New guidelines recommend integrative options for cancer-related pain

By: Christine McDevitt, MS, OTR/L

Guidelines published by the Society for Integrative Oncology (SIO) and the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) included acupressure and acupuncture in the list of evidence-based options for managing cancer-related pain in adults.

Both acupuncture and acupressure have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years and are still actively used for a variety of health issues in many parts of the world today.

The SIO-ASCO guidelines recommended acupressure for three types of cancer-related pain:

  • musculoskeletal pain (i.e., pain in the muscles, bones, joints, tendons, or ligaments),
  • peripheral neuropathy (i.e., numbness or tingling in the hands or feet) caused by chemotherapy,
  • surgical or procedure-related pain.

How acupressure may help with cancer-related pain

Acupressure is a non-invasive process of stimulating specific points (acupoints) on your body to help balance the flows of physiological energy through your system.

Both acupuncture and acupressure are based on the theory that energy runs through specific pathways in the body called meridians. Imbalances along those pathways can cause physical symptoms, including pain.

Stimulating the acupoints can help the body correct the imbalances and return to a more balanced state, resulting in decreased symptoms and reduced pain.

Image by Acupuncture Box from Pixabay

While acupuncture and acupressure are both effective for helping with cancer-related pain, there are some practical differences between the two.

Acupuncture and acupressure use the same points on the body to access the meridians. However, acupuncture uses needles to stimulate the points while acupressure does not. During an acupressure session, the points are stimulated using either fingers or a simple device to apply gentle pressure.

Acupressure can be performed as a full session with a trained practitioner holding points on your body for you. An acupressure practitioner can also teach you to hold specific points or a series of points on yourself as part of a self-care routine.

Acupuncture, because it uses needles, can only be performed by a licensed acupuncturist, and cannot be used as a self-care option at home.

The recommendations for acupressure for cancer-related pain were based on available evidence and clinical relevance.

To develop the guidelines, a multidisciplinary panel of experts reviewed 227 research articles from 1990-2021. The studies compared various integrative therapies to standard care, placebos, sham interventions, other interventions, and active controls.

The panel acknowledged that the quality of the evidence in many of the studies was lower because of issues with the studies themselves (e.g., small sample sizes and flaws and/or limitations in study design).

However, the panel considered the clinical relevance of each intervention in addition to the evidence available. The panel recommended an intervention if, based on the available evidence, its potential benefit outweighed the risk of harm.

In addition to acupressure and acupuncture, other recommended interventions in the guidelines included:

  • guided imagery with progressive muscle relaxation for pain from cancer treatment,
  • massage for chronic pain following breast cancer treatment,
  • Hatha yoga for pain after treatment for breast or head and neck cancer.

You can read the full guidelines with more details about the studies reviewed in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The recommended interventions aren’t intended to be replacements for standard pain management options.

The SIO and ASCO emphasized that the interventions in the guidelines are recommended as adjuncts, not replacements, for conventional methods to manage cancer-related pain.

If you’re interested in exploring mind-body modalities and a more integrative approach to your recovery, it’s recommended that you check with your doctors before starting anything new.

If you’re wondering if acupressure might be helpful for you, you can

schedule a free phone consultation today to get your questions answered.

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Meeting Your Goals: A Quick Way To See What’s Holding You Back

by Christine McDevitt, MS, OTR/L

How many times have you said you wanted something and then not done what’s needed to make it happen? Whether it’s breaking a bad habit, losing weight, or setting time aside for a spiritual practice, we’ve all had the experience of a strong start to meeting our goals only to fizzle out before getting the results we want.

While it can be demoralizing, especially when the pattern keeps happening around the same issue, there are ways to figure out what’s going on under the surface. Here is a short process to help you do just that.

Stop sign that says "Stop wasting time." Discover what's holding you back from meeting your goals.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

1. Check to make sure the goal feels good in your body when you think or talk about it.

Sometimes what we say we want isn’t really what we want deep down. There are different reasons for this. For example, maybe the thought of making a change doesn’t thrill you, but you know it would make your spouse happy.

Maybe the change is something you think you should do because you can see the potential benefits. However, if you’re not totally on board with your goal, it’s easy for excuses to sneak in and derail your best plans for success.

To make sure you want what you say you want, you need to get out of your logical mind. One way to do that is to check how your body reacts when you think or talk about your goal.

Try this:

Imagine what your life might be like if you met your goal. Get as clear as you can about the details. It can be helpful to watch yourself in a mirror while you talk about your desired outcome.

Notice what’s going on in your body when you think or talk about this future scenario.

Do you look and sound happy about what you say you want?

