Fear, anxiety, loneliness and financial uncertainty have collided to make the COVID-19 pandemic a stressful time for many. A poll conducted by the American Psychiatric Association in March 2020 revealed that 36% of Americans felt coronavirus was having a serious impact on their mental health, while 59% felt it was seriously impacting their day-to-day lives.1
Top concerns included the possibility of the pandemic having a serious negative affect on finances, which was cited by 57% of respondents, along with fears of running out of food, medicine or other supplies. Another 68% feared that coronavirus would lead to long-lasting effects on the economy.
During this unprecedented time, coping with stress is more important than ever, especially as many are now entering a new phase of the pandemic post-quarantine. In the video above, Julie Schiffman, an Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) practitioner, shows how to use EFT to feel safe in the world post-lockdown.
Stress Levels Soar Amid Pandemic
The American Psychological Association’s Stress in America 2020 survey, released in May 2020 and conducted in partnership with The Harris Poll, reveals more of the same.
High stress levels related to coronavirus are described as “the new normal” for parents, while people of color were also more likely than white adults to report that the pandemic was causing significant stressors in their life, particularly related to fears of getting COVID-19 and having access to basic needs and health care services.2
Not surprisingly, stress levels are on the rise across the U.S. compared to 2019. According to the Stress in America 2020 survey:3
“The average reported stress level for U.S. adults related to the coronavirus pandemic is 5.9. When asked to rate their stress level in general, the average reported stress for U.S. adults is 5.4.
This is significantly higher than the average stress level reported in the 2019 Annual Stress in America survey, which was 4.9, and marks the first significant increase in average reported stress since the survey began in 2007.”
In many areas of the U.S. and world, economies are now beginning to reopen, along with workplaces, public spaces and restaurants. But even as lockdowns are ending, not everyone feels safe venturing back out into the world, and fears about isolation and lockdowns are being replaced with apprehension about returning to life in public.
In a rapid review of research on the psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it, King’s College London researchers cited differing stressors during and after quarantine.4 During quarantine, fears of infection, frustration and boredom, inadequate supplies and inadequate information were the top stressors reported.
Post-quarantine, this shifted to stress over financial loss due to quarantine as well as stigma from others, including being treated with fear and suspicion or being avoided or rejected by others over fears of getting sick. In the case of COVID-19, when most people have been subjected to varying degrees of quarantine, simply venturing out into the world again can cause apprehension.
George Bonanno, director of the Loss, Trauma, and Emotion Lab at Columbia University Teachers College, told Vox:5
“Friends have already told me that they’re watching movies and [if they] see someone touch, they freak out a little bit now — ‘Don’t touch that!’ I imagine some people will be uneasy for some time afterwards, and will be until there are more assurances. We have to use the tools we have at our disposal in the meantime.”
What Is EFT and Why Is It Useful?
One such tool is EFT. Many types of negative emotions and trauma can lead to blockages or disruptions in the flow of qi, a vital energy source; EFT uses physical tapping with your fingertips to input kinetic energy at specific tapping points, which helps to clear the blockages, freeing the pathways for revitalizing qi to flow.
When combined with positive affirmations, the emotional block or “short-circuit” is corrected, restoring balance to your mind and body. According to Patrice Rancour, of Ohio State University’s Integrative Medicine Clinic:6
“Frequently referred to as ‘tapping,’ this technique combines the cognitive reprocessing benefits of exposure and acceptance therapy with the energetic disturbance releases associated with acupuncture and other energy therapies.
More than 60 research articles in peer-reviewed journals report a staggering 98 percent efficacy rate with the use of this procedure from psychological distress (posttraumatic stress disorder, phobias, anxiety, depression, etc.) to physical conditions (asthma, fibromyalgia, pain, seizure disorders, etc.) to performance issues (athletic, academic).”
It’s been suggested that rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may rise post-pandemic, not only for those who have recovered from COVID-19, but also among those who are feeling stressed from quarantine and struggling with lingering feelings of panic and anxiety. This may be particularly true for people with existing mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
EFT is useful for this, too, and when conducted in a group setting has been shown to reduce symptoms in people suffering from PTSD, depression and anxiety.7 It makes sense that clearing emotional blocks would ease such symptoms, as the single biggest determinant of anxiety and depression is traumatic life events.8
EFT can help to decrease the intensity of traumatic memories after just one session,9 and it can help you to release uncomfortable feelings you have about moving through and getting out of quarantine. In a 2018 review in the journal Healthcare, it’s noted:10
“Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) is an evidence-based method that combines acupressure with elements drawn from cognitive and exposure therapies. The approach has been validated in more than 100 clinical trials.
Its efficacy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been investigated in a variety of demographic groups including war veterans, victims of sexual violence, the spouses of PTSD sufferers, motor accident survivors, prisoners, hospital patients, adolescents, and survivors of natural and human-caused disasters.
