Feeling Anxious or Stressed? Try This Technique
Like many of you, we are now watching our pastor livestream his sermons into our home as the online way of doing church. Pastor Joel recently preached an excellent message on Walking Fearlessly, sharing faith-building Scriptures reminding us that God is our refuge and we are more than conquerors in Him. Joel also shared very transparently about his lifelong struggle with anxiety, and how just a few years ago, he experienced breakthrough in this area and now lives free from panic attacks. Hallelujah!
His story is not that different from Brian Johnson, the anointed Bethel worship leader and son of Pastor Bill Johnson. In his book, When God Becomes Real, Brian shares a similar decades-long struggle with anxiety and panic attacks, and how he too also found healing in recent years. Praise God.
We are living in an unprecedented season and experiencing things none of us have ever imagined. For some, all of the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 may be causing you anxiety. Maybe you are worried about finances and when you’ll be able to go back to work. Maybe you are afraid that you or someone you love will get sick. Maybe you are stressed because it feels like nobody really knows what is going on, how to fix it, or when life will ever get back to normal. Whatever it is you are feeling, please know that you’re not alone.
It’s Not Just You
The reason I share Joel and Brian’s stories is three-fold: First, I want you to understand that even strong Christians feel what you feel. Just because you are anxious doesn’t mean you are weak. Secondly, Brian and Joel know God, they know His Word and know how to pray and to praise, and yet they still struggled. So just because you are struggling doesn’t mean you don’t have enough faith, it doesn’t mean you aren’t spiritual enough. Those are lies from the enemy. You are complete in Christ and you are enough! Finally, the biggest reason I want to share their stories is to offer you hope. They found breakthrough and freedom, and you can too.
The question remains though, how could Brian and Joel – these indisputably solid men of God – still struggle with debilitating anxiety, fear, and panic attacks? While I am not a medical doctor and am the first to admit everyone is on their own journey, I want to offer you one possibility to encourage you or your loved ones who may be struggling with these same issues.
We are a triune being – spirit, soul, and body. Experiencing fullness of health in one area requires both other aspects are prospering and in good health as well. When our body is offline physiologically, it can trigger a cascade of neurological and emotional signals throughout our system that affect our minds and our hearts.
Back to our question of how spiritually strong, mentally stable Christian leaders can struggle with such severe emotional stress and overwhelm. Obviously we know their spirits are saved and healed, because they are whole in Christ. Our mind is usually considered to be part of our soul, and we have no doubt these men of God had thoroughly renewed their minds with the Word of God, so their souls are healthy too. That leaves just one aspect of their triune being to account for: the body.
This is actually encouraging, because when we understand that there may possibly be a physiological facet to our emotional healing then it makes sense that we would try a physical remedy. That is, doing something with our physical body to address these negative emotional symptoms.
Enter, Emotional Freedom Techniques.
Emotional Freedom Techniques, also known as EFT or tapping, is a God-created physiological technique that allows us to experience liberty and choice about our feelings and how we experience them. It involves tapping gently on acupressure points of the face and upper body. This tapping can release pent up emotional stress and trauma, via the neurological system, of daily and long-term events and memories.
To be clear, I don’t believe either Joel or Brian ever tried EFT. What I am suggesting, however, is that YOU try it. If you or someone you love is feeling overwhelmed by what’s going on in the world right now, or if you often feel stress or chronic anxiety, you don’t need to suffer any longer. Maybe you are discouraged because it seems like you’ve tried everything, and nothing has helped long term. Don’t give up hope! Give tapping a try and just see if it isn’t the answer you have been praying for.
If you are a counselor, I believe you will find this a complementary tool to inner healing prayer and other heart work approaches you already use, possibly even accelerating their effectiveness in a synergistic way.
A pastor friend of mine who has seen the remarkable effectiveness of EFT encouraged me to write this article. Though it is significantly longer than usual, I hope it is a blessing. (And hey, most of you are supposed to be staying home and sheltering in place right now, so you have time to learn something new! You’re welcome.)
Our Emotional Brain
Without getting too technical, the limbic system is part of our brain that helps us process emotions. The amygdala and hippocampus are two parts of the limbic system, and they are responsible for helping us feel safe. Sometimes though, this delicate mechanism in our minds is hijacked and we are thrown into a state of panic, fear, or overwhelm when really there is nothing to be frightened or worried about. Our physiological response is disproportionate to the circumstance as biochemically we have signaled a fight/flight/freeze reaction. Essentially, we’ve moved ourselves into meltdown mode.
