EFT Tapping for Anxiety:
A Complete Guide to Feeling Better Fast
What is EFT Tapping?
EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Techniques. Clinical EFT Tapping is a proven system to eliminate the negative emotional charge on traumas that have encoded themselves into your nervous system for the purpose of anxiety relief and lasting personal transformation.
*Note: EFT is a technique of the people and can help alleviate many problems. It is not, however, a substitute for care from a licensed mental health professional. Everyone is different. If you are not getting the relief you need, please seek help from a licensed counselor. Here is an article on how to find a therapist to get you started.
EFT Tapping was originally discovered by Roger Callahan in 1979 under the name of Thought Field Therapy (TFT), which is a complex series of diagnostic and treatment techniques for tapping on various acupuncture points. In the 1990s, Gary Craig simplified the technique into what is now known as EFT Tapping. EFT involves tapping on a series of at least 9 acupoints while reciting a combination of statements that connect you to your trauma and affirmations that dilute the negative associations. The end result is a decrease in negative emotional intensity around a specific event. This is often accompanied by a cognitive shift that provides the client with a new more functional view of the life event. EFT Tapping has been used successfully for the treatment of depression, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, physical pain, weight issues, and more. Anxiety is perhaps one of the most obvious applications for EFT Tapping.
Does EFT really work for anxiety?
EFT Tapping has been proven effective for anxiety in at least 9 peer-reviewed randomized controlled trials.1-9 These trials encompassed a range of populations including veterans with PTSD, 2-5 adolescents with anxiety,7 nurses with anxiety and burnout from their jobs,6 people in weight loss programs dealing with anxiety from food cravings,9 and people with anxiety due to specific phobias.8 In every case, EFT tapping was able to significantly reduce anxiety. Three meta-analyses examining the impact of EFT on various forms of anxiety found moderate to large treatment effects10-12 and one found EFT to perform with similar efficacy to cognitive behavioral therapy.12 These findings have been backed up by both biochemical and genetic studies that attempt to explain the effects of EFT Tapping. Tapping literally alters gene expression as well as the biochemical make-up of your bloodstream. Pre-post tests of participants who attended an EFT workshop reported clinically and statistically significant improvements in objective biomarkers including a 37% drop in cortisol (stress hormone) levels, 113% increase in immune system markers, an 8% decrease in blood pressure.13
Subjective scales from this study reported a 40% drop in anxiety, a 31% increase in happiness rating, a 35 percent decrease in depression, a 57% decrease in pain, a 32% decrease in PTSD symptoms and a 74% decrease in food cravings.13
In other words, Yes, EFT Tapping really works and can probably decrease or even eliminate your anxiety very quickly if you know how to do it properly.
Adapting EFT for Anxiety
Clinical EFT Tapping, as used in the above studies, is characterized by acceptance and non-avoidance. When we tap, we open ourselves in the face of our anxiety and tend to it the way we tend to a dirty house. We have to get up close and personal with our problem if we are to have any effect. In fact, we have to activate the feelings to be able to change them. This can be done slowly, progressively, and gently, but the direction is always into the fire, not away. This may sound unsafe, at first, but the experience of tapping while you do this will quickly show you that you do not need to be afraid.
The Set-up and Reminder Statements
Acceptance in the face of your problem is core of EFT. So, each session begins with a set-up statement that (1) acknowledges your problem and (2) provides you with positive reinforcement.
The general formula for the Set-Up is as follows:
Even though I have <state your problem>, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.
Notice that this sentence acknowledges the fundamental suffering you are experiencing, while including a statement of self-acceptance. This statement can look very different depending on what you are experiencing. Generally, the more specific, the better.
“Even though I am anxious because I know Jeanine is angry with me, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.”
“Even though I have this knot in my stomach and want to cry because there is more to do than I have time to do, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.”
“Even though I just want to through the covers over my head and cry because I am so overwhelmed, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.
