How to Tap For Emotional First Aid
WHAT’S UP: Learning how to tap without words is useful for when someone is new to practicing EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Tapping for self-care. Wordless Tapping is a gentle but effective stress management technique.
It’s is also a valuable Emotional First Aid skill for navigating big emotions for both EFT newbies and EFT experts. This is because, irrespective of our EFT skills level, as humans we all have an Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). We all benefit from practicing Emotional First Aid self-care skills to help us navigate difficult emotions when we are going through a difficult period in our life. So Tapping without words serves us all when applied as an Emotional First Aid skill, in the moment.
Also known as Tapping, EFT has been around for more than 40 years and researched now for more than 20 years. The 250+ published journal articles show it positively affects a range of biochemistry in the body (e.g. positive changes in brain activity, cortisol, and DNA expression). You’ll find a reference list at the end of this article if you’re interesting in learning about the research papers I referenced here.
Disclaimer: At no point should EFT be substituted for traditional medical care. All information and self-help exercises are provided as general knowledge and viewers need to take their own responsibility for their health and getting help when needed.
How to TAp wITHOUT WORDS...AND WHY IT MATTERS
We know from the EFT research trials that the most important ingredient for EFT Tapping to work isn’t the words, it’s the actual tapping itself (see references at the end for more). The main reason why we tap without words is for Emotional First Aid – to help our body’s nervous system relax, which in turn reduces the intensity of the big emotion we are experiencing.
It’s like chipping away at the emotional intensity to help us safely ‘ride the wave’ of a big emotion in a way that does not require us to think or say anything.
THE VALUE OF TAPPING FOR NAVIGATING BIG FEELINGS
Now, if you find it helpful to focus your attention on something specific as you tap through the points, you can add an extra step of trying to just focus your attention on your inhale and exhale. No need to take deep breaths, as that can be triggering and counter productive if you are experiencing stress that is above a certain threshold. Just normal breaths. No need to force anything.
In EFT, we call this the Tap and Breathe technique. It’s where you notice your breath going in and out of your nose as you tap through the 8 key Clinical EFT points. But don’t worry if focusing on your breath doesn’t feel helpful. Just remember the most important part of this exercise isn’t the mindful breath awareness part. It’s the tapping part. So if you feel more comfortable just tapping, then just do that.
1. EMOTIONAL FIRST AID: TAPPING for SADNESS AND HEARTBREAK
Feeling stress-related pain in your chest or your heart? Think the emotion behind that pain may be sadness or heartache? If you know there’s no medical reason for your chest pain (you’ve had it checked out and have been told it’s because of stress), then doing a bit of tapping whenever it comes up can help you navigate that stressful moment.
As with the previous example, you can just meditate on the physical 8-Point Tapping movement itself. Or you can add a breath awareness aspect by anchoring your attention on your breath as you tap.
Try it both ways and see which of the two feels better for you. Either way, you’ll notice the stress-related pain and heartache will start to subside after you’ve tapped enough for your body’s stress response to relax.
2. EMOTIONAL FIRST AID: TAPPING FOR GRIEF AND LOSS
Grief can sometimes look like a mental illness (e.g. clinical levels of Depression). It’s important to remember that true grief, if that is what you are experiencing, is not a mental illness; it’s a human experience. And it isn’t just something we experience when someone we care about dies. Grief can occur when we experience different types of loss (relational loss, financial loss, the loss of a dream, the loss of a pet, the loss of a ‘rosy tinted glasses’ way of seeing a particular past or present situation, etc).
When we are grieving, our body is flooded with an overwhelming amount of stress hormones. That’s why we can experience physical pain sensations more intensely when grieving.
And that’s where tapping through the EFT points can help. Tapping has been proven to help reduce our cortisol (stress hormone) levels. So it can help relieve grief-related stress pain sensations when we experience them in our body.
It’s also worth noting that grief is more than just sadness. There’s a lot more to the grieving process than sadness. There’s denial. There’s shock. There’s anger.
And again, doing tapping meditation to help navigate any of these big and uncomfortable sensations and emotions can help bring relief when you need it, in the moment.
That’s why tapping without words lends itself so well to helping us navigate a difficult moment, because it’s a way of navigating big emotions safely. The important thing is to keep tapping. To ride the wave of uncomfortable sensations until you gain relief.
When it comes to emotional growth, the way only way out is through. When we avoid facing, feeling, and processing our uncomfortable emotions and sensations, we let them fester and grow. As the great Dr. Bessel Van der Kolke has evidenced, our body keeps the score.
Sooner or later, our body will challenge us to face what we have been trying to avoid. The only way out is through.
3. STUCK IN FEAR: TAPPING TO REDUCE THE FEAR BEHIND INDECISION
Can’t decide what to do next? Whether to do something or not? Whether to stay or go? Whether to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’?
Indecision is a fear-based stress problem. And since Tapping helps calm the body’s stress response down, it can also helps with overcoming fear-based blocks like indecision. If you keep tapping long enough, you’ll notice your brain spontaneously makes a decision once the stress drops down to a level that no longer causes you foggy brain.