Are there signs of hesitation as you think about what life might be like if your goal is met? These signs can include body sensations such as

  • shrinking,
  • bracing yourself,
  • tightness,
  • a lump in your throat,
  • a sinking in your gut,
  • panic,
  • other discomfort in the body.

Don’t analyze anything. Just notice what shows up.

If thinking and talking about your future scenario feel good in the body, you’re on the right track. If not, move on to step 2 to explore what part of making the change is causing the feeling of hesitation.

2. Identify the underlying concerns about meeting your goals.

If what you say you want doesn’t feel good in your body when you think or talk about it, then part of you has concerns about the change.

These concerns are the hidden downsides to succeeding. Examples might include needing to give something up (e.g., time, money, comfort), other people’s reactions, or feelings of insecurity about the outcome.

Often, we’re not aware that the concerns are there. Sometimes we’re aware they’re there but don’t want to deal with them, so we push them aside and pretend they don’t exist.

However, if these concerns aren’t addressed, resistance will kick in. This is when self-sabotage, procrastination, perfectionism, confusion, or indecision start showing up to keep you from making progress.

One technique for finding out what your underlying concerns are is to pay attention to what pops into your head when you think or talk about your goal.

Try this:

Say what you want out loud then pause. What is the next thing that comes to your mind once you stop talking? It could be a thought or an internal voice that you hear. It might be an emotion or even an image of someone or something unexpected.

For example, you may say, “I want to lose ten pounds,” and then immediately have the thought, “It’s going to be hard and a lot of work. I’ll be miserable.”

You might want to repeat this exercise a few times. Write down whatever comes up – even if it seems ridiculous – so you have an objective look at what’s lurking behind the scenes in your thought process when you think about meeting your goal.

3. Give each concern proper attention – even the ones that aren’t clear or don’t make sense.

Once you’ve identified your underlying concerns, go through your list and take some time to explore each one. You will likely find that some are valid while others may be based more on fear rather than fact.

For example, let’s say you’re goal is to stop drinking. The two concerns that came to your mind after doing the exercise above were not knowing how you’re going to relax without alcohol and thinking that you won’t have fun anymore without alcohol.

Whether those thoughts are fact-based or fear-based, they’re still operating in the background and working against you. It’s important to acknowledge them if you want to move forward. Once you name the concerns, you give yourself the power to find solutions to address them.

Journaling may be helpful here. Being honest with yourself is critical. Only you know your level of willingness to work through potential roadblocks to get the results you want.

If no specific thoughts came up during the concerns exercise, but something still doesn’t feel right about meeting your goals, don’t ignore the feeling.

Sometimes no specific thought or image comes up when doing the concerns exercise. Instead, there’s an unexplainable and uncomfortable sensation in the body. Something just feels wrong about moving forward or succeeding.

In this case, you might consider consulting a qualified professional if you can’t get to the root of the issue on your own. Sometimes the body sensations that feel like a “no” can be rooted in earlier life experiences that aren’t always obvious. Addressing these body memories of earlier experiences can help you overcome some of the barriers to making a change successfully.

Working with a certified Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT tapping) practitioner can help you move through the places where you feel stuck meeting your goals.

If you’re curious about how EFT tapping might help you with your specific needs, schedule a free consultation today.

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How To Know When You Need an EFT Tapping Practitioner

By: Christine McDevitt, MS, OTR/L

If you do an online search for Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT tapping), you’ll find many options for free and paid resources to help you tap on your own. These range from apps to books to videos, and they address a wide variety of issues for which EFT can be effective.

Given the availability of do-it-yourself options, some people wonder why they would ever need to work with a certified EFT tapping practitioner. There is one main question to ask yourself when deciding which route to take: What are you trying to accomplish by using EFT tapping?

Balancing scales to make a decision between self-help EFT resources and working with a certified EFT tapping practitioner.
Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Your goal can help determine your approach to using EFT.

When choosing between a do-it-yourself option and working with a practitioner, think about why you want to use tapping in the first place.

Here are five common reasons why people use tapping and ways that your goal might affect your decision about working with a practitioner.

1. Food cravings are interfering with losing weight or maintaining a healthy diet.

Image by Hans Schwarzkopf from Pixabay

Goal: I want to be able to resist eating the food when I get a craving.

Tapping when a craving first starts is a great way to help you break the pattern of giving into it.

While a script isn’t necessary for tapping on a craving to be effective, an app, tapping script, or video can be useful especially if you feel like you don’t know what to say when you tap.

Goal: I want to be free of the cravings altogether.

An app, tapping scripts, or tapping videos can help address the surface layers of the cravings. These layers might include the nature of the cravings themselves or emotions that drive them.

