Jessica Ortner is a New York Times bestselling author of the book The Tapping Solution for Weight Loss and Body Confidence and the co-creator of The Tapping Solution App, which is an amazing tool, especially during this time when there is so much anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have excerpts from a discussion Jairek Robbins had with her about her book and the app.
Can’t Watch? Read The Transcript Below!
JR: For people who don’t understand the tapping solution, could you start by giving us a little background about how it all started and how it works?
Jessica Ortner: It is important for us to start by talking about stress, especially now with this pandemic, the lockdowns and all the other bad things associated with this situation. It is causing people a lot of stress. When we have an anxious thought, it’s not just an experience that we have in our head, we feel it with our whole body. The tightness in the chest, the bad feeling in our stomach, the headaches, the back pain. Our body really feels this stress. The reason why we feel this way is that a part of our brain called the amygdala is firing off the fight or flight response.
This is a very helpful response if you are on a hike and you see a rattlesnake and you have to react immediately. You can fight the rattlesnake or flee from it before it causes you harm. The overproduction of cortisol makes this response useful.
However, right now, what is happening? We are reading the news, our lives are upside down, we have friends who are getting infected by the virus and although we may be safe right now, we are still having that fight or flight response.
While we are having the old programmed fight or flight response, we cannot fight the virus or flee from it. The stress is causing chronic anxiety, which in turn is affecting our immune system and compromising our ability to be resourceful and creative.
We need to be grounded and tuned to solve problems at this time, but the stress can’t let that happen. It is easy to imagine that we can think our way out of this problem, but the challenge is that as the amygdala is firing, it denies the prefrontal cortex energy to apply reason and logic to the situation because the immediate priority is to be safe from the threat posed by the stressor.
What we are really doing with the tapping solution is that we are using the body to let the brain know that we are safe. By thinking a negative thought and concentrating on it, and then stimulating the acupressure points on the face (the temple, just below the eye, top part between the eyes, etc.) and body, you are rewiring your reaction so that you can still think that negative thought while remaining present in your body without losing your sense of calm.
When we feel calm and empowered, we remain in control and can navigate the negative situation. This doesn’t mean it is easy, but we are better able to connect with our resourceful sides in order to deal with the situation. So the tapping solution is an incredible technique to relieve stress from the body.
JR: That’s wonderful, because I was just sharing something with some people and drawing for them a little triangle indicating the three places that stress resides. The mind, the emotions and the body. When we are faced with a problem, such as a large animal drooling from just behind our heads, we may try to use our mind by saying positive things to ourselves about the situation, but the reality is that the stress will still be seated in our bodies and emotions since the logical part of our brain is switched off by the activity of the amygdala, so none of the positive stuff we try to say will have any effect. The only true way out is to find a way to get the stress out of our bodies and then work towards liberating the mind from the stress as well. So the tapping solution is really a good way to do that.
JO: That’s so true, and I think the challenge that so many of us face, especially those of us who are into personal development and know how empowering reframing situations is, and so at times when we are anxious, we sometimes fight ourselves. We say I shouldn’t be upset, I shouldn’t be feeling this way, I should think this way because we know where we want to move towards. But like you say, it is hard to do it because the body is still in that state of panic.
And so tapping is this combination of these Chinese acupressure points but also modern psychology because we are beginning to discover the power of accepting how you feel. The power of saying even though I am anxious, I honor how I feel, I accept these feelings. When you combine this acceptance with the tapping, you stop that fight in your mind regarding how you think you should feel and you allow yourself to be with your feelings, to experience them, and then have the power to move through them with something like tapping.
My hope is that by the time we finish our little session together, everyone watching will feel comfortable enough that they have this tool that they can use.
But let me say something really important before we start. Oftentimes, we learn something new and end up making it more difficult than it needs to be. We want to make it so perfect. We want to master it. Tapping is such an incredibly forgiving technique. For instance, you can remember just half of the acupressure points and still end up with a very relaxed body.
So I want you to go into this learning experience with an open mind and willingness to experiment now and later when you are feeling anxious.
