Stress, anxiety and a heightened nervous system are common in nurses and all medical professionals.1 Kim McPherson, former RN and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Tapping Therapist, discusses EFT Tapping as a tool for nurses to calm the nervous system to release stress and anxiety.
EFT Tapping is an evidence-based self-help therapeutic method with over 100 studies demonstrate its efficacy.2 EFT combines the tapping of meridian points on the face and body, focusing on the negative emotion to provide desensitisation to and acceptance of the emotion.3
An article published by Susan L. Patterson showed nursing students who practised EFT tapping found a “significant reductions in anxiety were achieved using EFT”.2
According to its developer, Gary Craig, this method disrupts energy that causes negative emotions and pain.3 Restoring this energy balance in the nervous system can relieve symptoms or uncomfortable negative emotions.2
EFT Tapping helps to access the body’s energy and send signals to the part of the brain that controls stress.3 Through stimulating the meridian points by tapping on these specific points, one can reduce the stress or negative emotion that you feel from an issue, restoring balance to a person’s disrupted energy.3
HOW TO USE EFT TAPPING
Start by rating on a scale of 0-10 the intensity of the emotion or issue felt, then repeat a “Setup Statement,” this is typically stated in a format similar to this “Even though I have this emotion (eg. stress, anxiety), I deeply and completely love and accept myself.”5
You then start the tapping process but using your fingers to gently tap on acupressure points on the face and body while repeating a shortened phrase to stay engaged (eg. this stress, this anxiety).
This is called the “Reminder Phrase.”5
The tapping sequence uses eight points on the face and upper body and is usually repeated until the rating of the emotion is brought down to a one or zero.
In a study by Bach and co-published in 2019, an improvement was found in 90% of patients who received EFT tapping therapy compared to 63% of the CBT participants.5
Yet for nurses and midwives, how and when can they practically conduct this practice?
If you feel overwhelmed at work, excuse yourself or do this in the bathroom on your break. Practice a round of tapping when you return home after a hard shift and definitely before engaging in any harmful stress-relieving activities such as overeating, stress eating or drinking alcohol.
Here is a tapping script for anxiety and overwhelm.
See the diagram below to check out the points to tap.
1 Karate Chop Point (KC): “Even though I have this anxiety and stress about _______, I truly love, forgive and accept myself anyway.
Even though I have all of this anxiety about ________, I accept myself, and I accept these feelings. Even though I have all of this anxiety and it’s making me stressed, I choose to love and accept myself no matter what.”
- Eyebrow (EB): This anxiety
- Side of Eye (SE): All of this anxiety about _________
- Under Eye (UE): All this stress in my body
- Under Nose (UN): It’s exhausting
- Chin (C): All of this stress
- Collar Bone (CB): All this anxiety
- Under Arm (UA): I’m feeling anxious
- Top of the head (TH): And I don’t know what to do about it
Take a deep breath.
EB: This anxiety
SE: All of this worry
UE: All this stress
UN: This __________ (your issue that you are feeling anxious about)
CP: This issue
CB: It’s causing uncomfortable feelings in my body
UA: All of this fear
TH: It’s just too much, it’s overwhelming
Take a deep breath and again check in with your feelings. How is your level of anxiety? Rate it again between one and 10. Did the rating reduce at all?
Hopefully it did. Even a slight drop is good. Tapping lowers cortisol3 so you should feel a shift. Maybe you take a deep inhale, feel tears, yawn, cough or sneeze. Feeling bodily sensations like this is normal as you are acknowledging the anxiety that you may have pushed down in the past and therefore you are moving stuck energy.3 Continue tapping with the next few rounds.
EB: All of this anxiety about _______
SE: I just want to feel better
UE: I want to feel calm and at ease right now
UN: But I still have all of this stress
CP: All of this anxiety
CB: This fear
UA: It’s making me exhausted
TH: It’s just overwhelming
Take another deep breath here and check in with your feelings and again rate the number between one and 10. If it is still above one, continue on. If it has diminished to zero, skip round 4 and continue to round five.
EB: This remaining anxiety about ___________
SE: I wonder if I could feel calm and at ease about this?
UE: I’m open to that
UN: I’m open to feeling more calm and at ease right now
CP: I’m open to breathing deeply through this
CB: This remaining fear
UA: This remaining anxiety
TH: What if I could feel safe right now?
EB: What if I’ve always been safe?
SE: I’m open to that
UE: I’m open to feeling calm and confident
UN: I’m open to feeling safe
CP: I’m open to taking deep relaxing breaths knowing I am safe
CB: I’m not alone
UA: I choose to feel safe no matter what is going on in my life
TH: I choose to feel calm, relaxed and safe
RE-ASSESS YOUR FEELINGS
Check back in with how you are feeling and your original problem, rate the level of intensity now. Compare it to your first rating noticing any changes in your emotions, or how you feel in your body. Maybe the intensity of the problem has lessened or your perception of it has changed.
COMPLETING THE PROCESS
Repeat the above process until there is little or no intensity to your emotion and you can feel neutral about the original issue. Try to get to as low as a rating of two or below. If it is still at a three or four, repeat this process.
Kim McPherson is an ex ICU Nurse, Holistic Health Coach and EFT Tapping Therapist and has been working with nurses to support them with stress, anxiety, emotional eating, weight and energy for nine years.
1 Jordan, T.R. Khubchandani, J. Wiblishauser, M. The Impact of Perceived Stress and Coping Adequacy on the Health of Nurses: A Pilot Investigation Nurs Res Pract. 2016 Nov 1. doi:10.1155/2016/5843256 Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5108847/
2 Patterson S, L. The Effect of Emotional Freedom Technique on Stress and Anxiety in Nursing Students. Nursing Theses and Capstone Projects. 2013. Available from: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/53025849.pdf
3 Healthline [Internet]. San Francisco, Ca. Anthony, Kiara. EFT Tapping; 2018 Sept 18 [cited 2 April 2021]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/eft-tapping#technique
4.Frank A. How Childhood Experiences Shape Adult Attachment. In: Clinical EFT Handbook; vol 1 Biomedical and Physics Principles, Psychological Trauma, Fundamental Techniques of Clinical EFT [Internet]. Energy Psychology Press; 2013. [cited 2021 Apr 02]. Available from: https://www.efttappingtraining.com/how-childhood-experiences-shape-adult-attachment/
5 Bach D, Groesbeck G, Stapleton P, Sims R, Blickheuser K, Church D. Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Improves Multiple Physiological Markers of Health. J Evid Based Integr Med. 2019 Feb 19: 24 (2515690X18823691). Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6381429/.
6 Picture of tapping diagram supplied by Brittany Watkins https://www.brittanywatkins.com/