A nurse wakes in the night in profound anxiety, she can’t breathe, her first panic attack. Her husband is quarantined with COVID19; while she works the frontlines at a large hospital, witnessing what looks like the apocalypse. She begins a series of gentle, EFT Tapping exercises. After three brief rounds, she’s through the panic, able to once again relax.
Nick Ortner is the CEO of The Tapping Solution, LLC, and my guest today on NFFM. Tapping is such a simple, elegant, immediate solution to the profound anxiety that comes with the out-of-control stress, fear and economic panic intrinsic in the COVID pandemic. With the Tapping Solution app (full access is available to healthcare providers for free), we can ground ourselves as needed. And for the data hounds among us (yes, that would be me); the app is tracking outcome. Over 1.5 million sessions have been conducted using the app. Regarding COVID19 specific exercises, Nick reports a couple of things: 1. Stress is at an all-time high 2. There is a daily average 45% reduction in the experience of stress after TAP exercises. You will enjoy this in-depth interview with Nick, and takeaway immediate tools to put to use for yourself and your patients. Let me know what you think, and please rate and review wherever you’re listening to New Frontiers. ~DrKF
The Tapping Solution, A Technique to Lower Cortisol and Reduce Stress
As the COVID crisis sweeps the globe, people’s anxiety and stress are rising, which is an expected response to a scary situation. But high cortisol levels interfere with our ability to get sufficient, high-quality sleep and hinder optimal immune system function. In this episode of New Frontiers, Dr. Fitzgerald talks with the CEO of The Tapping Solution, Nick Ortner, about the company’s work to bring emotional freedom technique tapping to the mainstream. Dr. Fitzgerald and Ortner also move through two tapping experiences to give listeners real-time practice in the technique. Ortner is the author of two New York Times bestselling books and his company has just launched a new app, which is making the company’s powerful stress-reducing meditations available to front-line responders and healthcare workers for free for six months.
In this podcast you’ll learn about:
- How tapping works to calm the stress response system and lower cortisol
- The new Tapping Solution app and its uses during the COVID crisis
- Why tapping might be especially helpful before bed
- Tapping as a combination of ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology
- Raw data on tapping’s ability to lower cortisol
- The different meditations offered through The Tapping Solution app
Nicolas Ortner is CEO of The Tapping Solution, LLC, a company with a mission to bring EFT Tapping into the mainstream. He is the New York Times bestselling author of “The Tapping Solution: A Revolutionary System for Stress-Free Living,” and “The Tapping Solution for Pain Relief: A Step-by-Step Guide to Reducing and Eliminating Chronic Pain.” He also created and produced the breakthrough documentary film “The Tapping Solution,” which follows ten people who used tapping to overcome significant challenges. Nick has also produced first-of-their-kind online programs that teach easy, effective ways to apply tapping to anything limiting a person’s life or health. This includes, The “Tapping World Summit,” a free, annual worldwide online event that has been attended by over 2.5 million people. Most recently, Nick has developed The Tapping Solution App! With this incredible app, Nick has connected so many people with the amazing power of EFT Tapping by literally bringing it into the palm of everyone’s hand.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Hey everybody. Welcome to New Frontiers in Functional Medicine, where we are interviewing the best minds in functional medicine and today is no exception. In fact, I think there’s an urgency around my podcast today because we’re in the middle of this COVID pandemic. And one of the biggest fallouts I’m witnessing among our patients here at the clinic, my friends, my family, my colleagues, the other practitioners here, the other physicians in nutrition team here at the clinic is so much stress. So today just directly addressing this undercurrent of profound anxiety. We’re going to jump into a conversation with Nick Ortner. Actually, we’re going to jump right into doing some tapping exercises and then we’re going to talk a little bit about the crime scenes of tapping and some of the science they’re doing. Nick Ortner, as most of you probably know, is the CEO of The Tapping Solution.