When it comes to tapping, the first thing is to get really clear on what’s bothering you. This is as simple as taking a deep breath and asking yourself what you are feeling, and what’s going on. Sometimes it’s very clear. Other times it’s simply a physical experience of “I’m so anxious.”
So, what do you do to start? You tap on the side of your hand, and it doesn’t matter which hand you start with. As you are doing so, utter the setup statement, which is “Even though…” and you state what is going on (even though I have this anxiety, I honor how I feel, I accept how I feel). This is a moment of acceptance and it is setting you up for the rest of the process.
What I am now going to do is to talk you through the rest of the acupressure points and then we will jump into a tapping experience together.
The next acupressure point after the side of the arm is the eyebrow point. This is located where the hair of your eyebrow begins in the middle of your eyes. You can tap on both sides or you can tap on just one side of this point. Tap lightly using two fingers.
The next point is on the side of the eye right on the bone below the temples, and the next is right underneath the eye. By the way, have you noticed that when you are stressed you touch between your eyes or you put your hand on your chest? We intuitively go for these acupressure points when we are faced with stressful situations.
The next acupressure point is underneath the nose, right between the nose and your upper lip while another point is underneath the mouth. This is in the crease found between your chin and the lower lip.
Another point is found below your collar bone. You can locate these points by moving your finger about an inch down from the end of your throat, and then about an inch and a half to the left or right from that location. If you aren’t sure whether you have correctly located this acupressure point, you can use your whole hand and tap your chest in that general area.
There is also a point underneath your arm which is about a hand-width below from your armpit. Another is at the top of the head.
So those are the nine points and no matter what you are facing, you can use those nine points while you address how you feel.
When it comes to tapping, you always start where you are. You don’t want to just jump to the positive. Start by experiencing what is happening, be honest with how you feel, and when you are feeling better, such as below 5 on a scale of 0-10, you can begin to move to something more empowering.
Remember, tapping sends these calming signals to the brain so if you are having a stressing thought and you start tapping, you relax the body and you can take a step back and see things in a new way.
If you are already calm and you think a positive thought, tapping can help you relax even deeper into that thought. So, that’s really what we are doing here. We start with where we are first, and then we can move to something more empowering if it feels right. If all you do is tap while you are honest about how you feel, you’re going to have a breakthrough.
Now, let’s have an experience altogether. Right now, for many of us life feels upside down. For people with kids, they don’t have childcare and they are trying to work, there’s a lot of fear and uncertainty. Let’s take a moment and check in with how our body is physically doing with everything that’s going on.
Take a nice deep breath and notice where you are holding tension and anxiety in your body. It is in your throat, your chest, or your stomach? On a scale of 0-10, how intense is that tension or anxiety? Once you have your number indicating how much anxiety is affecting your body, we can now move to doing some tapping!
Take a nice deep breath, and really commit to doing this by putting your phone somewhere so that you leave your hands free. Tap on the side of your hand while repeating after me out loud or silently in your mind, “Even though life feels overwhelming, I accept all these feelings, and I give my body permission to relax. Even though I’m feeling all this tension in my body because life feels overwhelming, I honor how I feel and I give my body permission to relax. Even though I’ve been feeling all this anxiety, I accept these feelings as I begin to relax my body.”
Now we are going to tap on the eyebrow point. As you do so, repeat after me the words that I am going to say to give this anxiety a voice in order to release the tension. Here we go, “All of this anxiety…” then move to the point on the side of the eye and say, “life feels upside down,” then tapping under the eye “…and it is hard to relax,” tap under the nose and say “…with so much going on,” then tap under the mouth while saying, “…with all of this stress,” now tap the chest area point and say “all of this tension,” under the arm “all of this uncertainty,” top of the head “feeling this anxiety in my body,” eyebrow “feeling the weight of the world,” side of the eye “it’s safe to be honest with my feelings,” under the eye “all of this anxiety,” under the nose “all of this tension,” under the mouth “it feels impossible to relax,” below the collar bone “with everything that’s going on,” under the arm “I honor how hard this has been,” top of the head “and I’m open to the idea,” eyebrow “that it’s safe to begin to relax,” side of the eye “even before anything changes,” under the eye “I give my body permission to relax,” under the nose “even though I don’t have all of the answers,” under the mouth “right now and right here,” collar bone “I am safe,” under the arm “right now and right here,” top of the head “I am safe,” eyebrow “I honor how hard this has been,” side of the eye “and I allow my body to relax,” under the eye “even though so much is uncertain,” under the nose “it’s safe to relax,” under the mouth “I am more powerful than I realize,” collarbone “I have been through so much,” under the arm “and I will make it through this,” top of the head “giving my body permission to relax.”
