Anxiety and stress can take a major toll on both our mental and physical health. From heightened cortisol levels to increased blood pressure, the effects of chronic worry and tension are far-reaching. This makes it crucial to have tools and techniques to counteract anxiety and activate the body’s relaxation response. One practice that research shows can help is Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT, which is also commonly known as tapping.
What is EFT Tapping?
Emotional Freedom Technique uses fingertip tapping on specific acupressure points on the face and body while focusing on a problem or stressful trigger. “This activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which triggers the body’s rest and relaxation response,” explains Dr. Amy Hankins, an EFT expert and instructor. “It’s like signalling to your body that it can lower cortisol levels, blood pressure and activate calming neurotransmitters.”
The process of EFT tapping involves naming the issue at hand and accepting oneself despite the anxiety, then tapping through a sequence of acupressure points while repeating a mantra related to the problem. “The physical stimulation of tapping releases negative emotions, reduces systemic stress and restores balance,” Dr. Hankins states.
The tapping points used in EFT correspond to energy meridians that align with the body’s subtle energy system, also called the meridian system. “Much like acupuncture, tapping acupressure points can impact the flow of energy throughout the body and release blockages,” explains Hankins. “This restores equilibrium to the mind and body.”
Benefits of EFT Tapping for Anxiety Relief
An impressive body of research has shown that EFT tapping can have positive effects on anxiety, stress, cravings and more.
In a meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, EFT demonstrated a significant decrease in anxiety scores, with results comparable to cognitive behavioral therapy. The analysis found EFT tapping had a powerful impact after just a single session.
A systematic review published in The Permanente Journal analyzed the results of 14 studies on EFT and found the technique produced substantial reductions in anxiety, depression, PTSD, phobias, food cravings, traumatic memories and more.
In a study by Dr. Peta Stapleton, published in Energy Psychology, participants who received a single EFT session had a 24% drop in cortisol levels, as well as lowered blood pressure and heart rate. Those who engaged in three tapping sessions saw cortisol levels decline by 43% on average. A drop in the stress hormone cortisol is a key indicator of reduced anxiety.
Research also shows EFT can improve depression, chronic pain, emotional eating and PTSD symptoms. For those struggling with anxiety, tapping has been shown to lower symptoms quickly and significantly, making it an excellent self-help technique.
“Rather than avoiding anxious thoughts or trying to distract oneself, tapping allows you to directly face what you’re feeling, gain insight and release the emotional charge from the inside out,” says Dr. Hankins.
How to Practice EFT Tapping
One of the appeals of EFT tapping is that you can do it independently anywhere and anytime anxiety strikes. Here is a step-by-step guide:
1. Identify your specific stressor or anxiety trigger. For example, you might focus on worry over an upcoming work presentation, an argument with a friend, financial pressure or a difficult family situation. The more targeted you can be, the better.
2. Rate your level of emotional distress regarding the problem on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being extremely distressed. This establishes a baseline intensity rating that you can refer back to after tapping.
3. Create a setup statement that acknowledges your issue, followed by unconditional self-acceptance. For example: “Even though I’m worried about having enough money this month, I deeply and completely accept myself.” This set-up statement is the precursor to tapping and keys the process.
4. Use your fingertips to tap approximately 5-7 times on the karate chop point on the side of your hand while repeating the set-up statement 3 times aloud.
5. Move through the EFT tapping sequence, tapping each point while repeating a reminder phrase of your specific problem. For example: “this worry about money” or “this anxiety about my presentation.” Tap 5-7 times on each acupressure point:
- Eyebrow: beginning of the eyebrow near the bridge of the nose
- Side of eye: on the bone bordering the outside corner of the eye
- Under eye: the bone under the eye, approximately 1 inch below the pupil
- Under nose: midway between nose and upper lip
- Chin: midway between lower lip and chin
- Collarbone: the notch at top of breastbone
- Under arm: on the side of the body, level with the nipple approximately 4 inches below the armpit
6. Finish by tapping on the top of the head while tuning into your issue.
7. Reassess your distress level on a 1-10 scale. Repeat the tapping process until your rating drops by at least 2 points or you feel significantly calmer.
Once you get the hang of the tapping points and process, you can do a whole sequence in under a minute for on-the-spot anxiety relief.
“Consistency is key to realizing EFT’s stress-reducing benefits,” says Dr. Hankins. “People see the best results when tapping becomes a regular habit.”
She recommends starting your day with a “wellness tap” to maintain calm and tapping anytime emotional distress arises to restore equilibrium quickly. Keeping a log to monitor your anxiety levels over time can help reveal EFT’s positive impact.
Tapping Therapy with a Practitioner
While EFT certainly can be used effectively as a self-help technique, working with a practitioner can also have a large impact. An EFT expert can guide you through any emotional blockages that may arise and customize tapping statements and sequences to target your unique stressors.
“Having an experienced professional’s support as you navigate challenging issues can take your EFT practice to the next level,” says Dr. Hankins. “And in-person sessions allow the practitioner to fully read your energy and responses, adapting as needed.” Virtual sessions are another convenient option.
Finding a Qualified Practitioner
It’s important to find a properly qualified EFT practitioner, if you decide to pursue professional support. The following organizations offer practitioner directories you can search by location.
- Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP)
- National Institute for Integrative Healthcare (NIIH)
- The Tapping Solution
- EFT International (EFTi)
Be sure to ask about a practitioner’s specific education, EFT certifications and experience before booking a session.
Integrating EFT Tapping into Your RoutineConsistency is key when making EFT part of your emotional wellness routine. Here are some tips for seamlessly integrating tapping.
- keep an index card with the tapping points by your bedside for quick reference when needed.
- add EFT to your self-care rituals like meditating, journaling, sipping tea, deep breathing etc.
- tap first thing in the morning and before bed to bookend your day with calm
- set reminders to tap throughout the day, especially when facing triggers like before a stressful meeting.
- use EFT when difficult emotions surface rather than suppressing them.
- tap with your children when they get upset about issues like fear of the dark or conflict with friends.
- keep a feelings log to monitor changes in your anxiety levels and mood over time.
While research confirms tapping can help lower anxiety and mitigate stress, it’s most powerful when part of a holistic self-care approach. Lifestyle habits like proper nutrition, exercise, sleep and social connection all support mental wellbeing. View EFT as one more tool to restore calm and equilibrium when life gets hectic and emotionally turbulent. With practice, it can become second nature.