Looking after yourself when caring for someone else

If you’re under 25 and regularly help out a loved one with a health condition, you could be a young carer. You might have a friend or family member who has a physical or mental illness, disability, chronic condition, misuses substances or is frail.

You may not think of yourself as a ‘young carer’ because you love this person and you want to help out as much as you can. While all young people help out a little around the house, young carers do a lot more than usual. This can involve a huge variety of different tasks, from household chores to helping administer medication or giving emotional support.

This can help if:

  • you currently help out a friend or family member with a health condition

  • you’re feeling overwhelmed by your family responsibilities

  • you want to help someone who is a young carer.


The upside

Being a young carer can be super rewarding because:

  • It feels good! Making life a little easier for someone you love is a sure-fire way to get a dose of the warm and fuzzies.

  • You get to develop a really special relationship with the person you help out.

  • You know how to adult. Being a young carer means you grow up quickly and learn valuable life skills along the way.

Can you care too much?

While being a young carer can be rewarding, it can also be exhausting and hard to manage. A few signs that it might be getting a bit too much are:

  • You notice changes in your emotional wellbeing, such as feelings of anger, resentment or guilt.

  • Your social life is taking a pretty big hit. You’ve started to feel isolated, and may even experience bullying or feel like you’re being judged.

  • You’ve hurt yourself! Being a carer can involve physical tasks such as helping someone out of bed or handling strong medications. These tasks can be dangerous and can lead to injuries.

  • With all those responsibilities, school or uni has moved to the very bottom of your priorities. You’re missing classes, struggling to find time to study, or you feel so tired you can’t concentrate in class.

How to care for yourself

Looking after yourself is a really important part of caring for someone else. It will help you to feel happier and healthier, which will help you to cope better with your caring responsibilities. It’s a win-win, really!

Here are a few tips to make sure you’re looking after yourself as well as the person you’re helping out.

Take a break

Giving yourself permission to rest will help you to de-stress and unwind. Take a break, and do something you love like watching a movie or catching up with mates. Even if you’ve only got 15 minutes to spare, a little alone time could help you feel better.

Try some mindfulness techniques

Mindfulness is all about focusing on the present with an accepting and non-judgemental attitude. The best thing is, you can do almost anything mindfully. Go for a mindful walk, bake some mindful cookies, have a mindful daytime disco in your bedroom.

If you find it hard to switch off (guilty!), there are lots of apps that can help. Our Tools and apps section is a good place to start.

Talk to someone

Sharing your experiences or worries with someone else can make a huge difference. If you don’t feel comfortable opening up about your personal life with friends or family, you could try the ReachOut Online Community or link up with other young carers through the Young Carers NSW forums.

Look after your physical health

While it can be hard to fit exercise in along with everything else, it’s really important. Being in good physical shape will help you to manage your caring responsibilities by keeping you energised and happy. To keep yourself fit and healthy, try these tips:

  • Give your body the fuel it needs by eating a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.

  • Stay active by exercising a few times a week. Even if it’s just a walk around the block, getting moving is great for your body and your mind.

  • Prioritise rest by aiming for a full eight hours of sleep a night. Take naps throughout the day if you feel you need to recharge.

Ask for help

It might seem scary to ask for a hand, but there are lots of support services set up to help young people just like you. Check out this list of services and find out how they can help.

You can also talk to school, uni or work about your sitch and see how they can help to make life easier for you. This might mean getting an extension on an assignment, organising more flexible hours, or agreeing on other arrangements that will help you to balance your different responsibilities.

What can I do now?

  • See if you fit the description of a 'young carer' by looking at our checklist.

  • Check out what help is available to young carers.


Supporting family