Now take a nice deep breath and exhale while moving your shoulders slightly as you notice that the tension you felt before can now allow you to breathe a little deeper, your shoulders are a little lower. On a 0-10 scale, check in again and see whether there was a shift in the tension and anxiety you were feeling.
At times, what happens as we begin to tap is that we gain more clarity as to what is bothering us. When we tell our brain that we are safe even amid the uncertainty and lack of answers, we get to a place where we gain clarity on what we need to do in the circumstances.
It is amazing what results people can experience in a general session like this, yet we have an app that people can go to and tap for ten minutes. Some people do it once and achieve the relaxation they need while some people may need to do it more than once.
We also have this anti-anxiety tapping meditation. This particular meditation has so far registered more than 260,000 plays for this alone. Just as we did a 0-10 measurement before and after the tapping, we also do the same in the app and for an average of nine minutes, users are indicating at least 41% shift in their anxiety or stress.
We have another one called “quieting my racing mind” and it has already had 119,000 plays for this 10 minute audio. This has also resulted in a 49% reduction in the racing minds of the users.
And so I really invite people, after having a taste of the technique that probably helped reduce anxiety from 9 to 4, to experiment with this and really try it a little more.
Currently, the Tapping Solution App has an entire free section on releasing the anxiety associated with the coronavirus situation. There’s also a tapping meditation that can help you to release all the tension so that you can become productive at your job or business if you are still working.
All you need to do is go to the Play store or App store and download the app. The app has an avatar to remind you about where you need to tap, so there’s no need for you to memorize all the acupressure points.
JR: Is there tapping for weight loss?
JO: Yes, in fact, you mentioned that I was a bestselling author. I wrote a book about tapping for weight loss and body confidence. I personally struggled with my weight and confidence since I was 15 years old. For years, I was trying to criticize myself thin and hate myself happy because I was stuck on the idea that it was all about willpower and that if I could muster enough willpower then I could do it.
But I kept repeating this pattern where I could really be motivated to do a diet and then when that started getting overwhelming then I would dive right back into binge eating. When you have trouble with your own feelings, sometimes food is the only escape. The self-sabotage comes masked as self-love because as you indulge, that is the only time you feel pleasure. And now many people are doing exactly that during this pandemic.
The self-criticism and self-hate will not change anything. However, there’s incredible research showing that when you tap to address food cravings, brain scans performed using MRI indicate that the parts of the brain associated with pleasure and enjoyment no longer light up in the same way that they used to before the tapping was done.
And so in the tapping solutions app I have a whole section dedicated to cravings. The shame won’t work, the diets won’t work. You need to deal with it with compassion and love, and the book together with my app provide a way to approach this.
JR: This is so true and important because my mum struggled a lot with it and I saw it was attempts to fix it with a pill, a tab, a diet, a trend, the next hottest or coolest fad and nothing worked. The really helpful thing is to slow down and you get to being real with what’s at the bottom of it, and when you release that, you realize all of a sudden, brain imaging will show that your physical brain will respond differently to the way you used to respond in the past, and that is the real change we are looking for.
JO: That is right. We think we don’t have the willpower to beat something but in reality, we have built some emotional associations with that thing and these prevent us from making the changes that we want. It isn’t that we lack willpower. Personally, I realized I wasn’t even getting that much pleasure from eating all that food because I would eat it so fast before the emotions of guilt and shame flooded me. And so stepping back helps us get to the bottom of it all and then we find a way out of the trap.