Whatever our set-up statement, we usually say it three times before moving on to the next phase
Once we have finished tapping with our set-up statement, we move on to our reminder statement. This is a short phrase that really connects you to the core of your trauma, or in this case, the core of your anxiety. When we have our feeling activated, it is like having a file folder for that experience open in our nervous system and the tapping is able to effect the negative charge on the items in that file folder. We use our reminder statement to keep that file folder open the entire time.
What this means is that anyone listening to you perform EFT would walk away thinking you were a decidedly negative person. The focus on the negative is often misunderstood by people because it seems to go against some of the more New Age philosophies surrounding positive thinking. It is important to realize that, if those negative scripts were not already running in your head, you wouldn’t be looking for help.
EFT does not bring the negative. The negative is here. If you want to have a clean house, you can’t avoid a close personal relationship with dirt. Pretending the house isn’t dirty doesn’t clean anything. The same goes for EFT Tapping. If the negative is here, we have to roll up our sleeves, walk right into it, and begin cleaning it up. EFT Tapping is a safe and surprising quick way to accomplish this.
Examples of Reminder Statements:
“Ughh, I made her angry”… “How do I even fix this?” … “Her face was bright red!”
“I have soooo much to do!” … “I’m a sinking ship”…. “My stomach is in knots”
“I’m so overwhelmed.” … “I want to cry” … “I just want to hide from everything."
Find whatever statements really connect you to your anxiety. But notice I did not write something generic like “This anxiety I’m feeling.”
I see this a lot in EFT instruction. You might get some relief from the tapping alone with that kind of a reminder, but you really need to be as specific as possible. This feeling is interacting with your nervous system and your memory system in a very specific way. You will need to be that specific to really move it out.
The SUD Score
EFT Tapping works so quickly and so well that once a problem has been tapped on, the tapper often cannot reconnect with the anxiety and may tend to think the anxiety must not have been as bad as they said it was. For this reason, we always collect a SUD score before tapping. SUD stands for Subjective Units of Distress. This is how distressed you are by your problem on a scale of 0-10. We write this score down so that, after things improve, we can see where we were. This is a bigger deal than it sounds because seeing this score move from an 8 to a 0 in 5 minutes can be very motivating to keeping your tapping practice alive. We reassess the SUD score at the end of each session to see how we are improving. For most issues, it will take at least two rounds of tapping to move from a high number to a 1 or zero and your SUD score will often continue to drop over the next 12-24 hours.
The EFT Tapping Points
Point 1: Side of the Hand
Point 2: The Crown
Point 3: Eyebrow Point
Point 4: Side of the Eye
Point 5: Under the Eye
Point 6: Under the Nose
Point 7: Under the Lips
Point 8: Collar Bone
Point 9: Side of Ribs
The EFT Process
First, we write down a SUD level on our specific anxiety.
We create our Set-up Statement and Reminder Statements.
The Side of the Hand Point is tapped upon while we recite our Set-up statement (recited 3 times).
The remaining points are tapped in order (about 6 or more taps on each) while we recite our reminder phrase at each acupoint.
After we have made it through one full round, we take a deep cleansing breath. In through the nose/out through the mouth works great.
We reassess our SUD level are write it down. Then repeat the process, breathing in between rounds and rechecking our SUD score. Generally, most small issues can be dealt with in 2-3 rounds. Bigger issues take more planning and time.
EFT Tapping for Anxiety Symptom Relief in the Moment
Most of the easily accessible EFT Tapping we see online is essentially spot treatment. It is designed to make you feel better right now, but may not get to the root of your problem. Regardless, this is an important technique because often, we need to get the suffering down a bit to even think about doing any deeper work. If anxiety is keeping you from doing your work or your meditation practice or from getting to sleep, a simple spot treatment round for exactly what you feel in the moment is a great way to quickly jump the hurdle and get on with your day. Click on the video below for an example of spot treatment EFT.