Meta-analyses of EFT for anxiety, depression, and PTSD indicate treatment effects that exceed those of both psychopharmacology and conventional psychotherapy.”
Why EFT Works to Combat Stress
EFT significantly increases positive emotions, such as hope and enjoyment, and decreases negative emotional states, including stress. EFT is particularly powerful for treating stress because it specifically targets your amygdala and hippocampus, which are the parts of your brain that help you decide whether or not something is a threat.11
In a study of 203 people who took part in a four-day training workshop in which they received EFT, significant declines were found in anxiety, depression, PTSD, pain and cravings. Further, happiness increased as did measures of salivary immunoglobulin A, a marker for immune function. Positive changes also occurred in heart rate variability and heart coherence, which suggests beneficial effects on the central nervous system.12
One of the best things about EFT is that once you learn the technique, you can do it anywhere and it only takes a few minutes. If you’re facing PTSD or another serious mental health challenge, it’s recommended that you recruit the help of a professional EFT practitioner.
However, for general anxiety and uneasiness related to the post-quarantine world, I invite you to use the following resources to learn the mechanics of EFT, as well to help you gain an appreciation for its wide-ranging application.
Using EFT to Cope With COVID-19 Stressors
There are two basic areas to learn in order to use EFT: the tapping locations and technique, and the positive affirmations. Tapping is done with your fingertips, solidly but not so hard that it hurts.
Ideally, remove your eyeglasses or watch prior to tapping (which could interfere electromagnetically with the process), and tap each point five to seven times. The tapping points are below; it’s easiest to start at the top and work your way down.
1. Top of the Head (TH) — With fingers back-to-back down the center of the skull.
2. Eyebrow (EB) — Just above and to one side of the nose, at the beginning of the eyebrow.
3. Side of the Eye (SE) — On the bone bordering the outside corner of the eye.
4. Under the Eye (UE) — On the bone under an eye about 1 inch below your pupil.
5. Under the Nose (UN) — On the small area between the bottom of your nose and the top of your upper lip.
6. Chin (Ch) — Midway between the point of your chin and the bottom of your lower lip. Even though it is not directly on the point of the chin, we call it the chin point because it is descriptive enough for people to understand easily.
7. Collar Bone (CB) — The junction where the sternum (breastbone), collarbone and the first rib meet. This is a very important point and in acupuncture is referred to as K (kidney) 27. To locate it, first place your forefinger on the U-shaped notch at the top of the breastbone (about where a man would knot his tie).
From the bottom of the U, move your forefinger down toward the navel 1 inch and then go to the left (or right) 1 inch. This point is referred to as Collar Bone even though it is not on the collarbone (or clavicle) per se.
8. Under the Arm (UA) — On the side of the body, at a point even with the nipple (for men) or in the middle of the bra strap (for women). It is about 4 inches below the armpit.
9. Wrists (WR) — The last point is the inside of both wrists.
While tapping, you’ll want to hold the problem or negative emotions in your mind while saying (ideally out loud) your positive affirmations, which can take on any number of forms.
In the case of COVID-19 and quarantine, you’ll want to connect with whatever is causing you undue stress, perhaps the idea of getting back out there and being around more people, fears about getting sick or having a hard time with new rules that are being imposed in your area. Connect with the stress in your body and take responsibility for your own emotional well-being. Schiffman suggests the following examples of positive affirmations you may want to try:
“Even though I’m feeling anxious about getting back out there, going into public after being safe in my home for so long, I accept myself and all of my feelings around this.
Even though this has been such a strange and stressful time for me, I’m scared and nervous about going into places, where there’s so much uncertainty, I accept myself and these feelings and I’m open to feeling safe.
Even though I’m afraid of getting sick and I’m feeling uncertain about the people who will be around me. There are so many things I can’t control. I accept myself and I’m open to feeling better now.
All of this anxiety. I’m feeling nervous about the community opening up. Perhaps I’m ready to get out more, but I’m not sure what to do. What’s the new etiquette? It feels awkward. It feels scary. It feels uncomfortable. I’m not sure what to do. What if people get too close to me? What if people around me aren’t wearing masks? What if there’s contamination that I can’t see? I’m scared.
Everything is different now. I want to feel comfortable. I want to feel confident. I want to feel safe in the world. I want to feel safe wherever I choose to go, but there’s no certainty, and that scares me. I can’t be cooped up at home forever. I may be ready to get out there.
… At the end of the day, I only have control over me. My actions, my choices, my decisions, my thoughts and my feelings. I don’t have control over the other stuff. So I’m going to do what I can do to keep myself safe and others around me the best I can, because that’s the human thing to do. I’m a smart person. I make smart choices.”
EFT can help you feel calmer, more optimistic and more in control of an otherwise uncontrollable situation. Ideally, use it in conjunction with other stress relief tools, including exercise, social support and spending time outdoors in nature, to support your emotional well-being in the post-quarantine world.