It is in this moment that tapping can interrupt and neutralize this physical overreaction. How? We use the body to calm the body. Because it’s actually a physiological trigger with excess amounts of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline being released when it’s not needed, we can use a physiological technique to address it.
This is why tapping – that is, pressing gently – on certain points of our head and upper body can efficiently and effectively relax us into a state of calm. Hundreds of university research projects show why EFT works so well in releasing various traumas, including anxiousness, fears, and persistent sadness. It brings us back to the present moment, the eternal now of God. And right here, we are safe. Right now, in this moment, we are okay. Scientifically speaking, we are moving ourselves from high-level beta brainwaves into the slower, meditative, alpha brainwave state.
I have asked my friend, Ann Musico, to share her experience of tapping with you. She is a Spirit-filled Christian and has been certified by Impact International School of Ministry as a Biblically-Based EFT Level II Practitioner. Ann writes…
Does This Feel Familiar?
I’m afraid I can’t protect my family.
I’m afraid someone I love may get sick and die.
I’m afraid I won’t be able to continue providing for my family.
What if I lose my home/job/savings/business?
I’m afraid the world won’t go back to what it was before all this happened.
I’m afraid I am not smart enough or strong enough to get through this.
Will things ever be “normal” again?
I’m afraid my life will always feel unsettled.
Sadness, grief, fear, anxiety, alarm, anger, apprehension, foreboding, uneasiness, panic, overwhelm and uncertainty…
Have you experienced any of these feelings? As a person of faith, perhaps you feel ashamed and condemned that you shouldn’t be feeling like this. Well, let me clarify a few things right off the bat. We are ALL experiencing feelings we don’t usually because we are living through a once-in-our-lifetime occurrence right now. Since the Corona virus outbreak our sense of stability has been rocked. So many people and families have been negatively impacted. Those are the facts.
As believers we know the One Who is ultimately in control and that truth is powerful. However, many committed Christians are wondering why prayer and faith confessions that always brought peace are not having the same effect now.
Faith doesn’t exempt us from experiencing any of those feelings listed above. We all have different life experiences, temperaments and triggers so our perceptions vary. What throws me into a panic may be nothing to you. We are unique, one-of-a-kind masterpieces but we all have our humanity in common. We are all flesh and blood human beings who are affected by what is happening around us.
Putting up a good front and pretending we are not fearful or anxious is a waste of time. Father God already knows the truth so who are we really fooling? We experience negativity in differing degrees on a daily basis. Ignoring and denying our feelings serves no purpose and only harms us. God calls us to be honest, to acknowledge what we feel to Him and allow Him to transform those feelings.
I have found that EFT is a simple and extremely effective way to address those feelings, in the moment. This energy medicine modality is science, based on how God designed our bodies to work. I have used it myself and with my family and clients who were in the midst of their own chaotic situations. Consider this powerful testimony:
“A while back, I was going through a really tough time. On the outside, I presented a calm appearance, but inside I felt very overwhelmed and extremely anxious! Honestly, I wasn’t sure the EFT would help me, I felt such heaviness. Trusting Ann, I thought it was worth a try. My experience with the EFT appointment was truly amazing!!! The way Ann uses prayer and asks key questions, helped me gain insight and clarified why I was feeling so anxious. Afterwards, I immediately felt more relaxed. It was as if a giant weight was lifted off of me. I also felt exhausted!! I had such a good night’s sleep that night! The next day, I felt so much better, clearer and calmer.” – Joanne M.
We know excessive fear and anxiety are damaging and destructive, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. They can damage our gut and weaken our immune system, the bulk of which resides in our gut! What we have to keep in mind is that we are energetic beings. Every thought and emotion releases specific chemicals and stress hormones that impact our physical health. Therefore, addressing our emotions (energy in motion) can calm those feelings and interrupt the release of those chemicals so we are better able to pray in faith and receive the peace and direction of God.
