Managing their feelings

Recognising and reacting to them

It is natural to sometimes feel low or to find life a challenge, particularly if they have gone through a recent period of change or some difficult personal issues. If they are able to manage their emotions at these times, and if episodes of sadness or worry pass, they are probably just the result of the ups and downs of life. Learning to manage their emotions and develop their resilience is a really positive thing to do and it can help them when life gets tough.

However, if they have a period of low mood which persists or feelings of anxiety which get in the way of day-to-day life then they may need some extra support. It’s important to acknowledge and understand their feelings and seek help form those around them.

Stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety are natural, normal feelings we all experience from time to time. It is our body’s way of preparing us for a challenge when faced with stress, by releasing a hormone called adrenaline. We all have different levels of stress we can cope with - some people are just naturally more anxious than others, and are quicker to get stressed or worried.

If they think their anxiety is getting in the way of day-to-day life, or having a significant effect on their school life or relationships, it is best to try and get help.

What does anxiety feel like?

Anxiety causes a number of reactions in the body, which can feel very unpleasant. They include:

  • Feeling shaky, feeling sick or having stomach cramps, or feeling dizzy or faint.

  • Breathing fast or finding it hard to breathe.

  • Heart beating fast (palpitations), sweating, tense muscles.

  • Feeling like you might die.

These reactions are designed to make us feel uncomfortable so we are alert and able to respond quickly to danger.

But anxiety which happens often, or at the wrong time, can affect the behaviour and thoughts of the anxious person in negative ways. These can include:

  • Feeling scared, panicky, embarrassed or ashamed a lot of the time.

  • Not having the confidence to try new things, face challenges or even carry on as normal.

  • Finding it hard to concentrate, or having problems with sleeping or eating.

  • Having angry outbursts where the person gets very angry very quickly and feels ‘out of control’.

  • Worries or negative thoughts going round and round the person’s head, or thinking that bad things are going to happen all the time.

What can they do to help themself?

  • Do some regular exercise, as it can reduce the levels of stress hormones.

  • Learn relaxation techniques.

  • Get enough good, regular sleep.

  • Have a healthy diet.

  • Spend time socialising and relaxing with friends or family.

They need to think about whether there is something happening in their life which is causing these feelings. Are they being abused, bullied, exploited or under too much pressure? Tell them to talk to someone they trust about how this could change.

If they feel their anxiety is not getting any better or is getting worse it is a good idea to ask for some professional help. Talk to someone they trust, parents, school nurse, GP, or teacher. They can call the Samaritans free and confidentially 24 hours a day on 116 123 to talk about anything that's upsetting them.


Self-harm involves someone deliberately injuring themselves and can be a really hard issue to understand. They may self-harm if they are feeling anxious, depressed or stressed or if they are being bullied and feel that they do not have anyone to turn to or a way to deal with their problems. Issues can ‘build up’ to the point where they feel like they are going to explode. Young people who self-harm often talk about the ‘release’ that they feel after they have self-harmed, as they use it as a mechanism to cope with their problems.

They may self-harm to relieve tension, to try and gain control of the issues that may be concerning them or to punish themself. Sometimes in severe cases it is an attempt to commit suicide if the problems are very severe. If they feel they can’t control what’s happening around them, they may feel that self-harming is a way they can control something in their life.

Self-harming is a sign that there are underlying issues which they may need help with. Harming themself can be a way of managing their feelings. However they could risk a serious injury with long-term consequences. They need to get help as soon as possible. Talk to someone they trust, their parents/carers, school nurse, GP, or teacher.

Anger management

It’s normal and healthy to get angry when there is a good reason and sometimes we just feel angry but we don’t really know why. It is important to do something with our angry feelings and not bottle them up, but losing our temper may make things worse. Anger only becomes a problem when it harms them or people around them. Watch out for behaviour becoming out of control or aggressive because of anger. This can happen when:

  • They regularly express their anger through unhelpful or destructive behaviour.

  • Their anger is having a negative impact on their overall mental and physical health.

If the way they behave when they feel angry is causing them problems in their life, at school or in relationships, think and learn about ways they can choose to manage their anger. Tell them to talk to someone they trust, their parents/carers, school nurse, GP, or teacher, if they feel worried or out of control.

