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I Gave EFT Tapping a Try-Here's How It Works and How It Helped Me Destress in Minutes

Real Simple logo Real Simple 6/16/2021 Jennifer Benjamin
a person holding a tattoo on his head: Getty Images © Provided by Real Simple Getty Images

For many of us, stress is pretty much a constant state of being, with emails coming in fast and furious, news headlines keeping us up at night, and to-do lists we can barely stay on top of. Of course, experts always warn about the dangers of having too much stress, but finding ways to combat it can be tough. While many try talk therapy, exercise, meditation and, well, wine, an alternative technique for stress relief has emerged in recent years. It's called EFT, which stands for emotional freedom technique, also known as "tapping."

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So what is EFT tapping exactly?

"[EFT tapping] is a powerful stress relief technique, based on the combined principles of ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology," explains Jessica Ortner, co-creator of The Tapping Solution App and author of The Tapping Solution for Weight Loss and Body Confidence. "The basic technique requires you to focus on a negative emotion-a fear, worry, or anything causing you stress-and while maintaining mental focus on the issue, you use your fingers to tap five to seven times on nine specific meridian points of the body." 

According to experts, focusing on a challenge while simultaneously tapping on these acupressure points sends a calming signal to the brain, allowing you to acknowledge the stress, while calming the body. Ortner adds that we don't only experience stress in the mind, but physically as well, often in the form of tension headaches, a racing heartbeat, stomach issues, or back pain

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How does it work-and is it safe?

Now the question we've all been wondering: Does tapping really work-and how? According to clinical research, EFT has been shown to relieve anxiety and depression, help with academic performance, minimize food cravings, aid in weight loss, and alleviate fears around events like doctor visits, public speaking, and even childbirth. Tapping has even been used with great success among those struggling with PTSD. 

Think of it as having similar, but noninvasive, effects as acupuncture. If you're doing it right (read: gently), the tapping itself should not hurt. "It's basically like acupuncture without the needles, where you use therapeutic touch on yourself to accept the stress or trauma you're dealing with, while calming your body and mind," says Sarah Bridges, PhD, a Minnesota-based psychologist. She adds that the ritualized process of tapping is also meditative, which can actually be useful to those who feel they can't meditate.

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Here's what happened when I tried EFT for the first time

As a work-from-home mom, I'm always in desperate need of some stress relief. I was curious to see if tapping might work for me, especially since I often get restless during meditation and yoga. "I often hear people share that they wish they could meditate but can't quiet their racing thoughts. Tapping is the one thing that works because there is a physical and mental focus," Ortner says. 

With that in mind, Ortner guided me through a tapping session. Here's how it went.

First, I sat comfortably in a chair, and then we identified my biggest stress (taking care of everyone's needs) and how I felt it in my body (tension in my neck and shoulders). Literally and figuratively, I was feeling as though I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. She asked me to identify the intensity of the physical discomfort on a scale of 1 to 10. I gave it an 8. 

Then we began. Ortner showed me the nine meridian points, starting with the side of the hand, then the eyebrows, temple, under the eye, under the nose, the crease under the bottom lip, the collarbone, the armpit, and ending with the top of the head. 

Once I knew the correct areas to tap, she had me repeat phrases after her, while tapping these points in sequence, and acknowledge that I felt overwhelmed with juggling the needs of my family. We did this cycle for several minutes, and when we were done, she asked again how I would scale my physical tension. After a short tapping session, I now gave it a 3. Essentially, my neck and shoulder ache had been alleviated by half, going from acute to no big deal. 

A major plus: You don't have to see a practitioner to reap the benefits of tapping. Unlike acupuncture or massage, this is a stress relief technique you are encouraged to perform on your own, ideally with the help of an app. If you're curious and want to give it a try, The Tapping Solution app has a ton of different channels, addressing concerns around anxiety, phobias, body acceptance, sleep, and even COVID-related fear. I will admit, I had been a bit skeptical, especially as someone who can't seem to shake my overactive thoughts, but I found my tapping session incredibly therapeutic and hope to keep it up.

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a person holding a tattoo on his head: This stress relief strategy—rooted in Chinese acupressure and modern psychology—has emerged in recent years to help heal anxiety, fear, and emotional pain on your own. © Getty Images This stress relief strategy—rooted in Chinese acupressure and modern psychology—has emerged in recent years to help heal anxiety, fear, and emotional pain on your own.

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