If you find yourself still having the same pattern after you’ve been working on your own, though, there may be issues around the origin of the cravings that aren’t being addressed.

Working with a certified EFT tapping practitioner is a more efficient solution to longer-term change. A skilled practitioner can help you safely access and move through those deeper issues and teach you how to come up with more effective tapping phrases for your specific needs.

2. Feeling anxious in certain situations or when thinking about certain things

Goal: I want to calm down quickly when I feel anxious.

For this type of goal, videos or a tapping app can work well especially if you don’t know anything about how to tap on your own. You don’t have to invest too much thought or energy. You can just follow along and focus on one specific thought or feeling in the moment. For a quick fix, tapping along with a guided script can be a helpful tool.

Goal: I want to be able to be in these situations or think about these things and not feel anxious.

If you’re tapping on your own (with or without an app or videos) and things aren’t changing for the better over time, you’re not getting to the root of the problem. The pattern is still stuck in your nervous system.

Scripted tapping tends to address superficial levels of an issue. It can be hard to get to the deeper layers on your own, and this is where the roots of the issue are. If you do get to the roots, it can be tricky to know how to proceed once you’re there.

Working with a practitioner is a more efficient and effective solution to finding and dismantling the specific pieces keeping the pattern in place. Dismantling the pattern is key for long-term results.

3. Struggling with pain or other physical symptoms despite doing what doctors recommend

Goal: I want relief now.

Some people find tapping on their own (with or without an app or videos) to be helpful for short-term symptom relief. If there is an emotional piece contributing to the symptoms you have, tapping might help reduce the stress in the body that can make your symptoms worse.

However, if you’ve been working on your own for a while without any relief at all, there may be more subtle underlying contributing factors that you’re missing.

EFT works best when the tapping is tailored to your specific circumstances. Apps and videos don’t have this capacity. Working with a practitioner can help you tweak the way you’re tapping so your technique can be more effective when tapping on your own.

Goal: I want to explore if past events or circumstances might be connected to my current physical symptoms.

You may be able to use an app or tapping videos to help you explore these connections, but exercise caution here.

If the events or circumstances involve trauma or abuse, it’s never recommended to address these issues without a certified practitioner or a mental health professional to help you safely navigate the terrain. Doing so without proper guidance can lead to feeling retraumatized and may make you feel worse.

4. Procrastination is affecting productivity.

Goal: I want a boost of motivation to put me in the right frame of mind before tackling a project or starting my day.

If you’re looking for a pick-me-up or a way to get into a better mindset, tapping along to a script or meditation focused on a positive thought or intention can be a great help.

Goal: I want to break this procrastination habit for good.

Beating procrastination means dealing with resistance. Motivational tapping meditations and videos aren’t a great long-term solution for this.

Photo by Magnet.me on Unsplash

Resistance is subtle and doesn’t go away easily. If you’re a chronic procrastinator and really want long-term change, you’re going to need more than a daily pick-me-up to get to the root of the issue.

Tapping on the same thing in the same way with similar words every day won’t change the connections in the brain that keep a procrastination pattern stuck. A skilled, certified EFT tapping practitioner knows how to help you change those connections so you can put a new pattern in place.

5. Traumatic memories are impacting overall well-being.

Goal: I want these memories to stop affecting me. I don’t want to keep thinking about what happened.

There is no easy solution for this type of problem. While research has shown that EFT is effective for helping people with trauma and PTSD, it’s always recommended to work with a certified practitioner when dealing with traumatic memories.

Also, make sure to check with your mental health provider before using EFT to make sure it’s appropriate for you, especially if you have other serious mental health concerns.

Use your goal as a guidepost.

Scripts, videos, and apps have their place when using tapping for short-term symptom relief, stress reduction, or a boost of motivation. They’re also helpful when you’re just getting started with tapping on your own and don’t feel confident knowing what to say when you tap.

If you’re using these self-help resources and find yourself always tapping on the same issues, though, you’re not getting the full benefit that EFT can provide.

Working with a skilled, certified clinical EFT tapping practitioner can help you get through the deeper issues, teach you how to tap on your own more effectively, and move you over the hump so you can start gaining traction toward your goals.

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3 Ways to Help Counteract Cancer-Related Brain Fog

By: Christine McDevitt, MS, OTR/L

Woman with cancer-related brain fog looking at her phone
Image by antonynjoro from Pixabay

If you’re going through cancer treatment and feel like you’re literally losing your mind, you’re not alone. It’s not uncommon for people undergoing cancer treatment to notice changes in their thinking abilities. The medical term for these changes is cancer-related cognitive impairment. It’s also known as chemo brain or cancer-related brain fog.