EFT Tapping for Lasting Anxiety Relief
Tabletops, Legs and Aspects
If you can change how you feel, you can change how you respond to life. If you can change how you respond to life, you can change your life. EFT Tapping has unlimited possibilities and, with a little training, you can completely transform yourself. There’s a big difference between tapping to lessen a momentary emotional discomfort and tapping to restructure how you view your entire world. The latter holds the key to lasting relief. This is where a trained EFT Coach can be a huge help, but EFT is a tool of the people and there is also a lot you can do without ever spending a dime. This next session provides you with the tools to really go deep with EFT Tapping.
Let’s consider a traditional Clinical EFT Tapping analogy for your anxiety. In Clinical EFT, we make a big deal about what you specifically tap on because we know that lasting change only comes when you tap out the exact aspects of event that were most strongly encoded in your memory. We talk about it as if it were a table. The tabletop is the problem you’re dealing with. In this case, the tabletop is anxiety. If you just tap on a tabletop, you will get some relief just because EFT Tapping is so forgiving, but it won’t change you at a very deep level. That tabletop is being supported by legs. Those legs are the events in your life that made you vulnerable to anxiety in the first place; those moments you lived where your body learned to respond to specific stimuli with anxiety. If you tap on a leg, you’re getting closer, but those legs, those events, were encoded in a very specific way through your five senses. Was it something you saw when the traumatic event was occurring? A quality of light or look on someone’s face? A string of words someone spoke? The tone of their voice? Was it a feeling on your skin or a smell or even a taste? How did your nervous system encode this event? What is the strongest sensory aspect of the event? That is what you tap on. A skilled EFT Coach will always have you tapping on the sensory aspects of the event because that is what gets lasting results. That is what knocks a table leg (event) down and you don’t have to knock them all down. If you knock a couple of legs down, the entire tabletop (your anxiety) comes crashing down and you can step into a new way of living. Watch the EFT Session below to see a coach narrow a session down to its sensory aspects.
As you start to release the charge off specific aspects of specific events, other events will begin to pop into your head. Write them down. You will usually not feel like you need to tap on them, but you do. These flashes are golden. This is one of the reasons a coach is so useful. They can catch you as you throw away gold. It will look unrelated to you, but it is not. To a coach, its relationship with your issue is usually glaringly obvious. The fact that you can’t see it is one of the reasons you have been stuck in the pattern for so long. If you are not working with a coach, you must err on the side of treating every flash like it is vitally important. If you can’t see why you need to tap on it, then do a few rounds of tapping over how you don’t think it’s connected or important. This can usually awaken an insight that opens a whole new area to you. See the video below for an example of this. This process of following every flash of insight in your tapping session is called Daisy Chaining and it can open the door to massive transformation if you pay close attention.
Finding the Core Event
There are very few issues that cannot be traced back to childhood. Most of the traumas we experience are echoes of an original trauma that occurred early in our life. An exception to this are those traumas that occur in adulthood that shake the foundations of our identity and ability to relate to the world around us. In either case, whenever you can identify the original event that all the other events are echoing, tapping on that event has the highest potential for creating a lasting improvement in your life. If you can tap down the sensory aspects of that event, you can often topple the entire table. As you are tapping on your aspects, ask yourself, “Does this remind me of anything? Perhaps in my childhood? When did I first experience this?” If you never get to the original event, it is ok. You can topple a table by just tapping out a few of its legs (using sensory aspects), but awareness of those core events often come up when you are close to letting go of a long-standing issue. Do not ignore them if they come up. Any EFT Coach knows those moments are gold.
If you need any help in developing an EFT Tapping Plan or would like to work directly with a Coach, I would love to work with you. Click the link to schedule a free 15-minute EFT Coaching Consultation or go ahead and book a full 75-minute Clinical EFT Coaching Session.
Click this link to learn about and register for our Free Live BodyMind EFT Tapping Circles.
Click this link to register for reminders and invitations to our Free Live Meditation Classes.
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