodies release stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which trigger the “fight or flight” response. This response prepares us to either fight the threat or run away from it.
While stress can be helpful in short bursts, chronic stress can have negative effects on our health and well-being. Chronic stress can lead to physical symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, and digestive issues, as well as mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.

Effective Strategies for Coping and Thriving as a SENCO

1. Practice Self-Care: One of the most important things you can do to manage stress as a SENCO is to take care of yourself. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in regular exercise. Schedule time for activities that you enjoy, such as reading, listening to music, or spending time with friends and family.

2. Build a Support Network: Having a support network of colleagues, friends, and family can be incredibly helpful in managing stress. Reach out to others when you need support or advice. Consider joining a support group for SENCOs or attending professional development events to connect with other professionals in your field.

3. Set Realistic Expectations: It’s important to set realistic expectations for yourself and your role as a SENCO. Recognise that you can’t do everything, and prioritise your tasks accordingly. Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks or ask for help when needed.

4. Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a practice that involves focusing on the present moment and cultivating awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Mindfulness can be a helpful tool for managing stress, as it can help you stay grounded and centred in the midst of challenging situations. Consider taking a mindfulness course or practicing mindfulness meditation.

5. Develop Coping Strategies: Identify coping strategies that work for you and make them a regular part of your routine. Coping strategies may include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, visualisation, or journaling.

6. Take Breaks: It’s important to take breaks throughout the day to recharge and prevent burnout. Consider taking short walks outside, practicing stretching or yoga, or simply taking a few minutes to sit quietly and relax.

7. Stay Organised: Staying organised can help reduce stress and increase productivity. Consider using a planner or digital tool to keep track of your tasks and deadlines.

8. Communicate Effectively: Effective communication is critical in managing stress as a SENCO. Make sure you are communicating clearly and effectively with colleagues, parents, and students. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or support when needed.

9. Seek Professional Support: If you are experiencing high levels of stress or are struggling with mental health issues, don’t hesitate to seek professional support. Your school or workplace may offer counselling services, or you can seek support from a mental health professional outside of work.

10. Practice Gratitude: Finally, practicing gratitude can be a powerful tool for managing stress and increasing well-being. Take time to reflect on things you are grateful for each day, such as positive interactions with students or colleagues, supportive relationships outside of work, or your own personal strengths and accomplishments.


As a SENCO, managing stress is essential to ensure that you are able to effectively support your students with SEN and take care of your own well-being. By practicing self-care, building a support network, setting realistic expectations, practicing mindfulness, developing coping strategies, taking breaks, staying organised, communicating effectively, seeking professional support, and practicing gratitude, you can effectively manage stress and thrive in your role as a SENCO.


1. What are some common causes of stress for SENCOs?

Common causes of stress for SENCOs include high workload and responsibility, pressure to meet deadlines and targets, challenging student behaviour, and dealing with complex and sensitive issues related to SEN and SEND.

2. How can I tell if I am experiencing high levels of stress?

Common symptoms of stress include physical symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, and digestive issues, as well as mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to take steps to manage your stress and seek professional support if needed.

3. What are some effective coping strategies for managing stress?

Effective coping strategies may include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, visualisation, mindfulness, journaling, and engaging in enjoyable activities.

4. How can I build a support network as a SENCO?

Consider joining a support group for SENCOs, attending professional development events, or connecting with colleagues, friends, and family.

Why is self-care important for managing stress as a SENCO?

Self-care is important for managing stress as a SENCO because it helps you take care of your own well-being, which in turn allows you to effectively support your students with SEN and SEND. Self-care can help prevent burnout and increase overall well-being.

Abigail Hawkins FCCT

Abigail Hawkins FCCT

Director of SENDCO Solutions

Abigail Hawkins was a SENCO for over 25 years and has worked with pupils with all types of needs.  Abigail has worked with Ed-Tech companies on developing their software and also been chair of governors for a multi-academy trust. Abigail now runs SENsible SENCO and SENDCO Solutions, with the aim of working with SENCOs and inclusion leaders across the UK to improve their support for SEND pupils. See our school services for more information.

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