Ways through anxiety

Intentions and notes

The intention of this group is to help people find some tools to deal with anxiety, as it is often one of the biggest problems for people newly in recovery: some of them may not have managed anxious feeling without their substance for many years, and unmanaged anxiety can easily lead to relapse.

The suggested practice is a visual practice, though you could just as well do a body-based practice or walking. The visual practice gives people an object of awareness outside the body, as the body may be an uncomfortable place to be, and this can be an easier way in to mindfulness for them.

The exercise is board-based, going through the role of adrenaline and the fight/flight response, followed by a practical demonstration of ways to manage anxiety. Learning the theory can help people to understand the processes happening in their bodies/minds, and by demystifying this we take away some of its scariness. It is important to encourage the group to participate in the practices themselves, so that they can experience practising them in a safe environment when (probably) not feeling hugely triggered: this way they will feel more confident that they will be able to do them when feeling triggered. This in itself will reduce levels of anxiety somewhat.

You could use a flipchart laid out as follows to explore anxiety, and write within the three spaces:

It’s quick to draw, and the idea is that this will help people to start to parse their body sensations, thoughts, and feelings, as some won’t be able to tell the difference between thoughts and feelings, and won’t be aware of body sensations.


  • Download the group outline and handouts here.

You will also need

  • Bowl of iced water and a towel (optional)


  • Title and running order of group
  • Outline of person, thinking bubble, heart, and box underneath
  • Exercises to go through together
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