His company is just dedicated to bringing emotional freedom technique tapping into the mainstream. He’s a New York Times bestselling author, two books, introducing tapping which are called The Tapping Solution, A Revolutionary System For Stress Free Living and The Tapping Solution For Pain Relief: A Step By Step Guide To Reducing And Eliminating Chronic Pain. They’ve done actually wildly successful summits. They’ve got a beautiful documentary on The Tapping Solution which tracks 10 people using tapping to overcome significant challenges. And they just launched an app.
And, in fact, the app is available to healthcare providers, which comprises the bulk of our audience here. And so this is available to you and you’ll find all of these details on the show notes. Nick is actually a neighbor here in Sandy Hook and he and I have grown close over the years. One of the things that is so cool about tapping is this really extraordinary body of evidence behind it. There’s quite a few publications and now with the app they are in real time collecting extraordinary data. Nick, welcome to New Frontiers.
Nick Ortner: Kara, thank you for having me on. We’ve scheduled this months ago when the world was quieter and simpler and not dealing with everything that’s happening now. But I’m glad we’re finally talking because I think this is more timely than ever.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: That’s right, there’s an absolute urgency to it. And as I just said to you before I hit the record button, I’m feeling like I need to be grounded in some tapping. So, Nick, can you just walk us through an exercise to get a little bit grounded and present here and then we’ll move in?
Nick Ortner: Absolutely. We’re going to do some tapping and then we’ll look into the science behind it and why we’re doing what we’re doing. But for now, let’s just start with an experience. With tapping, the first thing we do is just tune into what we want to change. What state do we have right now that we want to shift in some way, anxiety is a great place to start for many of us right now.
Just overall stress is another place. If we look at the definition of stress, there’s two components always in a stressful situation. It’s uncertainty and lack of control, uncertainty and lack of control. And if we think about this pandemic, that is exactly what we’re all feeling. We don’t know what’s next and we don’t know what we can do about it. We are stressed beyond belief. So tune into your body. I know I’m not telling you things that you don’t know already and just tune into anxiety or stress and ask yourself on a scale of zero to ten, how anxious or how stressed am I?
Maybe take a gentle breath in and just notice any sensations in your body, any tightness, any constriction in your breath, any holding on. We give that a number, the anxiety, the stress. And then we’ll get into the tapping itself. We start by tapping on the side of the hand. It’s called the karate chop point and it’s below the pinky on the outside of the hand. So just take four fingers of one hand to tap on the other, whatever hand feels comfortable for you and you’re just tapping repeatedly while we focus on these statements, on the problem at hand. So tapping on the side of the hand. Repeat after me, either in your mind or out loud, even though I have all this stress in my body, I choose to relax and feel safe now.
And we’re going to continue tapping on the side of the hand, tuning into that stress, that anxiety, that overwhelm. Even though I have all this stress stuck in my body, I choose to relax and feel safe now. Tapping gently, breathing gently, we’re going to do that one more time. Even though I’m feeling so much stress and anxiety, I choose to relax now.
Now we’ll tap through the points. Now the first points are on the face, and if you haven’t listened to this podcast in your car and you just went to the grocery store, skip these points. Wash your hands, let’s be very diligent about that here. But if you’d been washing your hands or you’ve been home like many of us, you can just tap away. So the first point is the eyebrow point. It’s on the inside of the eyebrow where the hair ends and it meets the nose just tapping gently with two fingers on one side or both sides. The meridians run down both sides of the body and I want you to just tune in to that anxiety in your body. Just notice it. Be present to these thoughts and feelings to the stress and anxiety.
Then we move to the side of the eye. It’s not at the temple, a little further in and right on the bone. Again, one side or both sides, tapping gently, breathing gently. Under the eye, right on the bone, we focus on the negative, the truth about how we’re feeling, the stress, the anxiety, all the overwhelm we’re feeling. And as we do this tapping, we’re sending a calming signal to the amygdala telling the brain the body that it’s safe. Under the nose, tapping gently tuning into this stress. Be present to how you feel now.
