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What the Heck Is ‘Tapping’ and Can It Help My Anxiety?
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Have you noticed? “Tapping” has been everywhere recently. Your friend at yoga mentioned she’s been doing it to manage her stress and anxiety. You saw it on the Today show as a natural remedy for chronic pain. But whether you’re ready to give it a shot or you’re just wondering what it’s all about, let’s get a few things straight about this holistic trend.

Wait. What exactly is tapping, anyway? Also known as EFT (emotional freedom technique), tapping is a form of alternative therapy that involves touching a variety of acupressure points on the body in a specific pattern in order to calm the mind and body. Proponents of tapping believe the process helps you access the amygdala, the part of the brain that creates the “fight or flight” response. By sending calming signals directly to this portion of the brain, the aim is to reduce the production of cortisol in the body, thereby easing stress, anxiety, depression and possibly even chronic pain.

How do I do it? Gently tap five to seven times on 12 specific acupressure points on your arms, hands, head and torso, in order, while visualizing the pain or anxiety you’re currently feeling. We tried it, and the whole process feels surprisingly meditative. It’s kind of like learning a dance routine—while you’re learning and repeating a pattern, it’s pretty tough for your mind to wander.

Does it actually work? Um, we’re not sure. The program was created by Gary Craig, an engineering graduate with some training in energy psychology (aka…not a doctor). And although some studies have shown tapping to be effective, it’s still relatively new and uncharted territory. Talk to your doctor before trying it, and definitely don’t use it as a substitute for traditional therapy or medicine without discussing it with him or her first.

In a nutshell: If you’re curious, a few rounds of tapping won’t do any harm (unless you accidentally poke yourself in the eye while trying to keep up with the routine). But if you’re looking for a magical cure-all? Unfortunately, there’s just not enough scientific or medical information to back it up. (Not yet, anyway.)

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