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Embracing Life’s Roller Coaster

Cognitive Behavior Therapy Tips for Welcoming Anxiety

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Table of Contents

Addressing anxiety through cognitive behavior therapy offers a path towards understanding and managing the often overwhelming sensations and thoughts that accompany anxious experiences.

Addressing Anxiety through Cognitive Behavior Therapy

By exploring how our minds interpret and react to physiological sensations, we can learn to navigate anxiety with greater clarity and resilience.This journey parallels the experience of riding a roller coaster, where fear and excitement intertwine, highlighting the importance of observing our reactions with compassion and curiosity.

The Roller Coaster of Anxiety

We tend to place judgments and labels on the physiological sensations that we experience. We may label a fast heart rate as “bad” or as “anxiety.” These judgments and labels often make our experiences worse. The more we judge them and the more we try to escape these “bad” experiences, the scarier and more intense they become.

For example, if you’ve ever been on a roller coaster ride, then you have experienced the intense physiological arousal that roller coasters produce. Your heart starts racing, you feel dizzy and shaky, and you experience a rush in the pit of your stomach. There’s the intense anticipation as the roller coaster slowly moves upward before a huge drop, which is both thrilling and scary all at once.

Understanding Physiological Sensations

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Experiencing such physiological symptoms on a roller coaster ride is far less threatening than experiencing them when you don’t expect to, such as while lying in bed and trying to fall asleep. In the latter case, you may feel terrified. Your mind starts labeling the experience as “bad” and attempts to figure out reasons, explanations, and hypotheses for why you are feeling the way you are.

Your mind asks, “Why am I feeling dizzy?” “Why is my heart racing?” “Is it because I had too much coffee?” “Is it because I didn’t get enough sleep?” “Why am I anxious?” “Am I having a panic attack?” “Did I forget something important?” The more your mind labels the experience as bad, the more anxious and nervous you become. The more you try to eliminate the experience and fall asleep, the harder it is for you to fall asleep.

Accepting What’s Out of Our Control

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Our sensations are not in our control. When we are on a roller coaster, we can’t control our heart rates. When we have an important test, we can’t control the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that it brings up. However, we can make an active choice about how we choose to relate to these experiences. We can choose to resist and fight the experience, or we can choose to willingly go for the ride and observe it with kindness and compassion toward ourselves. We can notice that when we get off the roller coaster, it takes three to five minutes for our bodies to come back to homeostasis and for all of those physiological experiences to diminish—and then we may be ready to go on another ride.

Observing the Anxiety Roller Coaster Ride

So, how can we take the ride with our physical sensations of anxiety, fear, pain, and panic in the same way we ride a roller coaster? The key is to notice what our minds try to sell us about our experiences and still choose to stay present and aware of those experiences. In other words, we can observe the experience in the moment and notice the labels, explanations, and hypotheses that our minds concoct.

Riding the Roller Coaster of Anxiety

We can ask ourselves, “Where in my body do I feel this feeling right now? What color is this feeling? What shape is this feeling? How heavy is it? How intense is it on a scale of 1 to 10? Is this an experience I have had before? How many times have I had this experience in the past month? Does this experience have to be my enemy, or is it something I can handle right now, in this moment? Am I willing to stay in contact with this feeling 100 percent, exactly as it is at this moment? Have I ever managed to get rid of this experience before? Is it possible for human beings to permanently eliminate this experience? How do I usually respond to this experience? Do I try to push it away and get rid of it? How does that work for me? How can I behave differently with this experience? If this experience is not my friend, does it have to be my enemy? Does it have to be something I refuse to tolerate and have? What would it be like if this experience weren’t my enemy?”

Embracing Sensations

Physiological experiences come and go, just like the weather. No experience is permanent. Sometimes you feel pain, and sometimes the pain can be worse than others—a 6 or even a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10—but your experience is always changing.

Again, when you resist the experience and try to understand it, explain it, and get rid of it, the experience becomes only more intense. The more you resist, the worse it gets.

