Section 2: Managing feelings
Section 2: Managing feelings
Sunday, 01 September 2019
Being able to name feelings is an important strategy for understanding and managing mental health.
“You have to name it to tame it.” (Marc Brackett)
The first step to taking care of our feelings is to be able to identify and name them. Sometimes young people don’t have the language to name and discuss how they are feeling. It can therefore be helpful to teach young people how to identify what they are feeling.
Learning to differentiate between emotional and physical feelings is a valuable life skill. When a young person is able to name their feelings, they can identify when they need some extra support. This in turn will help their mental health.
Exploring ways to manage feelings
Giving young people the space to do this, while validating all experiences and supporting them to understand that these feelings are normal will contribute to young people feeling safe and connected to their school community.
From our work at Jigsaw, we know young people respond well to explanations for feelings as a way of normalising them. From there, we can start to explore practical ways of managing a range of 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. The first step in being able to do this is 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 all to be “emotion scientists”; to be curious about how we feel and why we are feeling the way we are.
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?
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.
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.
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 with feelings that are difficult. Normalising feelings and opening conversations about the range of feelings that 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.
Resource: The 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?
Strategies to manage feelings
This section will support young people to come up with strategies to manage difficult feelings.
Some strategies are practical exercises while others encourage young people to think about what might work for them. It is ok to acknowledge that different strategies will work for different people and that, for example, deep breathing exercises may leave some of us feeling a little uncomfortable. However, these are just some practical examples of strategies. It is important to encourage the class to share other ideas.
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.
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. There are blank spaces for young people to add in their own ideas.
Encourage the young person to try out activities to better manage difficult feelings, such as: exercise, relaxation, mindfulness, spending time with others.
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.
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.
Move on to section 3: Help-seeking and being hopeful
Here we provided resources to support young people to be able to identify and name their feelings. It has also given 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, 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.