EI & Anxiety - Articles

EI & Anxiety - Categories


« Tapping anxiety away, by Rachel Green »

Reduce anxiety: Tapping it away

Written by Rachel Green. Director of The Emotional Intelligence Institute. Professional speaker and author of "Overcome your fear of public speaking".

One of the strongest and most overwhelming emotions that many of us experience is anxiety. Anxiety can be crippling and make us feel dreadful.  It can be associated with a pounding heart, sweaty palms, changes in our breathing, a churning stomach ... in fact a whole package of bodily discomfort. It may also appear in more minor forms such as worry, nervousness or restlessness.  

The good news is there are several self-help techniques that can help to reduce or overcome anxiety. One is meditation, another is exercise, a third is being in nature, a fourth is journal writing, a fifth is replaying happy memories, a sixth is practising gratitude and a seventh is tapping.

Tapping is a technique founded by Gary Craig and called the Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT. However, there are now several variations of it as other people have developed and researched tapping further and integrated it with other methods.

The version I use predominantly is called SET - Simple Energy Techniques, although I like to call it Simple Energy Tapping. SET was developed by Australian psychologist Steve Wells, and his colleague, a medical doctor, Dr David Lake. Much of what I know about tapping I have learnt directly from Steve Wells, for which I give great thanks, and I am now certified in the use of SET.

SET doesn't require the verbal statements associated with EFT. For example, in EFT you might tap while saying this kind of statement, "Even though I have crippling anxiety, I deeply and completely love and accept myself".

Tapping can produce profound results in many people with anxiety, in my experience. I have used SET extensively on my own anxiety as well as with clients and family members. It has certainly helped us.

Reduce anxiety: What is tapping used for?

Tapping can be used in two main ways. First to help reduce uneasy and difficult emotions. This can include emotions associated with painful memories and beliefs from our past, and the worries we generate about the future. Anxiety is nearly always about bad things we imagine will happen in the future.

Second, it can be used to increase our overall sense of health and wellbeing so that anxiety doesn't build up and people stay calm. In fact, Dr David Lake says tap as often as possible as this can help reduce the resting state of anxiety people may feel and build up a positive energy flow.

Tapping can be used to help reduce and move through many different emotions, it is not just about anxiety. For example, I have used it to help me to stop feeling anxious, overwhelmed, sad, tense, helpless and frightened.

Tapping may shift the feelings in the body associated with many anxieties, including presentation anxiety and stage fright. I have seen some clients reduce an overwhelming fear of public speaking in a matter of 30 minutes by using simple energy tapping. I also use it regularly with my clients to help them reduce anxiety about job interviews and I have personally used it to reduce the anxiety and symptoms of post traumatic stress.

In fact, I rate it as a very important self-help technique that assists people in gaining relief from their anxiety across a range of situations.  

In this article I will only explain how to use it to help reduce anxiety, although the technique is used in a similar way across all the emotions. Steve Wells also combines it with Provocative Therapy techniques, and this can be a very powerful combination. I also integrate it with meditation and find that a powerful force too.

By the way, if you are experiencing presentation anxiety or the fear of public speaking you might find all the techniques described in my book "Overcome your fear of public speaking", very useful. Regain your control.

"Overcome your fear of public speaking" eBook $25 Add to Cart

Seven steps in using tapping to reduce anxiety

1. Bring up your feelings.

First, think about the situation or thought that is making you anxious, and get in tune with how you are feeling. If thinking about presenting is what makes you anxious then that's what you think about. If thinking about getting married is what makes you anxious then that's what you think about. If thinking about being in debt is what makes you anxious then that's what you think about. 

As you recall the situation notice any feelings of anxiety you have, or any bodily sensations which arise associated with your anxiety. You may not even have a specific thought or situation, you may simply notice a sensation in your body, such as a tightness in your ribs or a flutter in your stomach. Basically you do whatever tunes you into the anxiety or worry and then notice how this feels, e.g. in your body. 

2. Rate your anxiety level.

Before you start tapping rate the level of the anxiety, e.g. the amount and intensity of the anxiety you feel, from 0 (complete calm) – 10 (full panic). This gives you a baseline measure to compare to later.

3. How and where to tap.

You will tap seven to eight times on a series of psychological acupressure points around your head and neck area and around your hand. However, don't get hung up on counting, it will still work if you do ten taps, in fact I personally don't count how many I do.

Use two fingers. As Steve Wells always says, "Tap hard enough to feel it but not hard enough to hurt". There is no need to thump yourself!

I personally start tapping on the very top of my head but some people feel too silly to do this, so you might prefer to start with the eyebrow.

Here is a tapping sequence that can be used:

  • Top of the head.
  • Side of the eyebrow.
  • Side of the eye.
  • Under the eye.
  • Under the nose in the midline.
  • On the chin in the midline.
  • Under the collarbone.
  • Under the arm at the side of the chest.
  • On the side of the thumb, level with the base of the nail.
  • On the side of each finger, level with the base of the nail.
  • On the side of the hand, commonly called the "Karate chop".
  • On the wrist both top and bottom.