Symptoms of cancer-related cognitive impairment include problems with memory, attention, ability to process information easily and quickly, and executive functions. (Executive functions are higher level thinking skills that include problem solving, multi-tasking, planning, organizing, impulse control, and being able to tune out distractions when you need to focus.)

There isn’t much research on treatments for cancer-related brain fog, and there are no approved medications to treat it. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do, though.

Of course, good sleep and nutrition are essential to keeping your mind sharp, and there are many ways to compensate for memory or attention problems. However, research also suggests that there are other non-medical options that have the potential to help counteract cancer-related cognitive changes.

Here is what the research says about three of those options and some things to consider when deciding if they might be right for you.

1. Acupuncture may increase brain cell growth and decrease brain cell damage during cancer treatment.

In a study that looked at breast cancer patients with cancer-related cognitive impairment, researchers found an increase in the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in participants who were treated with acupuncture compared to those who weren’t.

BDNF is a protein required for your body to produce new brain cells. It has particular influence in the part of the brain called the hippocampus which is involved with memory.

Researchers in another study looked at the effects of acupuncture on patients who had cancer-related cognitive impairment from gynecological cancer. The findings suggested acupuncture may prevent demyelination (damage to the protective coating of nerve cells) in the brain during chemotherapy.

Both studies found that participants with cancer-related brain fog significantly improved their scores on cognitive tests after being treated with acupuncture protocols compared with control groups who didn’t receive acupuncture.

Things to consider:

  • Acupuncture (and acupressure) also have been shown to be beneficial in relieving chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, cancer-related pain, and cancer-related fatigue. If you’re having these side effects in addition to cognitive changes, acupuncture or acupressure may bring multi-symptom relief.
  • Acupuncture and acupressure generally have very few side effects. The most common are minor and may include bleeding (from acupuncture needle insertion), bruising, or soreness.
  • If you’re on a blood thinner or have a bleeding problem, acupuncture may not be for you. Check with your doctor to make sure there aren’t any concerns before starting acupuncture treatments.

2. Exercise may improve memory, executive functions, and processing speed in people with cancer-related brain fog.

The fact is that exercise in general is good for your brain whether you have cancer or not. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and has been shown to improve cognitive functioning in healthy adults.

Woman exercising with arms overhead. Exercise can help cancer-related brain fog.
Image by Gesina from Pixabay

The question that researchers are still trying to answer, however, is what type of exercise works best to counteract cancer-related cognitive changes.

One study found that resistance training in women with breast cancer resulted in higher cognitive test scores for executive functions (i.e., higher-level thinking skills) compared to a control group.

Another study of breast cancer survivors found that a total of 2.5 hours of weekly exercise at a moderate intensity had a significant effect on processing speed.

(Processing speed is how quickly your brain can take in information and make sense of it so you can react or respond. Processing speed affects executive functions.)

Research also found that women with breast cancer who participated in a Hatha yoga intervention twice weekly for 12 weeks had an average of 23% lower report of cognitive problems three months after the completion of the study compared to a group that was wait-listed for the intervention. The researchers controlled for other factors including depression, anxiety, sleep quality, and fatigue to ensure they didn’t affect the study’s results.

Things to consider:

  • If you’re rolling your eyes at the thought of exercise, keep this in mind: when you’re dealing with brain fog, improved processing speed can be a game changer. It’s the difference between being able to follow dinner conversations easily and getting lost in the middle because you can’t keep up with what people are saying.
  • If you’ve recently had surgery or if you have a port for chemotherapy, don’t start exercising until your doctor removes any movement or lifting restrictions you may have had. This is especially important before starting resistance training.
  • When it comes to exercise and cancer, pacing yourself is key. You may not be able to tolerate much physical activity at times. It’s okay to lower the intensity if needed. Just do what you can.
  • If you’re considering a yoga class, find out how intense the class is before joining. Hatha yoga is slower and gentler. You may want to avoid classes where poses change frequently if it’s hard for you to keep up in fast-paced situations.
  • Always check with your doctor before starting or returning to any exercise routine.

3. Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT tapping) can lower feelings of distress that contribute to cancer-related brain fog.

Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) or “tapping” is a mind-body technique that combines exposure to a thought, feeling, or memory with stimulation of specific acupuncture points on the body. Research on EFT has found it effective in helping reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD as well as chronic pain.

Research suggests that psychological variables can contribute to cancer-related cognitive impairment, and there are correlations between high levels of psychological distress in people with cancer and lower performance on cognitive function tests.

A study examined whether an 8-week intervention using EFT could help improve cancer-related cognitive impairment in 121 adults ranging from 28 to 78 years old. Most of the study participants were under the age of 65.

