Young Carers

I don’t feel I
can cope anymore!

Stress is a feeling we get when we are under pressure.

Everyone – young and old –feels stressed at times in our lives. Sometimes stress can be helpful, as it can motivate us to get things done, do our best, or make changes where changes are needed. However, long-term stress – or too much stress – is not good.  When stress gets out of control, it can affect our mental and physical health and our relationships with people around us. Research carried out by the Mental Health Foundation found that 60% of young people, aged 18-24, have felt so stressed by the pressure to succeed, they have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.


Stress can have an effect on our physical and mental health and on our behaviour. Information available on the Young Scot website lists some of the common effects of stress:

  • Worrying a lot
  • Crying, or feeling tearful
  • Aches and pains
  • Feeling run down, burnt-out or overwhelmed
  • Eating a lot more – or a lot less – than you usually do
  • Feeling like we can’t be bothered with anything
  • Not sleeping properly and feeling tired or exhausted
  • Being irritable or losing your temper easily
  • Withdrawing from friends or family

Some people also find they smoke or drink more or take drugs when stressed. Trying to cope with stress in these ways usually just makes things worse.

Some people deliberately hurt themselves when they are stressed. This is called self-harm. Self-harm can be thought of as a way of expressing emotional pain by turning it into physical pain. People who self-harm say that self-harm helps them cope and gives them a ‘release’ from intense and distressing feelings. Some say it is a way of crying out for help – even though they may go to great lengths to hide their self-harm.

Lots of things can cause stress, and what’s stressful to one person may not feel stressful to someone else. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, young people often feel stressed because of:

  • School-related issues: not able to keep up with schoolwork, exams, etc.
  • Problems in relationships: arguing with parents or siblings, falling out with friends, relationship break-ups, the death of a loved one
  • Uncertainty: moving home or changing schools, worrying about a loved one who is unwell, coming out about your sexuality or gender identity, worrying about the future
  • Thinking negatively about yourself all the time: comparing yourself to others, worrying about what others think of you, worrying about your health
  • Feeling unsafe: because of bullying at school or online, abuse or neglect at home, problems with accessing money, housing, food or care

Sometimes even good things can feel a bit stressful – like graduating from school, starting a new job, or meeting new people.

When you have caring commitments, life can feel very stressful a lot of the time, and that stress can soon build up and start to feel overwhelming. When people go through long periods of stress, they may experience ‘burnout’ – a feeling of complete physical and emotional exhaustion. This can happen to young people too.

If you feel you can’t cope any more, if you feel exhausted, hopeless, or suicidal, it’s very important to talk to someone right away. If you feel you can’t talk to your parents or carers, speak to a trusted friend, teacher or other relative, and try to explain to them how you’re feeling. Getting their perspective on things could help, and you’ll start to feel better just for getting your feelings out in the open. 

If you find it difficult to open and up and talk to someone, try using the What’s on Your Mind card to think about and write down how you feel first. Once you’ve got the words you need, you could then talk to someone about it, or show them what you’ve written down. If you feel you can’t talk to anyone you know about how you feel, phone Childline or the Samaritans instead.

If you’re a young carer and are struggling to keep up with work at school, talking to a teacher about your situation can really help. Problems can arise at school when the teachers don’t know about your caring responsibilities, and then punish you for arriving late to school or not having finished an assignment.  On the other hand, if they know about your situation, they can help make things easier for you at school.

Problems often feel too big to handle on your own but having another person on your side can help you to share the burden. You might be able to even work out a way to tackle your stressful situation together.

Action you can take right now

The youth information charity, Young Scot, features some suggestions on how to help reduce stress in our lives, such as:

  • Exercising more: Go for a walk, run, cycle or swim; go skateboarding; join a Zumba class; play squash; get involved in a team sport. Pick something you enjoy doing – anything to get yourself moving and raise your heart rate a little. Aerobic exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, and it helps produce endorphins – chemicals in the brain that make you feel good, physically and mentally.

  • Learning to relax: Simple breathing exercises or muscle relaxation exercises can be really helpful. Yoga is also great for helping you to centre yourself and relax.

  • Writing or talking to a trusted person about how you feel: When you feel stressed, it’s easy to let things build up. Sometimes it feels like your thoughts are going round and round in your head. This can make you feel trapped, overwhelmed, and lonely. Putting your feelings into words – whether you write them down or talk to someone about them – will help you understand them and yourself better.

More Information



  • Coping with life: A guide for young people, YoungMinds – Advice from young people about how to cope with the things that can make life stressful.
  • The ‘What’s on your Mind’ card, SeeMe – Designed to help young people talk about their feelings and get the help and support they need.
  • Coping with stress, Childline – Tips to help you with stress, no matter what is causing it.
  • Coping with stress for children and young people, Royal College of Psychiatrists – a resource for young people that looks at what stress is, what causes it and what you can do about it.
  • Self-harm, Childline – Explains why some people self-harm and how to talk to a trusted adult about self-harm. [Warning: this page talks about self-harm, which some people may find difficult.]
  • Self-harm alternatives, Childline – If you’re struggling with the urge to self-harm, here are some suggested ways to get through without hurting yourself.



  • Encouraging young people to get support for mental health, Episode 3, CoRAY Voices – Young people interview a researcher about when and how to get support for their mental health.
  • Hurting, Sally Marlow, BBC Sounds – Young men and women who have self-harmed share their experiences. This podcast also explores what is driving people to hurt themselves and what can be done to help. [WARNING: This podcast discusses experiences of self-harm which may be triggering for some young people.]



  • Coping with stress: Calming exercises, Childline (4.5 minutes) – A Childline counsellor talks through three mindfulness techniques.
  • 4 Ways to cope with self-harm, Childline (2.5 minutes) – One young woman provides some practical suggestions for coping with the urge to self-harm.
  • Coping skills for caregivers, Psych Hub (4 minutes) – A short animated video containing tips for caregivers to improve skills for coping with stress.
  • The Calm Zone, Childline – Contains a number of activities, resources and videos to help you let go of stress. Try one or more and see what works best for you.

Where to get more help

  • Childline (for children and young people under 19) (24 hours) 0800 1111 or chat to someone at Childline via webchat or email. See for further information.
  • The Mix (for young people under 25) (Monday to Saturday, 4pm – 11pm) – 0808 808 4994, or chat via email or webchat.
  • Samaritans (24 hours) – 116 123 or


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