Managing Feelings | Resources for Schools | Jigsaw

Section 4: Managing feelings

Section 4: Managing feelings


Monday, 01 March 2021

Being able to manage feelings is an important part of having good mental health.

This section provides activities to help young people develop their emotional vocabulary and understand and validate their feelings. It will then provide practical strategies they can use to manage more difficult feelings.

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Youth mental health and wellbeing toolkit

Managing feelings
Section 4 outlines ways to identify and explore feelings in the classroom. It also looks at strategies to manage feelings.

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  • worksheet icon

    4 downloads and worksheets

  • movie camera icon

    5 videos and animations

  • mindmap icon

    2 activities and discussions

Identifying and naming feelings

This section will support young people to identify a range of feelings by extending their emotional vocabulary.

A part of maintaining good mental health is being able to connect with how we are feeling. To do this, we need to be able to identify and name what we are feeling. Marc Brackett says we have to “name it to tame it” and encourages us to be “emotion scientists”. This is where we allow ourselves to be curious about how we feel and why we are feeling the way we are.

It can be easy to confuse feelings such as worry or disappointment with something else like anger. Accurately being able to name how we are feeling is crucial to understanding and managing feelings.

In “Permission to Feel”, Marc Brackett tells us that emotional intelligence is as important as academic intelligence. It plays a key role in our physical and mental health and importantly, how we learn. By attending to our emotions we open the door to learning, healthy relationships and living fuller, richer lives.

The next two activities will help students to deepen their emotional vocabulary. It will ask them to think about how their emotions affect how they feel physically. You can then encourage young people to think about the link between emotions, physical sensations and behaviour.

Identifying and naming feelings: resources and activities

Mood boards

Arrange five large sheets of paper around the room titled: Angry, Sad, Worried, Happy, Content.

  • Ask the group to add to each sheet of paper, different words that could also be used to describe that feeling.
  • Research tells us that the greater our emotional vocabulary, the easier it is for us to connect with and understand our feelings and this is the first step to managing difficult feelings.

Use these prompt questions to encourage a class discussion: Why is it good to be able to name as many feelings as possible? How can this help to support our mental health?

Body mapping


Body mapping
Body mapping

This exercise helps young people to think about the physical sensations that go along with certain feelings. Helping young people to identify and name how they feel gives them an insight to their response to certain feelings. This is an important step in managing difficult feelings.

  • List a range of feelings and give the young people time to label on their body map where they experience this feeling in the body.
  • Ask what colours they associate with this feeling and label. Use a range of different feelings, pleasant and unpleasant.
  • Ask the class to consider what these two exercises have taught them about the nature of feelings.

Body mapping


Understanding and validating feelings

This section will support young people to understand the role of feelings in our lives and to see all feelings as valuable, even if they are unpleasant. Feelings teach us about who we are and what we value in life. They help us to build relationships and make connections, let us know when we need to rest or ask for help.

Understanding and validating feelings: resources and activities

  • 1. Activity: Walking debate

    This exercise seeks to open the conversation about the nature of feelings. While we recognise all feelings have a role to play in our lives, it’s important we feel able to cope when what we feel is difficult. Normalising feelings and opening conversations about the range we all experience can help to make them seem more manageable.

    Read the statements below aloud. For each one, ask the class to move in relation to how much they agree or disagree with the statement. Ask for reasons for decisions and facilitate a discussion around this. Encourage a balanced discussion.

    (1) You should always try to feel happy.
    (2) There is no such thing as a bad feeling.
    (3) Feelings are temporary.
    (4) Trying to avoid your feelings is always bad.

  • 2. Resource: The anatomy of a feeling

    Anatomy of a feeling

    This exercise aims to support young people to think about why we have feelings. It helps them to break their feelings down into thoughts and physical sensations.

    Ask students to label the worksheet as they relate to different feelings, both pleasant and unpleasant. For example: anger, happiness, worry, calm.

    Discuss the results.

    How has this exercise helped you to understand the nature of feelings a little more?

  • 3. Video: Understanding and validating feelings


    Jen Trzeciak, a former clinician with Jigsaw, describes the physical component, the emotional aspect and the thought, behind a feeling.

Strategies to manage feelings

This section will support young people to identify some helpful strategies for managing difficult feelings.

Some strategies are practical exercises, while others encourage young people to think about what might work for them. It’s OK to acknowledge that different strategies will work for different people. For example, deep breathing exercises may leave some of us feeling a little uncomfortable.

These are just some practical examples of strategies. Encourage the class to share any other ideas they might have.

Strategies to manage feelings: resources and activities

ACE technique

Play this animation for your class, which will guide them through the ACE technique, which is a tool for grounding when caught up with difficult thoughts or feelings.

‘A’ refers to accept how you are feeling

‘C’ refers to come back into your body

‘E’ refers to engage fully with what you are doing.

Here’s the same technique in audio format

Tips for managing feelings

Use the tips for managing feelings document to support the group to think about ways to manage feelings.

Ask them to rate from ‘least helpful’ to ‘most helpful’ and start a discussion on this.

Encourage the young person to try out activities to better manage difficult feelings, such as: exercise, relaxation, mindfulness, spending time with others.

Tips for managing feelings

4x4 breathing

4×4 breathing is a technique that supports us to slow our breathing. This encourages our heart rate to drop telling our body and brain it’s OK to relax. We then start to feel more calm.

Ask the class to follow the animation, encouraging them to breathe deeply from the belly.

Coping card

This activity supports the class to think about things that they could try when they start to experience feelings that are difficult.

Ask the class to complete the printed card and personalise it for themselves.

You could suggest that they keep it and use it when they are feeling worried or overwhelmed.

Image for coping card

Samantha's story

Samantha, 24, a Jigsaw volunteer from Cork reflects on how she incorporates relaxation into her everyday routine.

Ask the class to watch the video and think is there anything here that you do already? What do you do to relax?

Suggested activity: Perhaps the class can make their own videos and share them?


5 a day for mental health

The ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing‘ report 2008 by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) outlines five things you can do daily for your mental health.

The NEF were commissioned by the UK Government to develop a set of simple but evidence-based actions on how people could improve their mental health and wellbeing. Drawing on a broad base of research from psychological to economic literature, here are their recommendations.

  1. Connect with others
  2. Be active
  3. Take notice
  4. Keep learning
  5. Give


After delivering the resources from this section, consider some of the following questions to help consolidate your learning.

  • How did you feel before this lesson? (e.g. nervous, prepared, confident, etc.) What influenced how you were feeling in advance of this lesson? Did this have any impact on the lesson?
  • What was the most successful part of this lesson, and why? What learning could you utilise in the future when delivering resources from this toolkit as part of a mental health and wellbeing lesson?
  • How did you know the young people were interested and engaged during the lesson?
  • Did any challenges arise during the lesson? If yes, why did they arise? How did you address the challenges you encountered and were you satisfied with how you managed the challenges? Is any further follow-up required?
  • In terms of using the resources provided in the youth mental health and wellbeing toolkit, what are your next steps?

Download this reflection exercise

Support documents

Move on to section 5: Help-seeking and being hopeful for the future

Here we provided resources to support young people to be able to identify and name their feelings. We have also provided young people with some strategies to help manage difficult feelings. Feeling able to cope is an important part of having good mental health.

The next section, Help-seeking and being hopeful for the future, will build on this. It will support young people to adopt a strengths-based perspective to deal with current and future challenges. The resources provided will also encourage them to be hopeful about the future.

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