The Power of EFT Tapping to Reduce Anxiety

upset woman pushing her fingers to her eye sockets

If you’re like many people, anxiety might be holding you back from living the life you want. But what if you could take control of your anxiety with just a few simple taps? That’s the power of EFT (emotional freedom technique) tapping – a natural, holistic approach to managing anxiety that’s gaining popularity around the world.

A 2020 study published by the Journal of  Psychiatric Research found that anxiety in adults over 50 rose statistically significantly between 2008 and 2018. The impacts of the pandemic and worsening global economic conditions only made the situation that much worse.

The American Psychological Association estimated 7.4 to 8.6 percent (measured monthly) of adults in the US reported anxiety between January to December 2019. That range rose to 28.7-37.2 percent between April 2020 and August 2021 – at minimum, a four-fold increase. Is it any wonder that interest in holistic practices to relieve stress has risen just as sharply? This blog explores tapping and gives you all the tools you need to incorporate it into your holistic mental health care plan.  

What is Tapping, and How Can it Help Reduce Anxiety?

Emotional freedom technique (EFT) is often simply referred to as tapping. The use of tapping is an evidence-based practice that is considered a form of integrative practice called energy psychology (EP). It was developed by Gary Craig in the late 1990s.

EFT tapping combines techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and physical stimulation of acupressure points on the face and body, which is where it derives its name from.

The Benefits of Tapping to Reduce Stress & Improve Mental Well-Being

Reducing cortisol levels

woman meditating

EFT tapping has been shown to reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, which can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. According to a literature review conducted by the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine, there is even some evidence that EFT tapping produces beneficial epigenetic effects by reducing the risk of several health conditions triggered by oxidative stress. Put simply, stress can flip the “breaker switches” when the brain interprets everyday stress as fight or flight scenarios on a regular basis. This puts the body on high alert (anxiety), but costs a lot of energy, and oxidative stress (the body “rusts”, becoming more vulnerable to long-term health issues).

Calming the nervous system

By tapping on certain acupressure points, EFT can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which manages the body’s “rest and digest” conditions. This counters the sympathetic “fight or flight” nervous system, and helps calm the body and reduce tension and stress.

Releasing negative emotions 

EFT tapping, due to its integrative and meditative nature, can help to release negative emotions such as anger, fear, and frustration that can contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety. 

Improving emotional regulation

EFT tapping can help to improve emotional regulation, making it easier to manage and cope with stressful situations. There is an increasing amount of research being done on how acupressure works. Still, evidence supports the notion that it is effective in reducing anxiety as a holistic alternative to traditional Western practices.

One large-scale study of over 5000 patients looked at those who received either traditional anxiety treatment (CBT, with or without medication) or stress relief tapping without medication. 90% of patients who used tapping showed significant improvement within three tapping sessions, compared to 63% of CBT patients who required around 15 sessions for the same.

Another study looked at how effective the EFT was for anxiety, depression, and cravings when self-administered by 216 healthcare workers. After two hours of intervention using the technique, with follow-up, the study reported that the severity and range of psychological symptoms were reduced. Furthermore, continued practice produced a steeper decrease in the symptoms themselves.

How to Get Started with Tapping Therapy to Help Manage Your Anxiety

man squeezing a stress ball

The first step to getting started with EFT tapping is to identify the issue or emotion you want to work on. It could be a specific problem, such as a fear of public speaking, or a general feeling of anxiety or stress. Once you’ve identified and acknowledged the issue, you can create a statement that describes it. For instance:

“Even though I feel anxious about my presentation, I deeply and completely accept myself.”

Next, you’ll need to learn the tapping points. There are several points on the body that you’ll tap with your fingers while repeating the statement you’ve created.

The EFT tapping sequence is the methodic tapping on the ends of nine meridian points. To start, begin by tapping the side of your hand (karate chop point, or KC) while repeating your statement three times. Then, move on to tap each of the points in sequence, repeating the statement at each point. As you tap, focus on the issue you’re working on and allow yourself to feel any emotions that come up. Continue this practice in sequence for the other meridian points:

  1. karate chop (KC): small intestine meridian
  2. top of head (TH): governing vessel
  3. eyebrow (EB): bladder meridian
  4. side of the eye (SE): gallbladder meridian
  5. under the eye (UE): stomach meridian
  6. under the nose (UN): governing vessel
  7. chin (Ch): central vessel
  8. beginning of the collarbone (CB): kidney meridian
  9. under the arm (UA): spleen meridian

After tapping the underarm point, finish the sequence at the top of the head (TH) point.

Remember to take deep breaths between each round to ground yourself, and repeat the sequence several times. The statement can be modified or varied to focus on different issues as you work through the EFT points.

What are the Best Practices When Using Tapping Therapy?

You might hesitate to start an alternative practice like this because you feel you don’t know how to do EFT tapping properly. When it comes to best practices when using tapping therapy, there are a few things to keep in mind when getting started.

  • When working through the meridian point sequence, it’s important to tap on both sides of the body to balance the effects of the acupressure aspect.
  • Someone looking to expand their practice could also integrate three additional points to the main sequence: the liver point (LH), the wrist (WR) and the crown of the head (CRH).
  • Consider every issue you currently deal with as a symptom of your anxiety as you work through your sequence. This is part of the integrative CBT aspect of tapping.
  • Be specific about the issue itself. If you have pain, where exactly is it? When did it start? How did it happen? If you’re afraid of resuming an activity you used to enjoy, ask yourself when it started? What are the consequences of that fear today? Digging into these issues may feel overwhelming, but they’re important to start neutralizing their hold over you.
  • When working through a highly emotionally charged issue, it can be useful to give voice to the different, shifting aspects of the issue, including the parts you are both willing and unwilling to let go of. Examples of these include resentment towards a specific event or person, or frustration with the self for holding onto these emotions. Allowing yourself to work through “both sides of the argument” can help to reduce the intensity of the emotion surrounding it.

Include Tapping as Part of Your Mental Health Care Plan

woman talking to her patient

If you’re struggling with anxiety or other mental health issues, EFT tapping can be a valuable addition to your self-care routine. By tapping on specific acupressure points, you can release negative emotions and promote a more positive mindset. While EFT tapping is not a replacement for professional mental health care, it can be a helpful complement to your treatment plan.

If you’re new to EFT tapping, it’s normal to feel skeptical or unsure, as it is with any unfamiliar alternative practice. Don’t let that stop you from giving it a try; with practice and patience, you can develop a deeper understanding of the technique and experience its many benefits for yourself.

At the end of the day, taking care of your mental health is essential for living a happy and fulfilling life. Whether you choose to incorporate EFT tapping or other self-care practices into your routine, make sure to prioritize your wellbeing and seek the support you need to thrive.

Work With Us

EFT tapping is a useful practice to manage your anxiety and stress levels. It’s also best used as a component of a larger mental health care plan. Mental health professionals can help you clarify your issues and the aspects that you want to focus on addressing in your practice, while working to comprehensively get to the core of your issues. 

At SMPsychotherapy and Counseling Services, we provide mental health services that can help you work through the problems that are at the root of your anxiety. Our clinicians are trained in many psychotherapy techniques and provide treatment via telehealth in individual, couple, and family settings. If you want help identifying the sources of your anxiety, contact our office today to set up an appointment.
For more about finding your life purpose through incremental change, read Unbreakable by Soribel Martinez, LCSW, CEO of SMPsychotherapy and Counseling Services. It’s a story of one woman’s journey through adversity and how you can use her principles to build the life of your dreams. Book on sale now!

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