A woman doing tapping therapy by placing her fingers over her eyes.

Tapping therapy: what is it and can it help relieve stress?

Posted by for Wellbeing

Tapping therapy is said to help ease stress and feelings of being overwhelmed by connecting the mind and body. Here’s how to do it in just five minutes.

“I am feeling overwhelmed,” I say to myself into my Zoom camera while tapping under my eyes. I repeat it, tapping more. I don’t stop tapping, tapping, tapping and saying my feelings out loud for another five minutes. If my housemates walked in on me, they’d think I’d reached peak lockdown, trying out wacky experiments in order to simply feel something.

They wouldn’t be wrong. Tapping is a form of physical and mental therapy which teacher Poppy Delbridge tells me is designed to help us get in touch with emotions. “The idea is that you literally start tapping into what you’re really feeling. It’s a mix of somatic work and psychology, using traditional talking therapy while tuning into the body’s physical energy,” she says.

What is tapping and how does it work?

When it comes to looking after my mental health, I tend to plump for activity over stillness. Doing stuff makes me feel like I’m being proactive with my emotions, whether that’s writing lists, exercising, talking to someone or using an app. That means I struggle to get on board with traditional forms of meditation I cannot sit down and think about my feelings for half an hour without fidgeting and giving up. It’s the same reason why my hands bear the first signs of stress; I pick and pick at my skin and nails because I just need to keep myself busy. 

This, apparently, makes me the perfect person to try tapping. “Finding tapping was a really powerful thing because it allowed me to validate what was going on in my world,” says Poppy. “Many of us mask that and just don’t like to go there. I work with a lot of busy women who are rushing about and find it’s really difficult to find the time to sit down and go ‘okay, now I’ll just meditate’. When you actually occupied by saying the feelings, it validates them and makes it easier to deal with.”

This type of therapy is perfect for busy millennials too, because it can be quick. “You can do deep sessions working with someone like me where you work through the things that are holding you back in some way, but I also really recommend doing ‘maintenance taps’ which are short routines to help relieve whatever you’re feeling at your desk or quickly in the morning,” Poppy says.

The face and chest tend to be the most common tapping areas for two reasons: they’re at the end of the body’s meridian lines (an ancient energy map of the body) and they’re also readily accessible (there’s no need to strip).

How do you do tapping?

The opening questions from Poppy are “what is your overriding sensation at the moment? What are you struggling with?”. Perhaps that’s obvious, given that tapping is about tuning in with your emotions, but I was surprised when the first thing that leaves my mouth is “overwhelm”.

“I guess it’s due to the stress and the business of coming out of lockdown. I thought I had learned to enjoy a slower pace of life, but I seem to be back to pre-lockdown levels of stress and my calendar is unbelievably full,” I say. “I just don’t know how I’m going to do it all.”

The following tap is how we work through this feeling together, not only to help me understand where that feeling is coming from, but also to allow myself to feel more relaxed and in control of life. 

A woman with her hand over her heart and her eyes closed during a tapping session.
Tapping therapy: how to do it at your desk

5-minute tapping routine for stress

  1. Find a comfortable sitting place, with your feet on the ground so you can feel the floor. Then start by rubbing your hands together – not too slowly or too fast.
  2. Bring to your attention the sensation of overwhelm. Think about how you feel when you are stressing out about plans. How intense is that feeling on a scale of zero to 10?
  3. Place your hands over your chest so that the index fingers are a little below the opposite collarbone. This area may feel a little stiff and sore, so slowly start to massage into the area. Out loud, say “I feel overwhelmed and stressed,” and repeat it a few times.
  4. Then start to add a ‘because…’ into the sentence. “I feel overwhelmed and stressed because there’s too much to do,” or “I feel overwhelmed and stressed because people expect more from me than I can deliver.” Make up an ending to the sentence that feels genuine to you.
  5. Keep massaging the area on your chest while repeating the sentence, but follow up with “And I’m noticing this now, and I’m choosing to accept myself anyway.”
  6. Now, start to tap. Take your middle and index finger above your brow bone, at the centre of your forehead, and start tapping gently. Repeat the entire sentence from before while you tap. 
  7. Start tapping under your eyes and under your chin, acknowledging the overwhelming feelings and stress as you say it out loud. Repeat this process for as long as feels comfortable.
  8. Take your hands over your heart and take a deep breath. Notice if you feel tension anywhere – hopefully, you feel a little more connected with your body and can notice areas of tightness or pain.
  9. Place one hand on your area of tightness and use your other hand to continue tapping, saying “I feel this stress in my body, and I’m ready to release it. I’d like to feel lighter now.”
  10. Release your hands and think about your levels of stress. Rate it out of ten again – hopefully, the number has gone down.
  11. Now you have to “seal the tap” – replacing the old, negative feeling with your more positive emotion. Start tapping your forehead again, only a little faster and with more energy. Say: “I feel more in control now”.
  12. Move the tapping to under the eyes and under the chin, repeating “I’m feeling calm,” and “I’ve got this.” Tap along the collarbone too and then place your hands on your heart until you’re ready for the session to end. 

    Does tapping work?

    Did it work? Well, I’ll admit I felt a bit silly during the session but I think that as someone who struggles to acknowledge their feelings, that’s a “me” thing. And I have to admit that I felt so much more relaxed during and after the session, almost laughing at myself for worrying about having too many plans.

    Later that day, I was hit with some pretty tough news. Whereas I’d usually bottle it up, I actually cried for the first time in months. Tapping really did help me to access the emotions I so often manage to avoid. Turns out, tapping really can help you “feel your feels.”

    Ready to work up a sweat? Hop on over to the SWTC video library where you’ll find a range of 30-50 minute workouts, led by our very own trainers.

    Images: Getty

    Share this article

    Chloe Gray

    Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).

    Recommended by Chloe Gray