Tapping on side of hand point; Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT tapping) helps cancer-related brain fog.

At the start of the study, 100% of the participants scored within the range of cancer-related cognitive impairment on a self-reported measure. After 8 weeks, only 40.8% of the EFT intervention group still scored in the cognitively impaired range compared to 87.3% in the group that hadn’t learned EFT.

Things to consider:

  • EFT tapping can be easily learned and applied to a wide range of issues that cause distress. Keeping distress low on a regular basis can help offset its effects on mental sharpness.
  • The only type of EFT that has been validated by researchers is known as Clinical EFT. There are many variations of Emotional Freedom Techniques that have not been studied in clinical trials. It’s important to be aware of this distinction if you choose to explore EFT on your own through a book, app, or videos.
  • Consulting with a certified Clinical EFT practitioner is the safest way to address more complex situations or traumatic issues.
  • If you have serious mental health concerns, check with your mental health provider first to make sure EFT is appropriate for you.

The bottom line

While there are no definitive treatments or quick fixes for cancer-related brain fog, research is beginning to shed light on possible options that are safe for most people to use. Just remember it’s always recommended to check with your doctor before adding anything new to your health routine.

Wondering if EFT or acupressure might be right for you? Schedule a free consultation today so you can get your questions answered. No pressure, no obligation, no strings attached.

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Research Supports EFT Tapping to Help with Chronic Pain

By: Christine McDevitt, MS, OTR/L

Researchers from Bond University in Australia studied the effects of a 6-week intervention using Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT tapping) on adults struggling with chronic pain. The study’s purpose was to see if EFT had an affect on:

  • severity of pain,
  • how much pain interfered with daily activities,
  • quality of life,
  • body symptoms,
  • depression,
  • anxiety,
  • happiness,
  • and satisfaction with life.

The researchers took pre- and post-study brain scans of each participant at rest using fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging). The purpose of the scans was to map and measure any changes in brain activity in areas involved with pain modulation (the process by which a pain signal is altered as it travels through the nervous system) and pain catastrophizing (a pattern of negative thinking about the pain experience).

The results of the study showed that the EFT tapping intervention was effective in reducing the impact of chronic pain.

When participants were reassessed at the end of the six weeks, the data showed the following changes:

Man is smiling after an Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT tapping) intervention helped with chronic pain.
Photo by Petr Sevcovic on Unsplash
  • Severity of pain decreased by 21%.
  • Pain’s interference in daily life decreased by 26%.
  • Quality of life increased by 7%.
  • Physical symptoms decreased by 28%.
  • Depression decreased by 13.5%.
  • Anxiety decreased by 37.1%.
  • Happiness increased by 17%.
  • Life satisfaction increased by 8.8%.
  • The fMRI results found changes in the participants’ brain activity at the end of the study. Imaging showed significantly decreased connectivity between an area of the brain that modulates pain (the medial prefrontal cortex) and two areas of the brain (the cingulate cortex and the thalamus) involved in pain modulation and negative thinking patterns related to pain.

The EFT tapping for chronic pain intervention was provided in a virtual group format.

A trained clinical Emotional Freedom Techniques practitioner and a clinical psychologist ran a virtual online group using a standardized protocol. The participants received 60-90 minutes of EFT per week over 6 weeks with an additional 30-60 minutes per week focused on education about pain and using EFT to address issues related to pain.

Twenty-four adults from 18 to 77 years old participated in the study. All had been experiencing pain that negatively impacted daily functioning and quality of life for at least 6 of the 12 months prior to the start of the study. All reported a pain level of 4 or higher on a 0 to 10 pain scale (10 being the most intense pain). None were receiving any medical or psychological treatments for chronic pain.

The researchers excluded certain types of pain in this study. For example, people who had pain caused by cancer or autoimmune disorders (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis or lupus) or pain that was referred from another body area (e.g., back pain caused by inflammation of the pancreas) weren’t permitted to participate. The study also excluded people who had chronic pain along with other major psychiatric conditions (e.g., bipolar disorder) or who were in intensive treatment for substance use disorder.

What does this research mean for using EFT with chronic pain?

The researchers acknowledged that future studies need a larger group of participants. They also recognized that lack of a control group and lack of long-term follow up are weaknesses of the current study.

Despite these drawbacks, this is the first study of EFT tapping and pain that also included brain imaging as an objective measure instead of relying only on participants’ self-reports to track outcomes.

According to the researchers, the changes in brain activity indicate that tapping may be generating neurological signals which affect areas in the brain associated with the experience of chronic pain.

Brain showing neurological signals being generated during Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT tapping) intervention for chronic pain.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The researchers concluded that EFT is a body-centered intervention that may help alter the perception of pain in the nervous system and that EFT has the capacity to be an effective adjunct to other pain interventions.