Here is a very short, simple and impromptu video I made of the tapping points following an ABC radio broadcast I gave on anxiety recently. Thanks to Mandina Oh at the ABC for the great idea and the photography!

Here are two diagrams that further clarify the points. 

4. Keep on tapping.

At first I suggest you do two rounds of tapping. By a round I mean tap on each of the acupressure points in a sequence on one side of your body, then change hands and tap on the same set of acupressure points on the other side. You don't have to do it this way but some of us feel more balanced when we have done two sides.

After two rounds, stop, put your hands down and take a breath.

5. Re-rate your anxiety level.

Then re-rate the anxiety from 1-10. Pay attention to how you feel and the sensations in your body, have they changed? Many people I have worked with find the number has lowered and the anxiety is not as strong. 

6. Do more tapping.

If you haven't yet got your anxiety down to a rating of 0 or 1, I suggest you keep on tapping on the situation that concerns you until it doesn't stir you up in the body and no longer causes the anxious feelings. 

How much tapping you do is up to you. However, I have found that when it is a difficult situation, I do long periods of tapping of say, an hour or so. I also come back to the tapping throughout the day and keep doing it for a number of days on the same issue. Remember Dr David Lake says tap as much as you can. 

7. Tap on different aspects.

A particular anxiety you have may have many different triggers and aspects to it. Tap on all aspects you are worried about or which bring up the anxiety.

  • Tap on past experiences which are associated with the anxiety. As Steve Wells says, "Past experiences may be holding up your anxiety problem and when that collapses the whole problem may collapse."
  • Identify your negative thoughts around this anxiety provoking situation and tap while focusing on those. You are tapping on your own thoughts not on an imposed set of phrases as happens in EFT, for instance.
  • Tap on all the situations that this anxiety arises in.

To give you an example of what I mean by aspects ... I was in a car crash when I was little and the fear and anxiety associated with that have stayed with me throughout my life ... until I spent a lot of time tapping on all aspects of it.

The kind of aspects I tapped on included: Seeing a driver go through a red light, screaming for help and not being heard, feeling scared that my mother was going to die, being taken away in an ambulance, seeing my mum being unwell after leaving hospital, hearing the car which went through a stop sign and hit us, no one talking to me about the car crash afterwards, not feeling safe, seeing the name of the village the crash occurred in, thinking of the other passenger in the car ... and so on. I am sure there were many more but they have faded into the distance - where they belong - thanks to tapping.

Various thoughts, beliefs and values may arise in people's minds as they tap on the aspects. I find it very helpful to say my thoughts, beliefs and values out loud, as I am tapping. For example, "That car should not have hit us", "I was so scared mummy was going to die", "Mummy didn't die she lived for another 50 years", "People should stop at stop signs", "That junction is not safe for anyone", "How did I know what was happening I was only 4 years old", "I hope the other driver died", "I just needed a hug" ... and so on. Some of the thoughts can be total nonsense, that doesn't matter; tap on them and with them if they arise.

Tap on all aspects that make you anxious. 

Reduce anxiety: Outcomes of tapping

When people tap many can feel energy move in their body. This can take the form of yawning, taking a deep breath, crying, shaking or laughter, for example. Don't be surprised by this. My clients often apologise for yawning and I reassure them I am delighted! I often cry.

Please if you feel at all unsettled by the process of tapping on your anxiety, or you feel overwhelmed by the bad memories or anxiety, stop tapping and seek the professional help you need. I much prefer to tap through my aspects with the support of a good SET practitioner or psychologist, even though I know what to do. The support person may also see aspects which are in your blind spot.

The results of a tapping session are not necessarily immediate, although they can be. I often find that after tapping on a situation, it is over time that I notice a calmness has developed. I can still remember the situation but the anxiety has faded.

Reduce anxiety: Tapping summary

How can tapping reduce anxiety? It can seem impossible, can't it? Well the good news is that being cynical about tapping is OK, it can still work!

I was certainly very cynical at first and I'm still surprised at the results. But I can't deny that people can have a profound reduction in anxiety by using SET. I've seen it happen in front of my own eyes, with both men and women.

It is said to free stuck emotional energy in the body, to raise the endorphin levels (the happy emotions) and to reduce the cortisol levels (stress hormone). Try it for yourself and see what happens.

I am always concerned that by presenting tapping in such a simple way we undermine the depth to which tapping can take us in managing our anxiety and emotions - but simply to start tapping is what matters!

I hope you will apply it to whatever anxiety provoking situations you have in your life. By the way, if you have presentation anxiety or want to overcome the fear of public speaking and learn how to ditch the anxiety, grow in confidence and wow your audience, this down-to-earth and practical E-book "Overcome your fear of public speaking" shows you how and includes information on tapping and lots of other techniques.

"Overcome your fear of public speaking" eBook $25 Add to Cart


NB: Any information contained in this article is not provided as an alternative to the obtaining of psychological advice from an appropriately qualified practitioner. Rachel is not a psychologist, Dr or psychiatrist. If you have significant anxiety please seek professional help and do not rely on this for the diagnosis or treatment of any psychological problems, it is only general in nature and not designed for any individual.