Under the mouth. It’s a little crease above the chin, below that lip, right in that crease there. Tapping, breathing, feeling safe in your body. There’s so much going on. So many decisions to make so much information coming at us, so much uncertainty. Allow your body to feel that, to process that, to begin to let it go. We have three points left for the collarbone point, just feel for the two little bones of the collarbone, you can tap with all ten fingers of both hands right below those bones. Tapping gently, feeling safe and grounded in your body. Underneath the arm, three inches underneath the armpit, either side of the body.
Tapping, breathing, letting go of that anxiety, feeling safe in your body. And the last point right at the top of the head on the crown, tapping gently, noticing how you begin to let go, to relax, to feel safe. And now you can gently stop tapping and take a breath in and let it go. And that is one very simple round of tapping. Then we check back in, so we look at that original anxiety number. Maybe it was an eight and now it’s a seven or a six or five. And then we notice what else came up and we continue the process again. That was really short just to get us grounded and releasing some of that stress, but we can keep going until we get the results that we’re looking for.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Thank you so much. That really helped, oh my goodness. We adjusted these questions not only to address COVID, but because today was a little bit of a high-volume day for me and I didn’t sleep well last night. And again, when we were talking before, you mentioned a friend of yours, a local nurse whose husband now has COVID and he’s in quarantine and she experienced her first ever panic attack and was using your app, I think. Did you say, in the middle of the night?
Nick Ortner: Yeah. Well, let me just read you this text because I think it just shows what people are dealing with. So, I get this two days ago, “Hey, I have to thank you. I had a panic attack last night at 2:00 AM. I’ve never had one before like that. It was pretty bad. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and was shaking and my teeth were chattering. A lot of my friends keep reaching out to me in complete debilitating anxiety and I think I’m an empath and I just take it all on. And the million daily scary emails from work don’t help.” She’s a nurse at Yale. Anyway, “I listened to your panic attack tap one on the app and it immediately calmed me down like immediately.” Then she mentioned that her husband, “Talked to me for a while after I did it twice and I was better. Seriously, thank you so much for what you do. I don’t know what else I would have done without your work.” Sorry, it was choking me up a little.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: It’s lovely. I noticed that for some reason I had, just full disclosure, I felt a little teary eyed when you were just doing that first tap. I think it’s because I need to tune in. We’ve been moving at a breakneck pace here, generating content, supporting our patients, our families, et cetera. We’ve taken it on, just disseminating information and it’s important and it’s rewarding.
Nick Ortner: And just recognizing that, hey, especially for us troopers, Type-A, move forward what you’re doing. Let’s get it done, let’s serve recognizing that this is a big deal. That’s what that text was. She woke up at 2:00 AM with a panic attack because she just been taking everything on and just being tough and taking charge and taking a moment for the doctors and the nurses and the first responders listening to this podcast and everybody to say this is a lot. It’s okay to acknowledge that this was a lot and what can we do to quiet some of that noise to find some peace and to move from there.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Yeah, absolutely. Beautiful. So again, on our show notes, folks, we will link to all things Tapping Solution, including how to get the app, how to have access to it so that you, if you need it in the middle of the night, which actually I want to try and I’m going to send you my own text actually with how it goes.
Nick Ortner: Yeah, no, especially before bed. It’s just so great before bed. Hopefully you’re not waking up at 2:00 AM. One thing to note in particular, the app is free to download on Android or iPhone. There’s probably about 25 free meditations in there right now. We created specific ones for coronavirus anxiety. We have four for kids for coronavirus anxiety. And then we’re also making it free for six months for healthcare workers and first responders. The premium app, which has about 200 meditations, that’s free for anyone doing this important work. We’ll put the links in the show notes to that specifically as well so you can make sure to sign up.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: One of the things I was really impressed with when I podcasted with your sister, Jessica, a while ago, it was maybe 2017 already. But as I started to understand what you guys were doing and your commitment, I was blown away by your commitment to really gathering data and generating some publications. And you’ve been generous enough to send me a bunch of studies and we’ll include those references again on our show notes. And now you’re gathering phenomenal amounts of data from the app. Well actually what if you want to just give a little background on tapping and then speak about some of the science behind it.