Is EFT tapping right for me?

While it’s great to see research that backs up the benefits people report when using an intervention like EFT, it doesn’t always mean the intervention is right for you.

If you’re struggling with chronic pain and are curious about using EFT, schedule a free consultation today so we can see if it’s appropriate for your situation. No pressure, no obligation, no strings attached.

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5 Tips for More Effective Tapping with EFT

By: Christine McDevitt, MS, OTR/L


EFT is deceptively simple. At first glance, it seems like nothing more than tapping your fingers on your face or body while you’re talking. Yet many people who try tapping discover how powerful EFT can be.

However, some people try EFT on their own only to be unimpressed with the results they get for themselves. They wrongly conclude that tapping doesn’t work at all.

The truth is that EFT is more complex than it appears. EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Techniques – plural. The acupressure point tapping routine itself is just one piece of a larger puzzle.

While working with a skilled, certified practitioner is always recommended for more intense work, you can still use the tapping routine to address some issues on your own. (If you have more serious mental health concerns, always check with your doctor or mental health provider first to make sure EFT is appropriate for you.)

Here are five tips to make your tapping more effective.

Tapping on side of hand point during a round of Emotional Freedom Techniques. Tips for more effective tapping with EFT.

1. Choose only one issue or event to work on at a time.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when tapping is they choose something to work on that’s too big to tackle in one piece. EFT is less effective when done this way.

For example, let’s say you broke your leg in a car accident, and you want to use EFT to stop the anxiety that you feel when you think about it.

If you tap on “the accident” as one big event, you may feel some relief but won’t get to the key pieces of that event that are keeping your reaction to it (i.e., the anxiety) locked in your nervous system.

A more effective approach is to break the event up into smaller chunks and start tapping on just one of those chunks. The big event of “the accident” has many smaller pieces that form the entire incident.

Those pieces might include seeing the other car getting too close, feeling the impact when the crash occurred, or being removed from the car by first responders.

Working with one piece of an incident or issue at a time will get you the best long-term results.

2. Start with an issue that feels manageable when you think about it.

Some people mistakenly believe you need to start with the most intense, painful issues of your life for EFT to be useful. When people approach tapping this way, they often end up feeling completely overwhelmed and emotionally drained.

This is a preventable problem.

In fact, one of the benefits of using EFT is that – when done correctly – it provides a way to address painful issues without going down an endless emotional rabbit hole.

Addressing the most painful pieces of an issue on your own can be risky, especially if your starting level of distress when you think about them is greater than a 6 on a 0 to 10 intensity scale.

This is because every time you think about a memory that has a high emotional intensity associated with it – either positive or negative – the pathways in the brain that link the memory with that emotion get reinforced.

If this memory is associated with upsetting emotions, you increase the chances of re-experiencing those emotions while tapping.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But you don’t want to start tapping on a deeply upsetting issue only to wind up in a downward emotional spiral that you can’t easily get out of on your own.

That spiraling will reinforce the neural pathways that link the upsetting emotion to the memory – which is the opposite of what you want to do.

So, keep your tapping focused on issues within your window of emotional tolerance.

If you’re not sure that you can effectively use EFT on your own to address an issue without going into an emotional tailspin, consider working with a certified EFT practitioner to address it safely.

3. Be specific.

When using EFT, the more specific you are with your tapping focus, the more effective your results will be.

If you wanted to buy a car and did a Google search for “car dealer,” you would literally get millions of results that fit your inquiry. That’s not the most efficient way to meet your goal.

But, if you entered “Nissan car dealer” and your zip code, your results would be much more targeted and useful. When it comes to tapping, the brain works the same way.

Let’s say you start to feel anxious when you think about a car accident you had. That’s good to notice. But while tapping on the general feeling of anxiety will help you calm down in the moment, it won’t result in lasting change in the nervous system. You need to be more specific.

There may be several elements that cause the anxiety to show up. Choose one element and tap on that. An example might be the memory of seeing the other car getting dangerously close to yours.

The anxious feeling is linked to a specific trigger – seeing the approaching car. That link is a specific connection in your brain. Targeting specific connections makes tapping more effective at eliminating unwanted reactions or sensations.

Sometimes tapping in a more general way can be useful if you’re feeling overwhelmed and need to just calm down quickly. But if you’re looking to address the root cause of an issue, specificity is key.

4. Don’t force yourself to say anything that doesn’t feel true to you.

Being honest with yourself is important to getting great results with EFT.

Typically, to start a round of EFT you state the problem or issue you’re focusing on and follow it with a counterbalance or reframing statement. A common reframe statement is “I accept myself.”

