The EFT Tapping Technique Can Help Soothe Stress in Minutes—Here’s How to Do It

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If ever there was a time to try a new mental health technique, it's right now. The COVID-19 pandemic has put an enormous strain on people's mental well-being, with triple the amount of Americans feeling mentally distressed right now compared to this time period in 2018. And with increased amounts of stress, and new living situations making certain self-care practices harder to achieve, it might be worth trying something a bit different than the tried-and-true practices of meditation and deep breathing.

Enter Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), aka tapping, a healing modality designed to calm the central nervous system, thereby helping to ease anxiety and other uncomfortable emotions. According to Linsey Lekhraj, an epigenetics coach and holistic nutritionist who teaches tapping at The DEN Meditation, EFT helps you "release stagnant emotions and 'tap' into your subconscious mind," by way of strategic tapping or pressing on pressure points.

The technique was initially developed in the 1980s by students of acupuncture who realized you could stimulate acupressure points without needles. Initially, it was used to target physical pain, but within a decade it evolved to target emotional issues as well. "In 1995, Gary Craig released Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which combined tapping meridian points in sequence while borrowing concepts from Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) [a form of psychotherapy where a person explores the connection between their language with their habits and behaviors] to address many different aspects of issues at hand," Lekhraj says. Put more plainly, EFT involves speaking affirmations and other "negativity-clearing statements" while tapping on specific meridian points on the body with the fingertips.

According to Lekhraj, when you're feeling anxious or stuck in a particular emotion, tapping on specific meridian points while breathing deeply can help to release difficult or unwanted feelings. "Adding in an intention allows the user to infuse the practice with the power of their own voice," says Lekhraj. "Speaking out which emotions feel lingering allows the emotions to diffuse and dissipate. This allows for deep subconscious and energetic clearing to happen as a result."

In her group EFT classes at The DEN, Lekhraj tells me she typically focuses on a specific theme, e.g. forgiveness, empowerment, releasing anxiety, or manifesting. "I’ve had students shed many tears during the process, and often share that they’ve been able to connect to the root causes of some of their emotions in just one sitting," she says.

It may sound a bit out there (and to be crystal clear, EFT's founder, Gary Craig is not a medical professional), but a 2019 review of small studies on EFT's benefits found that the practice can help reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even physical pain.  "I was the biggest skeptic at first, because it looks and feels pretty silly," Lekhraj says. "But if you can allow yourself to truly give it a shot, you’ll feel a noticeable difference."

If you can't join one of her virtual classes or want to try EFT on your own in order to alleviate some of the stress of the modern moment, follow the three steps below.

How to do EFT tapping when you're feeling stressed, blue, or otherwise icky

1. Learn the tapping points

You can't just touch a random part on your body and expect results; EFT relies on very specific acupressure points. "[These points] usually include the outside edge of the hand, top of the head, forehead, between eyebrows, temples, under the nose, chin, collarbones, and under the arm," says Lekhraj, who offers visuals here.

2. Develop affirmations

"These statements may be themed in self-acceptance or just admitting what feelings are present, whether they be nervous/anxious/sad/etc," Lekhraj says. "You may also use EFT for speaking things into existence. For example, declaring boldly, 'I am abundant! I am worthy of my desires!' is a great way to connect with the particular energy you desire." The more intuitive these statements are, she adds, the better—even if it feels awkward to say them out loud. "When in doubt, you can use the common structure, 'Even though I feel _________, I love and accept myself'," she suggests.

3. Start tapping

Call out your emotions and speak your affirmations while tapping your meridian points. "One or two phrases per point usually feels perfect; however, you may feel free to focus on any points that feel more energetically charged," Lekhraj says. "Many people feel stronger responses from certain points more than others." Repeat for as long and as often as desired.

Want to see what EFT tapping looks like in practice? Here's Reiki master Kelsey Patel's go-to EFT exercise for soothing mid-flight anxiety: 

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