It's a sign of the times that I came across "tapping" – or Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) therapy – on TikTok. The social media platform that gave us memes, recipes, songs and dances during lockdown also offered up one way to ease the stress many people were feeling during those months, and still. 

Tapping is a kind of therapy often used to soothe anxiety, negative thinking, phobias and even trauma (with the right guidance) by tapping on acupressure points much in the same way as in acupuncture. By hitting these points, practitioners believe that soothing signals are sent to the brain, helping you to overcome anxiety and stress. 

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So in a way, it's not too far off from Matthew McConaughey's iconic chest-tapping chant in The Wolf of Wall Street. 

Accessible
It seems like the ideal technique for nervous times: no intensive soul-searching, complicated tools or even appointments needed, just your hands, your time and your attention. Ask anyone who has tried it and they'll say it's incredibly accessible, so much so that when Paul McKenna used it on his show I Can Make You Thin, it set off a wave of tapping across the nation. 

That's exactly how Grainne O'Neill, an EFT practitioner and trainer, came across the technique. "I had a lifelong love affair with Kerry Gold, loved Kerry Gold", she tells me over the phone, laughing. "I'd be putting huge big slabs on my bread and my husband would say 'do you want some bread with your butter?'" 

Watching the show one day she started tapping along, saying the words McKenna instructed his clients to say. "Then I didn't eat butter for six months."

"I thought, if you can do that for something like a craving, what can it do for other stuff?"

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Part of the reason tapping has taken off in recent years is precisely because it doesn't require an appointment with an acupuncture specialist. "It has the same effect as needles in acupuncture but it's much less invasive and it’s something that people can do themselves", O'Neill says.

"If you’re tapping with two fingers on a point, you’re going to be hitting in and around the point, whereas if you had to find a needle and pin it properly, you’d have to be much more qualified." 

Tap-a, tap-a, tap-a
So what does a tapping session usually look like? 

"If we take the example of Covid-19, lots of fear, lots of anxiety. What I would do is say, what's the main emotion you’re feeling when you’re thinking about Covid? It’s usually fear, anxiety, angry at the people not wearing masks or exasperation. So we take one emotion at a time, usually the strongest one. 

"You focus on that and say the words, 'even though I’m feeling this fear of catching Covid-19, I’m terrified, I’m afraid to go out of my house, I deeply accept myself’. We say this a couple of times and we tap around the body. Then you find, 'I don’t feel as afraid now’. 

"In being very honest and open, because sometimes what people do is they try and squash down their emotions and that works for a while and then just explodes."

O'Neill has seen enormous interest since the start of the pandemic, and has since started a weekly Covid-19 stress relief group. These groups see all participants focus on one negative emotion and work through it together. 

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"One week it might be fear, fear of getting it, some people felt guilty that they had other people relying on them or that they weren't doing enough. 

"We’ll all tap together as a group, and even though it might not specifically be the same issue, the physical motion of tapping helps people to feel better."

The "new normal" has created some unique challenges for her and her clients, too, as people reckon with the more severe side of the pandemic."Some are recovering from Covid and there's quite a tail end for some people who have had Covid and just getting over the trauma of having had that, thinking that they were going to die, some people their whole family got it, some worried 'have I given it to my children?’ 

"For some people, it’s been a huge trauma." 

Do it yourself
Whether you're carrying a lot of struggles or are simply feeling more overwhelmed these days, O'Neill says the practice of tapping can be gently brought into your day by just practicing it here and there. 

"Either tapping on a point or even just holding a point, taking your breath, and without saying any words. Even that you could find very helpful. 

"If there are particular emotions that they’re feeling, they can focus on that emotion and imagine they’re talking to a friend, a friend who is non-judgemental, and they can say anything. Talk and either touch and tap each point as you’re saying this, keep on doing it until you start to feel calmer."

Some people, she says, practice it every day, like "good mental hygiene" or use it to channel their positive affirmations. And anything that gets you talking and listening to yourself has to be a good thing.