Tapping your way to being chilled
I’ve started tapping on my face, chest and hands when something is bothering me.
It looks a bit odd but it’s really a thing.
It’s called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and although I’ve known about it for a while, I’d never tried it until recently because it sounded too silly to work.
It turns out, it’s been clinically tested and many mental health professionals use the technique to help their clients manage things like stress, nerves and anger.
Mind-coach and therapist Natalie Pennicotte-Collier regularly uses the technique with clients at her award-winning practice and told me:
“It’s been incredibly successful when working with anxiety and fears in the workplace and public speaking.
“Often just a few sessions to eradicate any panic.”
Hear Natalie discuss further methods for handling anxiety in HealthHackers episode 3.
How does it work?
Emotional Freedom Technique has been described as the emotional version of acupuncture - without needles. Although, I’ve personally not had much success with acupuncture in the past.
It involves tapping with your fingertips on different energy points on your body while you say aloud key phrases about a negative feeling or situation.
The tapping is meant to stimulate those meridians and send a calming signal to your brain that apparently turns off the stressful feeling.
It was developed by performance coach Gary Craig in the early nineties and is similar to a previous technique called Thought Field Therapy (TFT) which was developed by American psychologist, Dr. Roger Callahan.
What can EFT be used for?
When I started writing this article I had no idea I would discover such a broad range of uses for EFT.
People use it to help deal with a variety of distressing feelings and situations - from the annoying to the utterly tragic.
Sarah Tobin, a mother-of-two in Brighton, found tapping helped release the agonising emotional trauma that came from losing her first child, just days after giving birth.
Sarah was so convinced by it she trained to become a practitioner and help other women who’ve suffered traumatic births.
I’ve written about her moving story here.
Treatment for PTSD?
He said: “If a guy comes back from Iraq or Afghanistan and nothing else is working, conventional treatment isn’t working, meds aren’t working, everything they’re doing isn’t working and he does this silly tapping thing… six sessions or less, decreasing PTSD symptoms dramatically.”
Weight-loss and depression
There’s long been a link between gaining weight and feeling depressed. Could tapping help improve both? Here’s a study showing the psychological impact on participants as they lost weight while using EFT.
Physical pain relief
Kicking the habit
The technique might help combat addictions too.
A UK clinical trial is set to find out whether EFT can help smokers quit.
How do you do it?
You’ll find an abundance of how-to videos online showing varying forms of EFT and tapping, but below is a basic round based on Nick Ortner’s work:
Think of an issue - it could be a sore shoulder, a nervous feeling about something coming up, or a painful past event.
Rate it on a scale of 1 to 10 for how uncomfortable it is.
Start tapping on your karate chop point (side of your hand) while thinking of the problem.
Say aloud “Even though I have this stress (or insert problem e.g. ‘pain’), I deeply and completely love and accept myself”. Do this three times. It’s your ‘setup statement.’
Now, while tapping the inner corner of your eyebrow and say: “This stress (or problem)”.
Tapping the side of your eye, say: “This stress”.
Tap under your eye and say: “This stress”.
Tap under your nose and say: “This stress”.
Tap your chin and say: “This stress in my body”.
Tap just beneath your collar bone and say: “All this stress in my body”.
Tap your torso under your arm (if female, where the bra line is) and say: “All this stress”.
Tap top of the head and say: “All this stress in my body”.
Take a deep breath.
Assess your 1-10 intensity and do more rounds until you start to feel better about the problem.
Here’s Nick showing how it’s done in a short video.
Too much hard work?
I asked tapping tutor and host of the Tapping Q & A podcast, Gene Monterastelli, if there was a shorter version that you could use in a situation where you might not have the time or privacy to complete the full EFT rounds.
He told me: “You don't have to use all of the tapping points to get results, but in some situations you might have the same level of relief by only using a few of the points.
“Personally, I find tapping only on the collar bone point to be very relaxing in stressful situations.”
How tapping has blown me away
For a long time, EFT just seemed like too much of a faff to me.
Then something weird happened.
About three months after breaking my collarbone in a parkour accident, I developed a sudden, unexpected fear of losing my balance while running on treadmills - even though my accident had nothing to do with treadmills.
This bothered me because I’ve been using running machines for the past 20 years and they are a mainstay in my workout warmups.
I told my physiotherapist about the random fear during one of my collarbone rehabilitation sessions.
He took me to his running machine and asked me to jog while he increased the speed.
My fear suddenly flared up again, I jumped off and started welling up!
“It’s probably a bit of PTSD,” he told me, given that I had a history of accidents and bone breaks.
(FYI: I’ve had seven bone breaks since childhood - resulting from skiing, parkour, or tripping over in the school playground.)
After hearing him say “PTSD,” I remembered how tapping was meant to be great for that, reportedly even more effective than conventional treatment in some cases .
That evening, I spent a whole hour doing EFT rounds.
Using guidance from Nick Ortner’s audiobook, I tapped on my anxiety about the running machine plus all sorts of issues and past memories that popped into my head during those rounds; some not even related to my bone-breaking accidents.
The next day, I got on the treadmill and reached my usual speeds again without jumping off!
Whenever I felt a murmur of fear creeping in, I tapped on my collarbone point (as described by Gene above) and just kept running.
Since then, I’ve felt back to my normal self again.
As with any therapy, results will vary but mind-coach Natalie insists “almost all” of her clients over the past few years have felt huge benefits from tapping techniques.
She told me: “If you leave all scepticism aside it’s so simple, and now with modern neuroscience and years of research, the question is why would you not try this natural empowering technique?”
I’m now a convert and have been trying out various tap-along videos on YouTube, including some easy ones by Brad Yates.
Even if my successful treadmill experience was the result of a complete placebo effect… I’ll take it, thanks!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in June 2018 and was later updated with Gemma’s personal tapping results, plus Nick Ortner’s tapping sequence method.