There's a lot of research showing that breathing deeply is highly effective to calm the body and shift the emotional state. Most people find that it's helpful to add mantras, which are just phrases that serve as an antidote to a thought or belief that doesn't serve you.

I would also recommend a very simple technique that anchors the breathing and speaks to the subconscious, called the Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT.

What is it? EFT uses the energy meridians from traditional acupressure, combined with breathing and a mantra. You simply tap the acupressure points with your fingertips while you breath deeply and give your subconscious a verbal message. Over time, the tapping becomes associated with the feeling of calm from the conscious breathing, and it helps trigger the shift to a more relaxed state. So EFT becomes more effective in calming yourself the more often you use it, like any other mindfulness practice.

There has been research showing that EFT is effective in calming the nervous system, and that tapping the acupressure points is an essential part of EFT. (See citations below article.) Some researchers claim there are flaws in these studies, and that even the presence of the energy meridians well-accepted in traditional Chinese medicine cannot be substantiated. While there is more research necessary to validate using EFT as a clinical treatment, many researchers agree that it "has met APA standards as an efficacious treatment for a number of conditions, including anxiety, depression, phobias, and PTSD." (Feinstein, 2012).

Speaking from experience, I have successfully used "tapping" and have had positive feedback from many clients who have used it and taught it to their children. There are no side effects. It is completely free -- you never need to spend a penny to learn how to do it. It couldn't be simpler, and takes almost no time. So there is no downside. If you're curious, give it a trial and see if it works for you. If not, no loss.

  • You can use EFT to calm yourself and release negative emotions, simply by tapping the acupressure points listed below as you breathe deeply, and noticing any physical sensations or shifts. You may find yourself yawning, which is one of the ways your body releases emotions.
  • You can use EFT to make affirmations more effective:
    "I am more than enough."
    "Every day I am more patient/grateful/happier."
  • Because the subconscious is so linked to the body, EFT can even be used to "reprogram" your subconscious; you simply acknowledge what you're feeling and invite the possibility that something else could be true also:
    "Even though I'm feeling anxious about ______, I know I can handle whatever happens."
    "Even though I'm feeling sad right now, I deeply love, accept and forgive myself."

Once you see how effective EFT is in managing your moods, you'll probably want to try it with your child. It's a quick and effective way to calm kids when they're upset, help them release stuck emotions or trauma, and help them relax to fall asleep at night. You can even use it to help them reframe things more positively, for instance, "Even though I'm feeling scared, I know that I am safe."

You can tap on your child directly. (You might want to demonstrate first on yourself, or on a teddy bear.) Or you can teach them to tap on themselves.

Don't be surprised if you find yourself yawning. That's an indication that your body is releasing stress. And don't feel that you have to go through all these points every time you tap. Many people just use the "karate chop" point.

Here's how tapping works:

Firmly but gently tap either side of the body as outlined below, using the fingertips of either hand. Tap long enough so that you can take three complete breaths in and out. You can also simply massage these points. As you tap, breathe deeply. You can use words as described above.

1. Karate Chop area - outside edge of hand, below little finger)

2. Eyebrow - (either eyebrow, tap on end near bridge of nose)

3. Under the Eye (about 1' below either eye, on bone)

4. Under the Nose (above upper lip)

5. Chin (below lower lip, crease where chin starts)

6. Beginning of Collar Bone (inside end of either CB, on end below the throat)

7. Four inches under Armpit (side on rib cage)

8. Side of Little Finger (side near ring finger, at base of nail)

9. Inside of wrist (pulse point area) - Where many people fasten their watch band.

12. Crown of Head (Resting open hand, palm down on crown)

13. Tender Spot, Left Side of Chest - Locate a tender, or sensitive spot on left side of chest. For most of us it is beneath the collarbone and above the breast area on the left side. Find the spot on yourself by pressing, using one or two fingers, around this area until you find a spot that is more tender, or sensitive than the area around it. Rub that spot in a small circle.

Don't worry about being exact. Tapping the general area will get the job done. And don't worry about doing all the points, or about following a specific order. Just tapping the "karate chop point" is often enough to help lessen anxiety.

Practitioners say to remove glasses, watch or bracelets before beginning because they can be electromagnetically obstructive.



"Tapping Away Trauma: ‘Emotional Freedom’ Technique" by Serina Deen, M.D., MPH

Church, Dawson (2013). Clinical EFT as an Evidence-Based Practice for the Treatment of Psychological and Physiological Conditions. Psychology 4, No.8, 645-654.

Church D, Books A. (2010). Application of Emotional Freedom Techniques. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, Aug/Sep, 46-48.

Feinstein, D. (2010). Rapid Treatment of PTSD: Why Psychological Exposure with Acupoint Tapping May Be Effective. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 47(3), 385-402.

Feinstein, D. (2012). Acupoint stimulation in treating psychological disorders: Evidence of efficacy. Review of General Psychology, 16, 364-380. 

Waite W, Holder M. (2003). Assessment of the Emotional Freedom Technique: An Alternative Treatment for Fear. The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice (2) 1.