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Caitlin Kilgore

Updated: 08/12/2022

This practice — known as the Emotional Freedom Technique — is a proven stress, anxiety and pain reliever.

Our lives were overwhelming enough before the novel coronavirus hit — juggling work, family, friends and financial pressures in addition to pursuing personal goals was a plateful. But we’re currently facing a litany of new challenges and new stressors, without shedding all of the old ones. “Right now, It’s extremely important that we tap into our bodies’ innate intelligence and cultivate resilience,” says Valerie Oula, Director of Vibrational Energy Healing at THE WELL.

And she means that literally: Physically "tapping" acupressure points on your body while mentally focusing on what’s troubling you can actually release fear and stress around coronavirus (or food addictions, trauma or other issues) and even boost immunity. This concept, officially known as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), has been gaining fans since it was first introduced in the 1990s by Gary Craig, a Stanford graduate and certified master practitioner of neurolinguistic programming. Here’s how it works and what the science says.

Tapping 101

Tapping provides a way to address issues like stress or pain by bringing them to the forefront of your mind, accepting them and then releasing them. Sometimes referred to as psychological acupressure, tapping combines elements of Chinese medicine, neuroscience and psychology to disrupt the energy of looping thoughts and beliefs.

“Tapping utilizes acupressure points on the face and body,” says New York Times bestselling author Jessica Ortner, an EFT tapping expert and founder of The Tapping Solution app, which has special sequences to deal with the issues arising around coronavirus. “By focusing on a stressful thought that’s creating tension in your body and gently tapping your fingers on these specific points, you send a calming signal to your brain." This, in turn, can help rewire your reaction to that stressful thought or experience going forward.

Let's back up for a second: When we are stressed, our sympathetic nervous system gets disrupted and a part of our brain — the amygdala — goes into fight, flight or freeze mode. This natural instinct is meant to help us survive and protect us from physical danger.

However, over time — and especially during a stressful period such as a global pandemic — our bodies build up tension from these low-grade fight or flight responses and that disturbing energy gets retained in the body.

"Tapping is a great tool for personal change — ideal for anxiety and stress, but also for supporting goals and dreams."

“It takes energy to hold a thought or a memory in place. By tapping on specific points along meridian lines on the head and torso, we can open up the energy that is holding a thought or a memory in place," says Oula, adding: “It’s a great tool for personal change — ideal for anxiety and stress, but also for supporting goals and dreams.”

What the Science Says

Tapping has been clinically proven to manage stress, reduce cortisol levels, improve anxiety and even treat PTSD in veterans. “Because tapping is a gentle and easy-to-follow technique, anyone struggling with stress, anxiety or pain can benefit from it,” says Ortner.

The practice is particularly well-suited for helping to work through anxiety. Why? Anxiety isn't just an experience we have in our head — it impacts our whole body, Ortner explains. “Having a technique that utilizes the power of the mind and body together is incredibly powerful,” she notes. “When we release this stress, we can be more creative and resourceful when we confront challenges and a better help those around us.”

What's more, tapping is a great addition to your coping toolbox, whether you're dealing with chronic or acute stressor. For example, “even if we’re safe at home and practicing social distancing, our brain is still firing off this fight or flight response and our whole body is reacting to this stress,” says Ortner. Tapping can not only let your body know it’s safe to relax, but it may also help raise immunity by decreasing your level of detrimental stress hormones.

How to Tap

There is a lot of flexibility with how you tap — you can do it for five minutes or for longer sessions. If possible, it's a great idea to book a session with a facilitator. A facilitator can help you explore subconscious limiting beliefs more deeply, Oula explains, helping you clear out blocks so that you can embody your truth. Through THE WELL, Oula offers guided tapping sessions, but you can also DIY with online resources, such as The Tapping Solution app.

Below, check out Oula's introduction to tapping video, plus, a brief overview of a basic tapping session you can do at home. (Note that Oula's technique is a non-traditional way of tapping, without affirmations in the beginning, and doesn't follow the same steps outlined below.)

1. Identify an Issue

Home in on what you want to focus on in your tapping session. It could be a physical pain or body struggle (such as a back injury or an unhealthy eating behavior), an emotional burden (like a recent breakup) or an anxiety trigger (fear of losing your job or getting sick). Try to be as specific as possible, such as “my financial stress” or “my neck pain.” Allow yourself to fully feel what you’re feeling, accepting it without painting a wash of positivity overtop.

2. Give Your Focus a Number

Give your focus a score between one and ten to signify how much it’s bothering you (10 being a lot, 1 being a little). In most cases, your focus should warrant a score of five or higher.

3. Begin By Tapping Your Hand

Start by tapping the side of your hand (which connects to the small intestine meridian) and repeat an affirmation addressing your focus and accepting it while taking deep breaths. An example phrase is “Even though I have _______ pain, I deeply and completely accept myself.” Repeat the phrase a couple times while tapping your hand. Starting with an affirmation like this is designed to help center and focus your specific pain or anxiety as you gradually ease into the session.

4. Move Through Points on the Body

Continue tapping through the meridian points on your body while repeating your reminder phrase of whatever you’re working on and working through — like “this neck pain” or “this financial stress.” You can tap with one finger, two or all of your fingers — whatever feels most comfortable to you. As you repeat the reminder phrase, tap these areas in the following order:

  • Eyebrow (bladder meridian): above the nose
  • Side of Eye (gallbladder meridian): between your eye and temple
  • Under the Eye (stomach meridian): along the bone
  • Under the Nose (governing vessel): between the nose and upper lip
  • Chin (central vessel): between the bottom lip and chin
  • Collarbone (kidney meridian): an inch below the collarbone and three inches outward
  • Under the Arm (spleen meridian): Three inches below armpit on your side
  • Top of your Head (governing vessel)

5. Check In With Yourself

Has your pain or anxiety diminished? Give your focus a new number between one and ten. If you started with an eight, is your focus now a six? Or has it stayed the same? If it hasn’t changed, that’s okay! Go back and repeat the tapping sequence again. You are beginning to have an honest conversation with your pain or anxiety through tapping — you are on your way to a deeper understanding of self!

A word of caution: If you discover you have deep-seated trauma and you don’t feel safe working through something on your own, consider reaching out to a tapping facilitator or mental-health professional to help guide you. If you need immediate assistance, call the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or text 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.

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