So, an example of a full set up statement might be, “Even though I have this painful, burning sensation in my right hand, I accept myself.”

Here’s the catch: some people are uncomfortable using statements about accepting themselves because it doesn’t feel true for some reason.

Saying something that doesn’t resonate with you can cause an inner conflict: part of you wants the statement to be true, and part of you – for whatever reason – knows it’s not. This kind of inner tension increases stress and is counterproductive.

A better option is to choose a phrase that feels true in your body when you say it. Some alternatives to “I accept myself” might be “I have compassion for myself” or “I’m just noticing what’s going on, and, in this moment, I’m still okay.”

Truthfulness is more important than perfection when it comes to tapping statements. Choose something that feels right for you. You can always change it as you go.

5. Be mindful of your pacing when you tap.

If you’ve watched videos of someone doing EFT, you may have noticed that some people move through the points very quickly when they tap.

While moving quickly isn’t wrong, it’s also not essential for tapping to work. In fact, the increased speed can cause some people to feel rushed and more anxious.

There is no research supporting either fast or slow tapping speed with EFT, so go at a pace that feels good to you. Rushing through the points doesn’t make the process more effective.

Tapping can be an effective tool for stress management and for doing your own work on your known, manageable-but-unresolved issues. If you’re running into blocks or need to address more complex issues, it’s recommended that you work with a certified clinical EFT practitioner to get the best results in the safest way.

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How EFT Tapping Can (and Can’t) Help with Pain and Other Physical Symptoms

By Christine McDevitt, MS, OTR/L

Emotional Freedom Techniques (also known as EFT or tapping) has been shown in research studies to be helpful for dealing with pain and other physical symptoms.

While tapping can bring relief, it is not a treatment or cure for any medical condition. It’s important to know when EFT can be useful in addressing physical symptoms and when other interventions may be more appropriate.

EFT helps address underlying cognitive and emotional factors that may contribute to physical symptoms. However, symptoms that have physical causes may still require physical or medical interventions.

Let’s look at two examples to illustrate this distinction.

Using EFT tapping to help with back or leg pain from a herniated disc

EFT can help you address underlying emotional factors that may be contributing to the severity of your symptoms.

For example, if you notice increased pain when you think about what was going on when your symptoms first started, it’s possible your brain made a negative emotional connection to something from those circumstances.

The underlying stress or upset from this association can create conditions in the body that make the pain worse.

Tapping would be an appropriate tool to help find that connection and remove the emotional charge from the memory. This process, when done correctly, may help reduce pain.

Seated woman having back pain could benefit from Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT tapping) to help with pain relief.
Image by Arpit from Pixabay

Why you may need medical intervention

If a disc moves far enough out of place anywhere along the spinal column, it can press on a spinal nerve and cause pain.

Herniated discs are a structural problem. Tapping will not stop a disc from pressing on a nerve.

You may still need physical therapy, chiropractic care, or therapeutic exercises to deal with the position of the disc. In more severe cases, your doctor may recommend surgical interventions if the bones in your spine are unstable or if there is a risk of permanent nerve damage.

Using EFT tapping to help with digestive problems

Man with digestive problems could benefit from Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT tapping)
Image by Darko Djurin from Pixabay

The stress response, otherwise known as fight or flight, affects the digestive system; this is a normal reaction. However, chronic stress or chronic emotional upset cause biochemical changes in the body that can result in dysfunction in the digestive tract.

Tapping can be used to help reduce the amount of stress held in the body. Studies have shown that EFT reduces cortisol, a primary stress hormone. Decreasing the stress in the body will help the body stay in a physiological state that promotes effective digestion.

If stress is held around a current or past situation, you can use EFT to address the thoughts or emotions tied to the pieces of the situation that trigger your symptoms or make them worse. When you change these specific negative associations in your brain, your can body stay in a more relaxed state. This change may help relieve digestive symptoms.

Why you may need medical intervention

If your digestive disturbances are becoming chronic, it’s always recommended that you consult with your doctor to rule out conditions such as Celiac disease or any structural problems (e.g., hiatal hernia, diverticulosis, tumors, etc.).

Your doctor may also want to test for infections in your gut. If one is found, your doctor may recommend medication, especially if your symptoms aren’t improving or are getting worse.

Things to consider when using EFT tapping on your own for pain or other physical symptoms

EFT is an effective way to help address the thoughts and emotions that can contribute to pain and other physical symptoms. Just remember that if there is a medical reason for your pain or symptoms, you may need more than tapping to manage them.

If you’re already using medical interventions and have been tapping on your own and still aren’t getting relief, there may be deeper cognitive or emotional factors linked to the body sensations. These deeper layers can be hard to uncover without help.