But how do we interrupt and neutralize these anxious feelings that can constantly run on a loop through our thoughts? I believe tapping is a tool given to us by God to do just that. EFT essentially quiets down the body and addresses the underlying physical and emotional aspects. Think of it as flipping a switch, putting yourself into receiving mode. 1 Peter 5:7 says “Cast your anxieties upon Him, because He cares for you.” EFT calms the body and the brain, allowing us to cast our anxieties upon Him and receive His love, His forgiveness and His care.
What Happens During a Session?
In using EFT for myself and with clients, there are a few things I always do. I begin by asking the Holy Spirit to lead the session. He knows best what triggers or issues need to be addressed and inviting Him is always my first step. We always begin with a setup, self-acceptance statement where we set forth the feeling we are dealing with. For example: “Even though I am afraid I won’t be able to protect my loved ones during this outbreak, I trust God is in control; I love and accept myself and how I feel, and I know God loves me.”
You can word the setup in any way that feels authentic and comfortable for you. It’s often helpful to say where in your body you experience the feeling. For example, “Even though I am afraid I won’t be able to protect my loved ones during this outbreak, and I have a sick feeling in my stomach and tightness in my chest, I trust God…”
We always tap on the negative. I realize this is difficult for most Christians because we have been trained to focus on the good, the positive and what God is doing. In this instance, unless we acknowledge the negative feelings, while tapping on the meridian points, we will not directly interrupt and neutralize them. You might then tap on: so afraid, so overwhelmed, feeling helpless, don’t know what to do.
Tapping in Truth
Once we have thoroughly tapped on everything the Holy Spirit reveals about what we are feeling, and feel our anxiety level has dropped, I like to just stop. Take a few deep breaths, and then do a few rounds tapping on any truths Holy Spirit highlights to me. I always like to end on the positive. For instance, continuing with the earlier example, I might tap on one or several of these Scripture-based promises:
Jesus is still in control; He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
My eyes are on Jesus and He always leads me to victory. (1 Corinthians 15:57)
I keep my mind focused on God’s faithfulness. (Hebrews 13:5)
God only has good plans for our future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
The Lord My God stands before me to defend me and my family. (Isaiah 41:10)
Every good and perfect gift comes to me from my Father, Who never changes. (James 1:17)
My angels have gone ahead of me. They guard me and bring me to the place prepared for me. (Exodus 23:20)
God is working this out for our good and His glory. (Romans 8:28)
I choose to feel I am complete and capable. (Philippians 4:13)
Forgetting what lies behind, I move forward, pressing on toward the future. (Philippians 3:13-14)
You really can’t do this wrong as long as you are honest about your feelings. Don’t focus so much on crafting a perfect statement or choosing perfect words. Deeply feel your feelings as you tap, be specific and trust the Holy Spirit to reveal whatever else you need to address as you tap on the points.
What I hope you will take away from this is that tapping is a powerful tool we have been given to help us release negative emotions and allow God to replace them with His truth. Done in this manner, EFT is a God-honoring healing modality. The beauty of it is that you can easily learn how to tap very quickly and so use it whenever the need arises.
I offer a free 15-minute tapping session for anyone who is interested in learning more and feels that having someone tap with them the first time would be helpful.
Want to Learn More?
If you feel overwhelmed and need help, I encourage you to reach out to Ann or another Christian EFT Practitioner. Sessions can be done over the phone or via Skype or Zoom, so you can connect from your home anywhere in the world.
To discover more about tapping from a scriptural perspective, grab a copy of our book, EFT for Christians – Tapping into God’s Peace and Joy. This is a great place to start learning how to use tapping as a God-given “self-help technique” and begin practicing at home.
And if you prefer to listen and watch, Dr. Jim Richards and I recorded 24 sessions of live teaching on EFT at his annual Heart Physics conference and you can check out those digital resources here. This is excellent for counselors and others who wish to understand more of the science behind EFT and add another tool to their healing toolbox.
Most of all, please know that you don’t have to suffer with anxiety, fear, sadness, or stress.
Scripture reveals that even David, the mighty warrior and worshipper, became “greatly distressed”. But not for long. He addressed those unwanted feelings and strengthened himself in the Lord (1 Sam. 30:6). We can do the same. If you are struggling with negative emotions and what you’ve been doing hasn’t helped, why not try something else?
Find out if EFT works for you and tap into God’s peace and joy today.