Grounding Techniques to Calm Your Mind in Addiction Recovery

Updated on 3/2/2023

The grounding techniques outlined in this blog can help lower your anxiety levels. Addiction and anxiety are recognized as commonly co-occurring disorders. When a person self-medicates to quell anxiety symptoms, they increase their risk of becoming dependent and developing an addiction. On the other hand, a person may develop an anxiety disorder as a result of substance use. 

The challenge of anxiety is frequently experienced by patients going into residential treatment programs. The good news is, there are simple but effective ways to manage anxiety symptoms without having to struggle alone and risk a relapse following treatment. Patients can calm their minds and set themselves up for a sustainable recovery by applying grounding techniques.

Grounding techniques can lower anxiety levels in addiction recovery.

Grounding techniques help focus your attention on the present moment to prevent painful thoughts and emotions from taking control of your behavior. These simple strategies can help you detach from emotional pain like anxiety in a healthy way.

There are three categories of techniques with various approaches a patient can try:

  1. Mental: strategies that work to exercise the mind
  2. Physical: strategies that utilize the body and senses
  3. Emotional: strategies that involve verbal and non-verbal self-soothing

#1. Exercise your mind.

To exercise your mind, try the following techniques:

  • 5-4-3-2-1 technique: In your immediate environment, acknowledge five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. Reflect on these items.
  • Categories game: Try to exhaust a list of people, places or things that belong to different categories—such as types of games, species of trees, cities of the world—and make connections between them.
  • Use your imagination: Imagine putting yourself in your ideal place surrounded by nurturing sounds and pleasant smells and imagery. Imagine the bodily sensations you would feel.

#2. Embrace your body and senses.

Your mind and body share an essential connection. Embrace this relationship through the following activities:

  • 4-7-8 breathwork: Breathe in for four seconds, hold it for seven seconds and exhale for eight seconds. Repeat as necessary. This can relieve anxiety in the chest.
  • Stretch: Stress can cause muscle tension to build up in the neck and hips. A mat can be used to help you stretch out your muscles. Letting your head hang as you reach for your toes while breathing deeply can also be helpful.
  • Move quickly: Brisk workouts—such as sprinting or doing pushups as fast as you can—use up your anxious energy, allowing you to experience a sense of calm.
  • Feel objects: Close your eyes and touch various items around you. Think about how the object feels. Are there grooves or smooth spots? Does it feel like something else you’ve felt before? Evaluating your surroundings helps take the focus off of stress.

#3. Learn to self-soothe.

Children turn to their primary caregiver for emotional support. Learning to comfort oneself without the help of others is an important skill that individuals acquire as they move into adulthood. Some self-soothing exercises include:

  • Positive affirmations: Don’t underestimate the power of saying nice things to yourself. The next time you are struggling, tell yourself, “I can do this,” or “I’ve gotten through so much, I can get through this too.”
  • Turn to your God or higher power: Turning to your God or higher power you are comfortable with may help ground you.
  • Treat yourself: Taking yourself out to dinner or relaxing on the couch are excellent ways to give yourself a break. Planning something in advance also gives you something to look forward to when you’re feeling stressed.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to use the techniques in all three areas. Depending on the way you learn and process stimuli, some approaches may work better than others. If you find that one method works better than others, stick with it. You can also try making up your own based on what resonates with you. It’s essential to practice as it helps you familiarize yourself with the technique and improve your routine over time.

The next time you notice negative thoughts accumulating in your mind, use grounding techniques to calm your mind before your symptoms worsen.

Learning to navigate challenges is a critical focus of Casa Palmera’s treatment facility in West Los Angeles. We believe that our patients can achieve a sustainable recovery when psychological challenges are adequately addressed. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.