Nine things I wish I knew when I became a young carer

When you're a young carer, it's so easy to de-prioritise yourself and put everyone's needs ahead of yours. Katharine shares nine things she wishes she knew before becoming a young carer - reminding us of the importance of taking time out for ourselves.

Two young people are hugging against a purple background

A white banner with text that reads 'young people's voices'

My name is Katharine Macy, I’m a 22 year-old postgraduate student studying human evolution. I care for my mother and hope to be able to give carers a voice and increase understanding about what we experience.

1. It’s okay not to be okay

It’s perfectly normal to have good and bad days – when the bad days happen, write down three things you’re grateful for and at least one thing you’re looking forward to.

2. You can’t look after someone else without looking after yourself first

Caring takes it out of you and if you already have nothing left, you’ll have nothing to give.

Try to take 10 minutes out of your day to read a chapter of a book or listen to your favourite song with nothing else to do.

School work can wait, dinner can be rushed – but taking a few moments to calm down and look after yourself can be vital.

3. The people who love you will understand if you say no

Saying no is one of the toughest skills to learn but it’s so important. Being able to prioritise and not take too much on is vital to keeping on top of everything.

4. If you’re honest with people, they should understand

Say what you mean. Be so honest it feels blunt, because people would rather honesty than pretend promises. Plus, you’ll feel better for it!

5. Being tired is natural, being exhausted is not

If you can’t keep your eyes open, have a tired headache or simply can’t concentrate – you need more sleep. Getting enough sleep is so annoyingly important.

6. Eating regularly will help your mood

Find small and quick recipes or snacks like bananas that help you eat properly even when everything needs your attention.

7. Getting outside will also help

Going for a walk, with or without people, can seriously brighten your day.

If you can’t leave the house or find the time or energy, open the curtains and let the natural light in.

If you’re able to, buy vitamin D supplements.

8. Build self care into your routine so it becomes natural to love yourself

The more you do something, the more natural it is. Remind yourself you are worthy and resilient – because you are!

9. You can do it

Whatever is happening right now, the sun will rise tomorrow. You will wake up and the day will continue. This is not forever, it is just the present.

If you need support as a young carer

Visit our young carers hub page for support and information.

Find support from other carers by joining The Mix’s young carer group chats.

Get specialist help and support for young carers and young adult carers from the Carers Trust

Next Steps

  • Carers Trust is a major charity for, with and about carers. They work to improve support, services and recognition for anyone living with the challenges of unpaid caring.
  • Carers UK equips carers with practical help and advice. Meet others in the same position and get the support you need by joining Carers UK's online forum.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Holly Turner

Updated on 25-Mar-2021

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