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Managing difficult emotions as a young carer


Caring for someone can bring up a wide range of emotions, many of them difficult. You could feel sad and upset seeing someone you love in pain. You could feel tired from being needed so much and having so little time to yourself. You could feel grief for the childhood you might have had if you were not a carer. You could feel anxious about what is to come in the future. Or you could feel angry at how unfair the situation feels, and be asking yourself “Why did this happen to us?”

Some young carers say they feel resentful about how much caring they are doing, but also at the same time guilty that they aren’t doing more. Some report feeling angry and frustrated at their family member for needing their help, even when they know it isn’t their fault.

The most important thing to remember is that it is completely normal to experience any or all these emotions, and lots of others too. Being a young carer is tough, and it is understandable if you feel overwhelmed sometimes. It doesn’t make you a bad carer; in fact, it shows just how deeply you care.

Just because it is normal, however, it doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do to manage these emotions or that you should ignore them. Below are a range of ideas that might help. Even changing just one thing can often make you feel better.

Although it can sometimes seem like being a young carer is only something negative, it can help to take time every day to think about the positive sides to your role too. Some positives that other young carers have reported include:

  • Getting to spend more time with your family member.
  • Having the opportunity to learn new skills, setting you up well for the future.
  • Making you feel good about yourself.
  • Knowing you are making a difference to someone else’s life, enabling them to live more comfortably and with more independence.

It can sometimes help to make a list of these positives that you update regularly. Why not also note down any wins you achieve each day, such as making the person you care for smile, or any positive things that have happened or nice things people have said? Then, when you feel things are difficult, try reading over these lists to remind yourself of the positives and that you have good times too.

There are lots of different relaxation techniques you could try, including yoga, meditation and mindfulness. If you are new to these techniques, you can watch introductory videos on YouTube or find books about them in your local library. Everyone is different, so it might be worth giving a few different techniques a go and see which works best for you.

Although it isn’t always easy, taking a break can make a huge difference to helping you manage difficult emotions. Take a look at our guide 'Taking breaks as a young carer' for further advice.

It can sometimes be difficult to talk about how you feel to friends and family members. But they would not want you to be suffering in silence. Even just acknowledging your feelings out loud to someone you trust, whether that’s an adult or someone your own age, can make a big difference. It can help you to feel less alone and also make it easier to process and deal with your emotions.

Once your friends and family realise you might need some extra support, they may even be able to offer some other solutions to help, such as taking on some more of the care themselves if it gets a bit too much for you. So it is crucial to not bottle up your feelings, get things off your chest and ask for help when you need it. You do not need to struggle alone.

You may worry that a friend or family member who is not a young carer won’t understand what you are going through. Or they may also have their own emotions about the situation that make it more difficult to speak to them.

However, there are lots of other young carers out there who have likely felt all of these emotions too. Talking to other young carers, either in person, by phone or online, can help you to realise that you are not alone in feeling this way and give you a chance to let off steam without judgement. It could even be a good way to make new friends.

If you don’t always feel comfortable talking to other people about how you are feeling, or you want an option you can turn to anytime of the day or night, it can help to write about your emotions in a diary, journal, poem or letter. Try and write every day if you can, even when you are feeling good – that way you can look back when you are finding it difficult and see that you don’t always feel that way and that it will pass.

If you are struggling to cope with your emotions or feeling overwhelmed, hopeless or depressed, even if it is just some of the time, then it is a good idea to speak to a trusted professional such as your GP, a teacher, school nurse or support worker as soon as possible. They will be able to provide you with lots of help and ideas for how to start feeling better, including accessing things like counselling. With counselling, you get to talk to someone who is trained to listen and be supportive, which can make a big difference to how you are able to manage your emotions.

Video: Managing difficult emotions as a young carer, you are not alone

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Visit our online support section where we have provided advice and guidance on a range of relevant topics to help you in your caring role.

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