How to step up for family and still be able to enjoy your own life


Most of us, at some point or another, find ourselves in a situation where we must step up and be there for a parent, grandparent, partner, or sibling.

It could be because someone’s sick, getting older, living with a disability, is out of a job or even because they can’t speak English confidently enough to get their internet fixed.

Helping people you care about is important and can actually bring you a lot of satisfaction.

But it can also mean more stress in your work life, more pressure at school, less time with your friends and less time for the things you love.

Being available versus setting boundaries

Stepping up and looking after the people in your life that you care about is important.

But it’s equally as important to acknowledge the fact that this is hard and stressful work that can, over time, start to take a toll.

Feeling as though you’re isolated, and missing opportunities is one thing.

However, according to the Young Carer’s Research Report [PC1] by the Department of Social Services, people who are put in a position where they have to step up may also need to deal with fear, worry, sadness, anger, resentment and guilt due to the physical and emotional demands of their caring role.

How to get the balance right

Getting the balance right is easier said than done.

But it’s so important if you want to avoid burnout.

Here are a few tips from ReachOut to help you step up for the people who need you without having to sacrifice every part of your personal life.

1. Set aside time to take a break at least once a day

You need to have time in your schedule that’s just for you. Figure out a go-to activity that refreshes you and set aside some time for it. It could be anything from reading a book to half an hour gaming. Even watching a movie. It’s just a little bit of time to recharge your batteries.

2. Put your health first

You’re not going to be much good looking after someone else if you’re not looking after yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup as the saying goes. While it’s much easier said than done when you’re run off your feet, try to stay as healthy as you can. Small things like getting enough sleep, exercise and a healthy diet can make a big difference.

3. Don’t forget your friends

Stepping up normally means focusing your attention on family. But your friends are important too. Try to keep contact with your circle. Even if it’s just a quick phone call, getting in touch with friends can be a nice distraction.

4. Ask for help

You might think you can, or should, shoulder the burden yourself. But if you get overwhelmed, ultimately the person you’re caring for is the one who suffers. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.


Where to reach out for support:

Young Carers Network:

Carer Gateway:

Kids Helpline:


Have you ever had to step up for a loved one? Let us know here.

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 [PC1]Young Carers Research Project: Final Report | Department of Social Services, Australian Government (