So for small everyday decisions that you would otherwise procrastinate on, you can just stop and tap through the 8-point Clinical EFT Tapping sequence until you feel your mind clearing.
The key is to keep tapping to help ourselves get out of our ’emotional’ brain (amygdala) and reconnect with our ‘thinking’ brain (prefrontal cortex), which is the decision-making, higher order thinking part of the brain.
Now if you find that you are still stuck in indecision after trying to resolve it on your own, it’s likely that you may need the assistance of a qualified EFT Practitioner who can help you get unstuck.
As much as we’d like to feel like some kind of super human who never needs help, in reality some things require the assistance of other fellow human beings. Particularly since we can’t see our own blind spots – and blind spots keep us stuck!
4. Tapping for Overwhelm AND OTHER BIG EMOTIONS THAT TAKE US BY SURPRISE
Every so often, life gets in the way and we loose connection with our body and emotional awareness. So we may start tapping, and not realize UNTIL we start tapping just how overwhelmed we are. Or how intense a particular emotion is.
We’ve numbed ourselves to our feelings by overworking, drinking (alcohol), eating, mindless scrolling on social media, gaming etc. It may be that we only become aware that we are experience a big emotion as we start to tune into the intensity of an emotion by starting tapping on the side of our hand.
If this case, we may start by tapping using words like “Even though I’m feeling really overwhelmed right now, I accept this is how I feel”. And once we realize the intensity of the overwhelm or other big emotions is bigger than we thought, we can just go straight to the 8-point tapping sequence.
We keep tapping for however long it takes for our nervous system to start to regulate – one round, 5 minutes, 15 minutes – whatever it takes. Just keep tapping to ‘ride the wave’, and know that as long as you keep tapping, the intensity will go down significantly.
If you want to you can add a cognitive reminder of ‘I’m safe’ as you tap through the points if you start to feel worried by how intense the emotion is. And make sure to get the professional support you need as your body is probably telling you it would probably be best to get appropriate professional assistance as you navigate this challenging period of your life.
SOME FINAL SELF-REFLECTION QUESTIONS
What’s your biggest takeaway from this article?
Have you tried EFT Tapping (without words) for Emotional First Aid to help yourself be OK when you are experiencing a big emotion?
Have you got any questions?
REFERENCES & EFT RESEARCH TO EXPLORE
- Dawson, et al (2018), “Is Tapping on acupuncture points an active ingredient in Emotional Freedom Techniques? A systematic review and meta-analysis of comparative studies”, The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, Vol 206.
- Anastasia, et al (2013) “Effect of the Emotional Freedom Technique on perceived stress, quality of life, and cortisol salivary levels in tension-type headache sufferers: A randomized control trial”, Explore, Vol 9.
- Bach, et al (2019), “Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) improves multiple physiological markers of health”, Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine, Vol 24
- Church, et al (2012) “The Effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques on
Stress Biochemistry: A Randomized Controlled Trial”, The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, Vol 200
- Stapleton, et al (2020) “Reexamining the Effect of Emotional Freedom
Techniques on Stress Biochemistry: A Randomized Controlled Trial”, Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
- Stapleton, et al (2018) “An Initial Investigation of Neural Changes in Overweight Adults with Food Cravings after Emotional Freedom Techniques”, OBM Integrative and Complementary Medicine Journal, Vol 3.
- Stapleton, et al (2022) “Neural changes after Emotional Freedom Techniques treatment for chronic pain sufferers”, Journal of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, Vol 49
- Wittfoth, et al (2022) “Bifocal emotion regulation through acupoint tapping in fear of flying”, Journal of NeuroImage: Clinical, Vol 34
- Wittfoth, et al (2020) “Emotion regulation through bifocal processing of fear inducing and disgust inducing stimuli”, BMC Neuroscience Journal, Vol 21.
- Maharaj, M. (2016) “Differential gene expression after Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) treatment: A novel pilot protocol for salivary mRNA assessment”, Energy Psychology, Vol 8.
- Church, et al (2018) “Epigenetic effects of PTSD remediation in veterans using Clinical Emotional Freedom Techniques: A randomized controlled pilot study”, American Journal of Health Promotion, Vol 32.
About the author
Eleni Vardaki works with individuals and schools, offering services and package deals that support parent, teacher, and student well-being. Her business mission is to help bridge the gap between mainstream education systems and the well-being skills we need to thrive. She believes that if we care about student well-being, it makes sense to also care about the well-being of those who care for them. To book an obligation-free introductory meeting to see if it’s a match: email@example.com
recordings OF 1:1 TAPPING SESSIONS
- Eleni working with a final year of university student on final exam stress and academic confidence
- Eleni working with a final year of university student on overcoming study Procrastination (to work on her Dissertation)
- Eleni working with a final year adult student (advanced yoga instructor exams) on exam stress and overcoming study procrastination”