Next time stress is threatening to overwhelm you or you feel that knot of anxiety tightening in your stomach, trying tapping.
No, not just your foot – it’s a specific technique based on Traditional Chinese Medicine principles that is said to be effective in relieving anxiety and stress, as well as physical pain.
Also known as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), it involves gently tapping different body parts while repeating a phrase and focusing on your emotions. Similar to acupuncture, it stimulates what traditional Chinese medicine calls meridian points, which are areas of the body that our chi (or life force energy) gets trapped in.
While it might sound strange, a small clinical study found that a few rounds of tapping decreased cortisol levels by 24 percent. Plus, a 2016 analysis of relevant research into EFT found it offered a significant decrease in anxiety scores, even when accounting for the effect size of control treatment. But the researchers did point out that there needed to be more studies comparing EFT to standard anxiety treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
So how do you do it?
First you need to focus on the negative emotion you are feeling, some people find it helpful to formulate the following statement: “Even though I (truth about how you feel), I (choice about how you want to feel).”
E.g. "Even though this deadline is stressing me out, I will meet it without stress."
Some also suggest finishing with a pledge of self acceptance instead.
E.g. “Even though I feel this anxiety, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
Repeat this statement or focus on your emotional state as you use your fingertips to tap five to seven times on the 12 meridian points of your body. See the video below for a demonstration.
But some experts still aren't sold.
"While energy meridians are an interesting concept, scientific investigation has thus far been unable to confirm their existence," Becky Spelman, psychologist and CBT therapist at Private Therapy Clinic told VICE.
"Formal studies of the efficacy of EFT have, to date, indicated that any positive results probably have more to do with the placebo effect than anything else. For this reason, while further studies would certainly be welcomed, very few clinical psychologists consider it to be a valid therapy, and are more likely to suggest a proven approach, such as Eye Motion Desensitizing and Reprocessing (EMDR) for patients suffering distress in association with particular memories, circumstances, or experiences."
Considering that tapping is completely free and will only take a few minutes of your time, it might be worth trying out for yourself and making up your own mind on whether it works.