‘Tapping’ Your Way to Calm Can Happen in 5 Minutes With 5 Steps

New research shows the ‘tapping’ technique reduces anxiety, depression, and PTSD

For years people thought the practice of “tapping,” aka Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), was, well, crazy, to put it kindly. But after 100+ clinical trials have shown its efficacy, even the hard-won U.S. Veterans Administration (VA) got hip to the idea.

EFT/Tapping is a brief intervention that combines elements of somatic stimulation, exposure, and cognitive therapy — and you use your own fingertips to do it. In short, it involves quick, repeated light-touch on specific acupressure points — or energy “hot spots” — to restore balance to the body’s system. The points send electrochemical impulses to the limbic and cortical regions of the brain that control stress and fear; this breaks the neural links that are causing distressing emotions and unsettling bodily sensations.

Typically, the tapping is combined with identifying a specific concern or distressing issue a person is challenged by rating it on a scale of one to 10 and then engaging in a two-part statement. The first part of the statement exposes the issue, while the second part reframes it in the context of self-acceptance. For example, “Even though I’m feeling all this anxiety, I choose to relax and feel safe now” or “Even though I’m struggling at the moment not to be depressed, I deeply and completely accept myself.”

A large-scale study of individuals suffering from anxiety across 11 clinics over a 5.5-year period showed 90% of participants found improvement using tapping, compared to 63% who used cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

The findings for studies on EFT are rather astonishing.

  • A large-scale study of individuals suffering from anxiety across 11 clinics over a 5.5-year period showed 90% of participants found improvement using tapping, compared to 63% who used cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Only three tapping sessions were needed to feel a reduction in symptoms. Complete relief was seen in 76% of participants who tapped, compared with 51% who used CBT. One year later, the improvements were sustained by 78% of the tapping group compared with 69% of the CBT group.
  • A study of individuals with complex PTSD showed 63% were symptom-free in 10 or fewer sessions of EFT/Tapping.
  • Studies with veterans, health care workers, and college students found a significant reduction in depression after using EFT/Tapping.
  • Physiological indicators of health, such as resting heart rate (RHR), blood pressure (BP), and cortisol have also been shown to significantly decrease after using EFT/Tapping, indicating improvement. Likewise, happiness levels increased as did immune system function.

The ‘Tapping’ technique: Five steps in five minutes

The good news is that EFT/Tapping is a gentle and safe technique that’s easy to do anytime, anywhere you feel stressed or depressed.

Begin by getting oriented. Stop wherever you are and take a deep breath in, then let it out, and begin tapping with your fingertips on the fatty area beneath your pinky on your other hand (don’t stop). As you do, notice how you’re feeling (anxious, depressed, etc.). Sit with it for a moment. And then while still tapping:

1. Identify the issue. That being what the distress is about. Name it. This will be your focus for the exercise. (Continue tapping.)

2. Rate the intensity. How strong is it on a scale from one to 10 — 10 being the most intense. (Tap on.)

3. “Tap in” and repeat. While still tapping, notice what you’re feeling in your body; be present to it. Then think of a comforting phrase like, “Even though I’m feeling all this anxiety, I choose to relax and feel safe now.” Do that two more times while still tapping.

4. Tap through the sequence points. Tap each point below on your body eight times consecutively (like you’re sending Morse Code), repeating the comforting phrase three times as you do. Continue tapping and reciting while you work your way down your body…

a. First, the eyebrow….

b. Next, the side of the eye…

c. Then, under the eye…

d. And, under the nose…

e. Next, the chin…

f. Then, the top of the collarbone…

g. Finally, under the arm (or armpit)…

h. End at the top of the head.

Repeat the sequence. This time, notice how your anxiety is lessening and fading away. Notice feelings of safety and calm growing in your body. End after three times through.

5. Rate the intensity. How strong is your anxiety now on a scale of one to 10? (Repeat as necessary.)

It’s taken two and a half decades for EFT/Tapping to become more widely accepted by researchers and practitioners. I can still remember when I first heard about it, there was a distinct eye roll. But in the years since I’ve been in practice, especially more recently, I’ve seen just how effective it can be in helping people to get real-time, and in many cases sustained, relief for anxiety, depression, PTSD, chronic pain, among other conditions.

If you haven’t tried it, and are in need of this kind of symptom relief, give it a shot. If nothing else has worked as well as you’d like, definitely check it out. EFT/Tapping is noninvasive, nonpharmaceutical, and absent negative side effects, and more and more it is shown to result in profound, positive change for those struggling with both these psychological and physiological conditions.

Award-winning writer, therapist, clinical ethicist, and researcher specializing in moral injury. I talk about the stuff many won’t. micheledemarco.com

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