I’m always interested in learning about how to ease stress and any other negative emotions such as overwhelm, fear, anxiety or worry. There’s nothing wrong with having these emotions. They’re completely normal and human, and we all experience them. But it is helpful to find ways to work through and ease them, especially if they are holding us back, causing us distress or affecting our physical health.
I’ve been aware of Emotional Freedom Technique, or Tapping, for some time, but I have to admit that I never really understood it properly. More recently, I spent some time learning about this scientifically proven technique that has helped so many people with both physical pain and emotional distress. And I really want to share it with you!
We all experience stress and other negative emotions in motherhood. Some days, these emotions seem overwhelming. If you’ve been looking for a way to help you manage those emotions, then you might like to try EFT. (Of course, this is not a replacement for professional help where that might be needed. It can, however, work effectively together with professional help).
To help us understand exactly what this technique is all about, I’ve invited my friend and colleague, Jo Knorr, to share her own experiences. Jo is one amazing lady, whom I greatly respect. She has been practicing and helping others use EFT for a number of years now and has seen how valuable and effective it is.
I asked Jo a few questions about EFT and here’s what she wanted to share with us…
What exactly is EFT and how can it help mums?
EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is a self-help tool that helps to relieve stress and helps you to feel more relaxed. It’s a combination of modern day psychology and ancient Chinese acupressure. It involves gently using the fingertips and lightly tapping, or placing pressure, on certain points of the face and body, whilst staying focused on negative emotions or a physical challenge. It works by lessening the intensity of the negative feeling associated with a thought or a situation and helps you to release or unblock the emotion.
EFT is easy to learn and you can do it on your own. Therefore, it gives mums instant access to a stress relief technique that can really help them to feel calm when they are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. It’s a great tool to have in your emotional first-aid kit. I wish I had known about it when I was a first time mum, so I’m really delighted to share it with you all.
Does it actually work?
When I first heard about EFT I was definitely a bit sceptical but I started to use it on myself every day and noticed that I was a lot calmer and more effective.
I wanted to start using it in my executive coaching work with clients so I started researching as much as I could and I did a number of trainings. When I first used it on one of my CEO clients, she had some great results in feeling much calmer as well as physical relief from a serious ankle injury she had had for years. I knew I was onto something.
There is loads of research about EFT and the benefits, but one of the key findings that got my attention was by researchers at Harvard Medical School. They found that stimulating acupressure points through Tapping reduces blood flow to the amygdala. This leads to an increase in endorphins, an increase in soothing GABA brainwaves and reduced cortisol levels. The result is an instant sensation of calmness and a reduction in anxiety symptoms.
Now some of you may have heard of the amygdala. I wish I had known about it as a first-time mum because my amygdala was obviously working overtime!
Sometimes referred to as our “wild animal brain”, it’s that ancient part of our brain that has not evolved much from our cave woman ancestors. It’s the part that’s responsible for our flight or fight response and it’s constantly scanning our environment for threats to our safety. So, not only was I responsible for my own safety and survival, I now had this tiny human being who was totally reliant on me for his survival! My amygdala had dialled right up to full volume. I felt I was constantly on high alert for myself and for him. Sometimes I felt overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and fear that I wasn’t a good enough mother.
If only I had known that it wasn’t me – it was my primitive brain! I would have been more forgiving of myself, knowing that I was doing the best I could.
That’s why I’m so passionate about mums (and everyone!) knowing that it is a natural human response and part of the reason we have survived as a species. The problem is, most of what we are afraid of is not a real threat to us at all. But it feels real. The chemical and biological impact on our bodies is that we have heightened levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline surging through our bodies. No wonder we find it hard to relax and to get some decent sleep!
What sort of issues does tapping work for?
I actually try it on anything that is bothering me or whenever I start to notice I’m getting stressed.
First, I notice what is the emotion I am feeling (eg. fear, sadness, guilt, anger). Rather than ignore it or push it down, I acknowledge it and how it feels in my body. Then I use tapping to release the emotional charge it has over me.
Anything that comes up for us is just trying to get our attention. Rather than be on autopilot and let the fear or feeling take over, we can notice it and make a conscious decision about whether it is something we should truly be concerned about or not. In almost all cases, it’s not. It’s usually our old survival programs.
For example, I’ll tap if I’m feeling anxious about a phone call I need to make, a conversation I need to have, when I can’t fall asleep, something that’s happening with my children or my to do list that has a seemingly endless number of tasks on it. It also works on reducing physical symptoms like headaches or parts of your body that are experiencing pain. You can do it any time, anywhere. I sometimes do it while I’m watching television or while I’m out walking, particularly the very discreet finger tapping SET technique (Simple Energy Technique) which one of my teachers, Steve Wells, has developed.
It’s important to say, that tapping is one technique for helping to reduce stress and anxiety and get greater clarity and feel more relaxed. It’s often good to combine it with other techniques that work for you. If there are underlying issues of depression that are causing the stress and anxiety, it is really important that you seek professional help as that needs to be addressed on a range of levels depending on the symptoms and severity.
What are the biggest benefits you experience from tapping?
The biggest benefit is knowing that I have a simple tool, literally at my fingertips, that I can use the instant I start to feel myself getting caught up in the grips of a negative emotion. You know those thoughts that can spiral into an endless loop of compounding negative thoughts and irrational fears, and you get stuck in the negative emotion? It’s so hard to think or be at your best when you are continually being emotionally hijacked.
I like to think of tapping as a way to get you out of autopilot and back into the driver’s seat of your own life. So you go from being unconsciously run by all of the old programs from other people that you’ve downloaded from birth, to consciously choosing which thoughts are actually true for you and are going to be most helpful.
What are your top tips for using tapping in motherhood?
Start becoming consciously aware of your thoughts and what’s going on in your brain. Is it sabotaging or supporting you as you go about your day? Notice when you are going into those negative thinking loops and tap on them.
Try using it on everything and do it regularly throughout the day, even if just for 30 seconds. You might be sitting waiting for the traffic lights to change and getting annoyed because you’re running late and you’ve got heaps to do when you get home. Notice how it can help to calm you down.
One of the biggest challenges of motherhood is that it can really bring up our limiting beliefs about not being enough. I have heard this described “one of the biggest diseases affecting humanity.” So, if anything comes up during your day where that not good enough feeling comes up, tap on it, let go of the emotions and remind yourself that you are enough. It’s a great tool to remind yourself that you are doing the best you can and you are enough as mother, partner, friend, daughter, sister, worker, cook, and the list goes on.
The benefits of tapping are cumulative so the more you do it the more benefit you will get. It’s like a gym workout for the brain, but instead of strengthening the muscles, it’s strengthening the supportive neural pathways in the brain. It’s a constant process of surrendering and letting go of negative feelings and can have a major beneficial impact on your wellbeing.
Where can we find out more so we can try it for ourselves?
EFT is becoming very mainstream and is being used all over the world in a wide range of contexts from self-help, sport, peak performance to psychotherapy. There are a number of great resources out there, many of them are free, so I encourage you to go exploring.
The tapping points are shown in this diagram:
If you’re keen to get started quickly, I suggest you try Steve Wells simple SET technique on the EFT Downunder website.
About Jo Knorr
Jo Knorr is a mum of two teenage boys.
She established Potentia Learning and Development and works as a leadership development facilitator and executive coach.