We don’t try to explain or understand why we need to go to the bathroom or why it’s raining. We just accept the experience as a fact. We don’t ask why or resist it or try to understand it or change it. Other experiences of pain, like having a headache, or feeling dizzy, or having stomach pain, are unavoidable, and they don’t last forever. Are you willing to welcome back all your experiences with open arms, watch how long they last, stay very curious, go along for the ride with compassion and tenderness, and notice the very moment when they change and you feel differently?


In conclusion, cognitive behavior therapy provides invaluable tools for addressing anxiety by shifting our perspective on physiological sensations. At the Bay Area CBT Center, we offer comprehensive services tailored to individuals seeking therapy for anxiety in San Francisco and the broader Bay Area. Our expert therapists specialize in evidence-based psychotherapy in San Francisco, providing personalized treatment to help clients manage anxiety and cultivate resilience.

Additionally, our services extend to teletherapy across all of California, ensuring accessibility for individuals seeking support beyond geographical boundaries. We also offer group therapy sessions, workshops, and marriage counseling to foster healing and growth in a supportive community environment. Through our holistic approach and commitment to compassionate care, we empower individuals to navigate the roller coaster of anxiety with courage and resilience, fostering lasting transformation and well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

Evidence-based therapy involves interventions that are scientifically proven to be effective for particular issues. In this approach, a strong partnership based on trust and collaboration is formed between you and your therapist. Within this supportive and unbiased environment, you can freely express yourself without fear of judgment. Over a series of sessions, you and your therapist will work together to address obstacles and set goals aimed at personal growth and fulfillment. This method ensures that the techniques and strategies used are not only supportive but also empirically validated to help you achieve your therapeutic goals.

The Bay Area CBT Center provides therapy services for everyone, from children to adults, and welcomes individuals, couples, and groups. We help with various concerns like anxiety, depression, trauma, relationship issues, and behavior challenges. We value diversity and cultural differences, offering personalized and culturally sensitive care to each client.

Studies show that the bond between you and your therapist, known as the therapeutic alliance, is a key factor in treatment success. This alliance is characterized by the strength of your relationship and how well you both agree on treatment goals. Research indicates that individuals with a solid therapeutic alliance experience better treatment outcomes including greater productivity at work, more satisfying relationships, improved stress management, and decreased engagement in risky behaviors.

You can expect a 15-30 minute phone call with our care coordinator, who is extensively trained in ensuring the perfect match for you. During this conversation, our matching expert will collaborate with you to understand your therapy needs, preferences, and scheduling availability. This discussion builds upon the information you provided during sign-up and offers an opportunity for you to address any personal questions or concerns you may have about therapy or our services at The Bay Area CBT Center. Following your conversation, we’ll pair you with the therapist who best aligns with your needs, goals, and preferences.

At your matching appointment, we will match you with a therapist specifically chosen for you and schedule your first session. Depending on your availability, you can expect to meet your therapist anywhere from one day to a week after this appointment.

Our approach to therapy includes a flexible hybrid model, blending both online and face-to-face sessions. This option is perfect for clients situated close to our clinics in the Bay Area who prefer the flexibility of choosing between virtual consultations or meeting their therapist in person. Our aim with hybrid care is to ensure every client is matched with the ideal therapist and therapy environment, be it from the convenience of your own home or in one of our clinics.

At the Bay Area CBT Center, we accept PPO insurance plans that allow you to use out-of-network providers. This means if your insurance plan is a PPO and it includes mental health benefits, you could get back some or all of the money you pay for our services, depending on what your insurance company allows. When you see one of our therapists, they’ll give you a superbill. You can send this superbill to your insurance company to ask for reimbursement. If you’re not sure if your insurance covers services from providers not in their network, it’s a good idea to give them a call and check.

You may be eligible to have 60-80% of your costs covered by out-of-network benefits.

Also, if you have an FSA (Flexible Spending Account), you can usually use it to pay for individual counseling sessions. It’s wise to double-check with your FSA provider or talk to your accountant to make sure that counseling sessions are considered an allowed expense.

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