Tapping into a calmer you
This week’s weeks blog continues the journey through our Digging Deeper into Anxiety series. Focusing on using a very old but relatively unknown technique called Tapping to manage stress and anxiety. Although we are exploring how it is used for anxiety, Tapping can provide relief from chronic pain, emotional struggles, addictive cravings, fears, trauma, and even some physical diseases. It is often used by athletes, public speakers, and therapists to help calm the body’s stress response and keep you more present in the moment and focused on the task at hand. In its most basic form (what we are teaching today) is not a ‘fix’ for the causes of stress but can work as a quick hack, or short cut, to calm your stress response system for anywhere from a few minutes to multiple days.
This is the type of blog where my love of science and amazement of the ways in which our bodies were designed creeps to the surface, and we end up with a lot of brain and body science lingo. I will apologize now for any boring tangents but stick with me and will break it down into workable doses and relate it back to how it can help you specifically. If your eyes start rolling into the back of your head, scroll to the bottom of blog and watch the video walk through on tapping and step by step instructions of how to do this yourself.
While you may not have heard of tapping before, the healing concepts that it’s based upon have been in practice in Eastern medicine for thousands of years. Historically it has been described as working with ‘energy pathways’ called meridians to cleanse and clear the energy flow within a person’s body. There has been a lot of skepticism over time as to the existence of these pathways and the effectiveness of treatments that are based on them; like acupuncture, acupressure or tapping.
Over time, however, these practices have been researched scientifically to identify what they are, and how and why they work. Like acupuncture and acupressure, Tapping utilizes specific nerve points throughout the body to trigger certain physical responses that can be used as calming and soothing elements. Instead of the label of energy pathways we have learned that there is a very real primo vascular system at work within us connecting all our systems, that is accessible through ‘acupoints’. Rather than using needles like in acupuncture, you can stimulate these points by tapping on them with your fingertips – literally tapping into your body’s own built in healing system.
This is due to the existence of very high concentrations of ‘mechanoreceptors’, free nerve endings and neurovascular density at those acupoints. Meaning, certain places on your body have been designed to be extra sensitive to certain touch and can then take the stimuli from that touch to send a signal to your amygdala (your brain’s alarm system), hippocampus (regulates memory, navigation & emotional responses), and other places in the brain where your emotional stress has a physical form.
What is very cool is that scientists have been able to do scans of a person’s brain when they are accessing these acupoints and can visually see and record the messages from these tapping points going to the fight or flight centers in our brain. These are the parts of our brain that tell us to run, hide, fight, or freeze when overwhelmed or stressed. And these are the same parts who don’t necessarily always listen to logic or reason when we are trying to calm ourselves down when emotionally stressed but not in physical danger. Our brain as amazing as it is still greatly struggles with determining the difference between emotional and physical danger and reacts the same to both. If you want to dig deeper into the science and research checkout the EFT International Association for a plethora of exciting nighttime reading.
You will start by focusing your thoughts on a “SPECIFIC” issue or stress, bringing it to a focal point in your mind and then giving it a rating of intensity somewhere between 0-10. This allows for both; your brain to light up where the stress signals are coming from and you to identify what your starting level of distress is so that you can monitor any changes.
Next, you will give these thoughts words, again this is to stimulate where the signal is going in your brain. If I was super stressed about let’s say doing a video presentation (see link below) that I had to record to go with this blog my wording may be something like “Even though I have this problem with anxiety over making this presentation, I deeply and completely accept myself”. Now, did you catch that last part? I DEEPLY AND COMPLETELY ACCEPT MYSELF. You are NOT just identifying the problem and lighting up the stress part of the brain, you are also programing in positive information to overwrite it and initiating the calming sections of the brain.
You will say this same phrase 3 times while tapping on your first point to really make sure that the signal is linking where you need it to be. Afterwards you will continue through the next 8 points with just referencing ‘this problem’ and hitting each 7-10 times. Some spots will be more effective than others for you because we are all built differently. You will find some that you like to go right to and skip past the others. However, I encourage you to try the exercise in full and practice it regularly as you become accustomed to it.
After you go through a cycle of hitting all your tapping points, take a deep breathe and rerate that stress level. If necessary, do the cycle multiple times to slowly start lowering your stress responses. It is not unusual to need to do 8-10 full cycles if your stress levels are very high.
After you get this down to an acceptable lower number, let’s say 0-3, then I want you to go through the whole cycle again but this time “tapping in” a positive message. One of my favorites is ‘I choose to be calm and confident”, but I have also frequently use “I choose to be relaxed and rest”, notice the words “I CHOOSE” putting the power for those positives in your hands. You brain likes this!
Alright, now it’s your turn to try this out. Follow along with me in the video below as I walk you through a round of tapping one step at a time. You can skip the intro and go right to the actual technique if you would like. It starts right at the 10 min mark.
We would love to hear your feedback, please leave a comment below about your experience.
Getting Support For Your Anxiety
Anxiety is not something you have to struggle your way through on your own. Having a supportive outside person to help you sort through what you are experiencing can be a huge asset to your recovery process. At Angelus we have a great group of therapists available to help you through your healing journey. Reach out today to get started and see if one of our therapists is the right fit for you.