Have you got an upcoming event marked in your calendar with a red circle of fear?
Anxiety makes appearances in everybody’s lives at some point, but this feeling of worry or anxiety should subside once the event has passed. For some, this stress remains, or worse, manifests itself in other situations further down the line.
Anxiety, as you’re probably aware, is a stress response which involves a sense of fear or dread, coupled with apprehension. With this comes a heightened state of arousal, which prepares your body for a fight or flight response, necessary to keep you out of harm’s way.
It does this by triggering a flood of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that help you respond in an emergency situation but aren’t so useful when you’re about to give a presentation.
When anxiety becomes chronic, which is, unfortunately, the case for an estimated 40 million Americans, it can increase your risk for a number of mental and physical health problems further down the line. Being in an anxious state for prolonged periods of time could actually cause your brain to become wired for it, triggering anxiety in situations that make you feel even only slightly uncomfortable.
Not only is this draining on an emotional level, but as we know, these chemical imbalances have a physical manifestation, so you could be damaging your body if you leave chronic stress or anxiety untreated.
What is Tapping?
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) otherwise known as ‘tapping’ is a form of acupressure based on the ancient art of acupuncture (no needles here, though- phew!)
It uses the same energy meridians that have been used in acupuncture for over 5000 years to stimulate energy flow from specific points, but ties everything back to an emotional core through voicing your concerns. This is the key to tapping, as it works on a physical plane (like acupuncture does), but also on an emotional one.
By outwardly vocalizing the things currently causing you stress while tapping on energy meridians, you begin to suppress a lot of anxiety surrounding certain issues. EFT is an energy psychology tool that essentially rewires the brain, reversing the effects of chronic anxiety and their associated problems. Think of it as a reprogramming tool for your brain’s circuitry.
What’s going on in the brain?
Generally, we think of our memories as belonging to the past, but draw up a memory now, think of what you had for breakfast this morning for example, and you’ll see that to remember something, you have to re-experience it in the present moment.
Our subconscious understands memories as current events. This gives you access to them in the present moment, as well as the ability to alter your body’s response to them.
The National Institute of Mental Health explains how the brain creates anxiety: “The amygdala is an almond-shaped structure deep in the brain that is believed to be a communications hub between the parts of the brain that process incoming sensory signals and the parts that interpret these signals. It can alert the rest of the brain that a threat is present and trigger a fear or anxiety response.”
Through tapping and recalling stressors simultaneously, your brain receives both messages at once, and you are able to send a message to the amygdala and hippocampus that tells them to calm down.
Think of the brain as part of the body’s system of energy. These meridian points give you a very strong connection to it. Tapping on these points essentially smooths out energy disruptions and just as acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to treat physical manifestations of pain, these same energy points can be stimulated to calm emotional manifestations of stress.
What’s going on in the body?
Tapping has also been shown to lower levels of cortisol, one of the stress-causing chemicals we mentioned earlier. One study by a Harvard researcher found a drop in the levels of the stress hormone of an average of 24% in subjects treated with EFT when those treated with talk therapy (and the control group receiving nothing) showed no such reduction.
Recent research has also shown that tapping increases positive emotions such as hope and enjoyment while decreasing negative emotional states like anxiety.
How can you start tapping?
This technique is really easy to learn and to implement into your day-to-day life. It can be practiced anywhere and at any time as it requires no equipment or specific conditions to really work in, though you do need to vocalize about your anxieties, so finding a private space might be preferable.