So often, self-care and stress management involves going somewhere, seeing someone, and finding at least an hour (usually more for travel time) to get it in. For most of us, that simply can't happen on the daily—but that doesn't mean you have to abandon your efforts. Tapping, a technique based on principles found in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is a practices that doesn't depend on scheduling with someone else, no travel required, and is totally free of cost.
Tapping is a blend of Chinese acupressure and modern psychology.
In clinical research, it has been shown to decrease cortisol levels by 24 percent after just a few rounds of tapping—a result significantly better than other techniques to which it was compared. Also known as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), it works fast, and you can use it anytime, anywhere. Learning it takes only a moment, and a session typically ranges from five to 20 minutes before its calming effects can be felt.
By using your fingertips to tap on specific meridian points along your body while verbalizing the emotional distress you are feeling, you can release those stressors in the moment they are happening or quickly thereafter. Here's a short video on how to use tapping, if you're not already familiar with it.
Because tapping accesses your emotions and your physical body simultaneously, it provides powerful stress relief, lowering cortisol levels faster than most traditional and alternative stress relief methods.
The truth is that we all need a stress management toolbox.
The health risks and debilitating consequences of chronic stress are already well-documented and accepted as scientific fact. However, you may not be familiar with the way your body's stress response actually works and why it can be rather damaging to your health, your relationships, and your professional career.
Here's what happens: It all starts in your mind—you think about something stressful related to work, finances, relationships, family, etc. Your amygdala, an almond-shaped part of your midbrain, senses danger and initiates your body’s "fight-or-flight" response to stress. The body releases adrenaline and cortisol (known as the stress hormone), diverting blood away from your major internal organs and into your large muscle groups, leaving you less able to digest food and absorb nutrients (and in the long term, retain weight).
As these stressful thoughts continue over time, your blood pressure increases while your body's immune response decreases. Your brain’s creative center is deemed "nonessential" and shuts down. Down go your problem-solving abilities, your creative skills, and your intuition. In this physiological "crisis mode," you’re more vulnerable to chronic illnesses like arthritis, fibromyalgia, headaches, stomach ulcers, and more. You feel increasingly irritable, isolated, and impatient. Your relationships suffer. Your sleep quality diminishes, and your metabolism slows.
The prolonged effects of stress.
After releasing too much cortisol for too long, your body goes into adrenal fatigue, making you feel depleted, exhausted, and depressed. You no longer have the energy to adhere to your exercise routine, your healthy eating, meditation, or yoga practices. Migraines, insomnia, stress-related hair loss, chronic pain, and any number of other issues become regular parts of your life. Battling low energy makes it tough to focus at work and elsewhere. Your career begins to suffer. Your depression deepens. You and your body are STRESSED OUT.
It's important to recognize this as it happens because you can manage it. Many people turn to food, alcohol, drugs, etc., for stress relief, but what about the rest? Aerobic exercise, yoga, or meditation are all great and a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle. But it could be hours or even days after you start these habits that things begin to change. Sometimes we need a solution that's quicker and more in the moment.
How does tapping work?
Luckily, tapping is always available to us, no matter what circumstances we're in. How does it work, you ask? It's all about manipulating the nervous system. Your nervous system is divided into two distinct parts: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic.
The sympathetic region of your brain prepares your body for vigorous physical activity, increasing your heart rate, dilating pupils, contracting blood vessels, and reducing digestive secretions. This is, of course, necessary in short bursts when confronted with certain situations, like an immediate danger or threat. But when you're chronically in this "stressed-out" state, it can lead to several health issues.
The parasympathetic region of your brain, on the other hand, prepares your body for relaxation, cell regeneration, digestion, immune responsiveness, and creativity. It's in this state that your body achieves optimal health, and it's what most meditation, yoga, and breathing practices aim to achieve. It's also the state that tapping induces.
With chronic stress on the rise, it's important to start self-care rituals and continue to expand your anxiety toolbox.
Do you suspect you have anxiety, but you're not sure? Read this piece on high-functioning people with anxiety.
And are you ready to learn more about what anxiety, brain health, and your diet all have in common? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Mark Hyman.