Anger isn't a mental health problem - it's a normal part of life. However, anger can contribute to mental health problems and make existing problems worse. For example, if they often struggle to manage feelings of anger it can be very stressful and might negatively effect their self-esteem. This can lead to them experiencing problems such as depression, anxiety, eating problems or self-harm. It can also contribute to sleep problems, and problems with alcohol and substance misuse.

There are ways they can learn to stay in control of their anger. When they find themself in difficult situations they can:

  • Look out for warning signs, anger can cause a rush of adrenaline through their body, so they might notice their heart is beating faster, their breathing is quicker, their body is becoming tense and they're clenching their jaw or fists. Recognising these signs gives them the chance to think about how they want to react to a situation before reacting.

  • Give themself some time: sometimes when we're feeling angry, we just need to walk away from the situation. This can give them time to work out what they're thinking about the situation, decide how they want to react to it and feel more in control. Some ways they can buy themself time to think are counting to 10 before they do anything, going for a short walk, talking to someone they trust.

  • Breathe slowly and deeply for a few minutes to help relax their body and mind, using up some energy like hitting a pillow or running as fast as they can, doing something to distract themself like listening to music or reading or writing things down.

  • They could also try mindfulness techniques. Being mindful means paying attention to the present moment, exactly as it is. It is really hard to be anxious if they are completely focused on the present moment - what they are sensing and doing right now. Let them notice what they are experiencing right now through three senses - sound, sight, touch.


Losing someone important to them is one of the hardest things to experience in life. Their world may feel as though it has crashed down around them and they may feel very alone, especially because they might find that none of their friends have gone through anything similar and don’t understand or know what to say. But support and advice are available to help them get through it.

Grieving is a natural part of recovering from a bereavement, and everyone’s experience of grief is different. There are no rules about what we should feel, and for how long.

However, some people may need some extra support, especially if the situation surrounding the loss was complicated or if it was a sudden death or if their grief impacts on their day-to-day life for a prolonged period of time. Signs that someone might need help include excessive withdrawal, depression, not attending to personal basic needs such as eating, washing or using alcohol and/or drug abuse etc.

Looking after themself during a bereavement
During a time of grief they may not feel like looking after themself, but it is important to help them cope with the extreme emotions that come with bereavement.

Look after themself physically by eating well and adopting some good sleep habits. Aim for three meals a day with healthy snacks and try and go to bed at around the same time each night, avoiding screens such as laptops and mobile phones just before bed. Exercise can help them sleep better but also, focussing on something physical can take their mind off their emotions which might be helpful at times.

If they have a good support network of friends and family encourage them to accept their help when it is offered and make sure they talk to them when they need to. Doing ordinary things with their friends and socialising can also be a good idea. They shouldn’t feel guilty about having a good time.

Bereavement Support


There are lots of positive ways of managing their feelings and improving their resilience - which means being able to bounce back and cope when life gets challenging. Having a good support network and being physically healthy helps, but mindfulness is a technique which can also help. Being mindful means paying attention to the present moment, exactly as it is and calmly acknowledging and accepting thoughts and feelings. This can help them understand and manage their feelings and encourages them to slow down, breathe, notice and think. It can help them make better decisions and feel more able to cope.

WellMind is their free NHS mental health and wellbeing app designed to help them with stress, anxiety and depression. The app includes advice, tips and tools to improve their mental health and boost their wellbeing. Download for free now on iPhones, iPads and Android devices by searching 'WellMind' on the App Store or Google Play.


Young Minds
Parent Helpline 0808 802 5544

01708 765200

Freephone 116 123


The Mix - Essential support for under 25s
The Mix: 0808 808 4994 - Free information and support for under 25s in the UK. Get advice about sex, relationships, drugs, mental health, money & jobs.

Emotional support for children and young people on issues relating to child abuse, bullying etc.
0800 1111

PAPYRUS (Prevention of Young Suicide)
National Confidential Helpline - HOPELineUK 0800 068 41 41
(Mon-Fri 10am to 10pm; Weekends 2pm to 10pm; Bank Holidays 2pm to 5pm)

Hope Again
A website for young people who have been bereaved.
Cruse bereavement care

Calm Harm app
Helps you manage the urge to self harm. Download for free now on iPhones, iPads and Android devices by searching 'Calm Harm' on the App Store or Google Play.