Today, I’m not on any diet and I eat what I want, but I feel I am in control and that’s the difference. I don’t feel like I’m depriving myself. This is because I looked at the emotional aspects.
What is interesting is that the reactions in the brain have nothing to do with whether you are hungry or not. Once you look at the ice cream, your brain will light up even if you have just eaten and aren’t hungry.
Let me connect this to an experience that happened way back before I got married. I went on a date with this marketing guy and in our conversation, he told me that they go into homes and try to figure out what associations families have, for example, Americans love to have a meal, get their dessert and sort of sneak off to enjoy it on their own. In contrast, Latinos treasure family and coming together, so marketers manipulate this to position something as a driver to bringing people together in order to appeal to the Latino market. It is all sneaky and manipulative, and that is how we form what we call our childhood.
JR: You also mentioned something about body image, and I recalled that while I was traveling in different countries around the world, I would notice the images on billboards. I asked the locals whether the people on the billboards where from those specific countries (Panama, Ecuador, Sweden, etc.). and the people from Ecuador, for instance, would say no, those individuals on the billboards seem to be from Brazil, and the people in Brazil would also say, no, those people on the billboards seem to be from Panama or some other place.
I realized there was hardly a billboard that used people from the same country in which the billboard was. I observed that the marketers were selling something physiologically impossible with the intention that the people would keep buying those products hoping that they would one day resemble the individuals on the billboards. No wonder people have issues! So tapping is one of the ways you can kind of release those under the surface anxieties.
JO: Exactly. When I had weight issues, it was so physical that however much I told myself that my weight didn’t matter, deep within me I felt this wasn’t true. I was actually shattered when a mentor I respected a lot told me no one would listen to me until I lost weight.
Tapping forced me to accept myself, and in the beginning I would cry because I didn’t want to accept myself the way I was. I wanted to change myself! However, acceptance allowed me to break free from all those different rules and stuff going on in my head and that was when I started to make progress towards becoming what I wanted to become.
JR: Can tapping help even if you haven’t acknowledged the real source of your anxiety?
JO: Absolutely. Let me tell you a story real quick. Back in the day before I started tapping, I was sick with a cold and my brother came and told me he’d learned about this weird thing that he thought I needed to try. I started tapping in the way he showed me, and I almost immediately started feeling calm, which tapping always does. However, I suddenly stopped and told him I didn’t want to get better. And he was like what do you mean?
I had realized that I was doing everything right but nothing was happening for me so I just needed a break. I hadn’t consciously decided to get the cold, but it was my body acting on its own to give me the break that I wanted or needed. Speaking those words made me burst into tears because they were so real and I had an emotional as well as physical reaction to the words.
So, this is what I recommend. Even if you don’t know what’s at the bottom of your stress or anxiety, just do some simple tapping and as your body calms down, you can ask yourself what is really bothering you and you will get some answers.
Another aspect is, even if you don’t get the clarity about the cause of your anxiety, you will at least nurture yourself and will benefit from the moments of calm brought by the tapping. Actually, there’s a nurse at Yale Hospital whose husband contracted the coronavirus, she also got it and so did her young daughter. One night, she woke up at 2am in the midst of a panic attack and immediately switched on her computer, went to the section of the app devoted to dealing with anxiety associated with the pandemic and she tapped along to the meditation. Her panic attack subsided just like that and she could now think clearly about the situation.
JR: That is really cool because it allows stuff that was hidden deep within to slowly come to the surface and then be released. So, I want all you guys to grab a copy of the book The Tapping Solution for Weight Loss and Body Confidence. Two, go to the app store (Google or Apple) and download the app then go to the free section on releasing coronavirus anxiety. Use it with the ones you love and while it may seem weird at first, they will soon be like wow, I feel better after doing that! If you know someone struggling with anxiety in this moment, send them a link so that we can have a lot more people calming down instead of freaking out. Thank you Jessica for being with us today, thank you everyone for tuning in, I will see you all next time!
To Your Success,