This could also be true for situations where the same symptoms or issues keep coming back even though tapping brings relief at the time.

In these cases, working with a certified clinical EFT practitioner can help you find the root causes that may be contributing to your symptoms.

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How to Change Your Hardwired Stress Response to Reduce Performance Anxiety

By Christine McDevitt, MS, OTR/L

Imagine you’ve been asked to give an in-person presentation to a group of two hundred strangers. How does your body react to that scenario? What thoughts run through your mind?

Some people would feel excited. Others might feel anxious, nauseous, or paralyzed with fear.

A strand of DNA. The stress response is hardwired in us.
Photo by ANIRUDH on Unsplash

We all have the same biological mechanism for dealing with circumstances that lack certainty or are unfamiliar to us. This mechanism is called the stress response, also known as the fight or flight response.

The stress response is the process in the brain that detects danger and prepares the body to deal with the perceived threat at hand. The brains of both animals and humans are hardwired with this system; it’s essential to survival.

Does having a hardwired response mean you can’t change the way you tend to react in certain situations? Not necessarily. Let’s look at how this works.

Circumstances in and of themselves don’t trigger the stress response.

Your brain receives information from your sense organs (i.e., eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin). In the example above, the sensory information would include the tone of the person’s voice asking you to give the presentation as well as the sound of the words you heard.

Those images, sounds, smells, tastes, and body sensations are all emotionally neutral before they get to your brain. Your sense organs are simply giving the brain details about what is happening in the outside environment.

Those bits of information travel to two structures in the brain called the hippocampus and the amygdala. These structures determine if the information received poses a potential threat to your survival.

How your brain decides what is a threat and what isn’t

The hippocampus compares incoming sensory information with sensory information from your past experiences. It’s involved with the recall of memories, formation of new memories, and learning.

The amygdala attaches emotional meaning to memories and interprets whether incoming sensory information should be treated as threatening.

The perception of stress or threat occurs if the hippocampus and amygdala find similarities between the incoming sensory information and information from past experiences that was interpreted as potentially dangerous.

The brain’s “threat tag” can affect you for years.

Here is a simplified example. Let’s say you gave a speech in elementary school, and your classmates made fun of you while you were speaking. Even if it’s been thirty years and you don’t consciously remember the incident, your brain retained all the sensory information from that event.

Your brain also registered the memory of any emotional upset you felt. It’s possible, then, that your brain linked one or more of the sensory pieces of the incident (e.g., seeing an audience from the stage) as threatening and filed it away as such.

If this is the case, then the thought of being in that position again could cause your amygdala – which acts like an alarm for your body – to send a warning to prepare the body to respond to the threat. This alarm will begin a cascade of biochemical reactions that result in a physical experience of stress.

The intensity of that physical experience will depend on how much danger your brain thinks you’re in now. Depending on the meaning your brain attached to the incident at the time it occurred, your reactions may be mild (e.g., faster heartbeat, slight muscle tension, a feeling of being on alert) or more extreme (e.g., shortness of breath, unable to focus, feeling sick to your stomach).

On the other hand, if your speech was well received or increased your popularity, thinking about public speaking may not trigger the stress response at all. In this case, your brain may have linked the sensory information from that earlier life event to a positive emotional feeling, so there is no need for the amygdala to sound the alarm.

You can change the way your brain has interpreted past information.

A healthy brain continually updates the information it receives and stores.

Outline of two heads facing each other. One has a gray brain. The other has a multicolored brain. The stress response affects how events are interpreted.
Image by Elisa from Pixabay

However, the brain tends to have a stronger hold on information associated with strong emotional responses. From a biological perspective, this tendency helps keep you away from things that cause you pain and that may be a potential threat to your survival.

While this strategy is useful, it can cause problems, especially if you find yourself reacting to certain circumstances in ways that affect your performance or just don’t feel good to you. However, there are ways to change unhelpful associations in the brain.

Research has shown that a process called clinical Emotional Freedom Techniques (also known as EFT tapping) can help alter the connections your brain has made between specific memories and specific negative emotions.

When EFT is used properly, you can “unhook” the memory of a negative emotion from the sensory pieces of the memory. This process doesn’t erase the memory. Instead, it helps alter your perception of those sensory pieces so your brain no longer continues to interpret them as threatening. A new interpretation can affect whether your brain will trigger the stress response under similar conditions in the future.

So, while you can’t eliminate the stress response altogether, it is possible to modify your default reaction to specific situations so you can minimize anxiety, focus, and perform your best.

If you’re curious about using EFT to help manage your stress response with performance anxiety, schedule a free consultation today.

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