The Science-Backed Technique That Can Calm Your Anxiety in Under 5 Minutes
Anxiety rarely respects your schedule. You’ll be out and about, buying groceries or just going about your work as usual, and suddenly — wham. Sometimes there’s a trigger, and sometimes there simply isn’t. That’s why it’s good to learn some methods that can help you regulate the intensity of your feelings quickly and in the moment. In my experience, EFT (or “tapping”) is great for that.
It’s much easier to deal with the deeper, underlying issues for your emotions when you aren’t completely overwhelmed by them, which is why I started EFT in the first place. Personally, it helps me bring my anxiety down from a ten to a zero faster than anything else.
This way, I can finish my day and circle back to my feelings when I actually have time to process them, maybe with the help of a trusted friend, a therapist, my journal, or my dog. Generally, you can do this technique within five to ten minutes, depending on how strong your feelings are and how you feel after the first round of tapping.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Tapping
EFT is an evidence-based method created by Gary Craig that combines cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy approaches with acupressure to relieve physical and emotional distress. Acupressure is related to acupuncture, but instead of needles, you use your fingers to apply pressure to meridian points, or energy points throughout the body, according to Chinese medicine. While there is more research to be done, studies suggest that EFT can reduce anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms, and increase feelings of happiness. Here are the steps:
1. Name your stress
In order to overcome a problem, you need to know what it is. Take a moment and figure out what specifically is causing you stress. There might be multiple issues, but EFT (tapping) works best if you focus on one problem at a time. You can always do separate sessions for individual stressors. For example, “I feel anxious because there is too much to do today.” If your issue is with someone else, make sure you frame it as your issue. So instead of, “My boss is in a bad mood,” it would be, “I feel angry at my boss.” If you’re unable to identify any kind of trigger, that’s ok. You can just say, “I’m feeling anxious and don’t know why yet.”
2. Rate your intensity
Now that you’ve identified the issue you want to work on, it’s time to rate its discomfort on a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the worst or most uncomfortable.
Giving your stress intensity a number helps you track your progress after going through a complete EFT sequence. For instance, if you started at an 8 before tapping, and then ended on a 3, you can get a sense of how effective the exercise was for you, and if you want to repeat the tapping sequence on the issue again, or if you feel it’s been resolved.
3. Find your phrase
Before you begin tapping, you need to come up with a “set-up phrase” that summarizes what you’re trying to address. The set-up phrase is usually in two parts. The first part acknowledges the issue, and the second part states self-acceptance despite this problem. So for instance:
Part A: “I am anxious because there is too much to do.”
Part B: “Even though I feel anxious, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
You can be a little creative with this set-up in order to tailor it to what you’re working on. You might want to add something like, “I am anxious because there is too much to do, but even though I’m anxious, I deeply and completely love and accept myself, and I am ok as I am.”
4. Begin the EFT tapping sequence
Once you have your phrase, you’re ready to begin the EFT tapping sequence, which focuses on the ends of nine meridian points. In Chinese medicine, there are 12 major meridians that mirror each side of the body and correspond to an internal organ. However, EFT mainly focuses on these nine:
- The “karate chop,” which is the pinky finger edge of your hand. Use whichever hand you want. You can tap that edge of your one hand against the palm of your other hand to stimulate this acupressure point.
- Top of the head
- Just above the eyebrows
- The sides of the eyes, near the temples
- Under the eye / at the top of the cheekbone
- Under the nose, just above the upper lip
- Top of the collarbone
- Under the arm / the armpit
Start the sequence by tapping the karate chop point while reciting your set-up phrase three times. “I am anxious because there is too much to do, but even though I’m anxious, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.” Then, tap each following point seven times, starting at the top of the head and moving down the body in this order.
If you have trouble keeping count of how many times you tap each point, don’t worry about it: It’ll be fine if it’s not exactly seven taps. While you tap through the rest of the points from head to armpit, you will recite what’s called a “reminder phrase.” So if your set-up phrase is, “I am anxious because there is too much to do, but even though I’m anxious, I deeply and completely love and accept myself,” at the karate chop point, then your reminder phrase that you will recite at each of the following points would be shortened to something like, “I am anxious, but I accept and love myself.”
After ending at tapping the armpit point, finish the sequence by tapping the top of your head. You might want to repeat the sequence a few times.
5. Rate the final intensity
Once you have finished tapping all the points and reciting your phrases, take a few deep breaths, and check in with how you’re feeling. Rate your intensity level on a scale from 0 to 10, and note how it compares to before you started. If you haven’t reached 0, repeat this process until you do.
If you feel like you need more guidance with this because there are a lot of steps to remember, there are a lot of EFT videos available online. There is a free app I like to use called The Tapping Solution, and it has a wealth of resources available for all kinds of issues like sleep, anger, fear, pain, and more. Dr. Jennifer Mullan of Decolonizing Therapy has great resources for tapping as well as other therapeutic methods, too.
Jezmina Von Thiele (they/them) is a 200-hour Kripalu certified Yoga Instructor with a Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga Certificate. They are a dancer, healer, artist, art model, and tell fortunes in their mixed Roma/Sinti family’s tradition. Follow them on Instagram at @jezmina.vonthiele and visit jezminavonthiele.com for more.
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