Nick Ortner: Yeah, absolutely. So that little process that we did is called tapping or EFT, emotional freedom technique. I discovered it for myself personally about 17 years ago. I used it with friends and family. The running joke at the time was, “Don’t say anything is wrong around Nick because he’s going to make you tap on it.” I was like, “What will this work on next?” A couple of years later. In 2007 I decided to make a documentary film about tapping that you mentioned, that was out in 2008. And we’ve spent the last 12 years now just sort of spreading the word on this technique. It’s a combination of ancient Chinese acupressure. That’s that tapping component and modern psychology.
And what the latest research has shown is that when we tap on these end points of meridians, I mentioned it a little bit when we did the tapping, we send a calming signal to the amygdala. We tell the fight, flight or freeze response that it’s okay, which is why we begin by focusing on the anxiety. We actually want to acknowledge this is how I feel and then we affix on that counteracting signal to the body to say, “Okay, it is safe.” We acknowledge how we feel, we do the tapping, we move on from it.
The data is coming in fast and furious. I actually just saw a new study. This was actually a replication study, which is always great to see that they’re doing that. Came out about a week ago. And this study looked at salivary cortisol. So really simple. Let’s do cortisol before tapping and then do an hour of tapping and then do cortisol afterwards. There was a two control groups. One was a psycho education group, so I don’t know what they did exactly, but I imagine they talked about stress and how to manage things in life and just talking about it.
And the other group was a total control group where they sat in a waiting room reading magazines for an hour. So the tapping group had a 43% decrease in cortisol in an hour. Kara, I know you know cortisol well and you’re familiar with it. That’s a stunning drop to go that quickly, in an hour. The psycho education group had a 19% drop, so they learn things and they relaxed. Again, the 43% is just so much higher, clearly. But then I think my favorite, why I sort of love this study is that the control group, their cortisol actually went up 2% so sitting there reading magazines, they were probably reading stressful stuff somewhere. And news or this, that and the other or just waiting and stressful, so their cortisol went up. So the difference between sitting there for an hour and tapping, a 45% difference between the two in salivary cortisol.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: That’s so interesting. And of course, again, circling back to COVID, and you and I were chatting about this earlier, the effect of dumping cortisol is not benefiting our immune system at all.
Nick Ortner: No, it isn’t. Look, it’s hard to say to people, “Hey, you got to relax during this time. You got to you got to de-stress. There’s so much coming at us,” but it’s critical. It’s just as important as taking the great supplements that I know you’re recommending, that other practitioners are recommending. I think that stress component is just such a big piece. And then especially when we add the stress component with the sleep component, they tend to go hand in hand. So if you’re super stressed all day and then you’re not sleeping well on top of that because of that stress and because of the carry over into the nighttime routine, now you’re putting a lot of pressure on your body that it just doesn’t need right now.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: So, you did upload some COVID taps to the app. And you get immediate feedback, what are you seeing? How are folks responding to those new exercises?
Nick Ortner: We have some specific ones where we talk about it specifically. It’s one of the great things about the app that we can just release content immediately and it can serve people. There’s one on, we call it coronavirus stress and anxiety. It’s been played probably around 15,000 times so far. So we’ve got that dataset of 15,000 plays and we do that same zero to ten rating scale that start and the end. So we have data on those 15,000 plays and we’re seeing about a 45% decrease in anxiety in that ten minute meditation.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Wow, 45?
Nick Ortner: 45, 45. It changes day to day. Sometimes it’s up to 47 and down to 44. I don’t know if it’s the news or the people who are using it. I have data on the 1.6 million completed sessions on the app at this point, which is a just a stunning number growing every day, 1.6 million times someone did it. So I look at those numbers all the time and I could see that the starting point and anxiety has definitely gone up in the last month. So it’s like that’s the other thing that we can see trends. Some people are a lot more stressed out than they were.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Wow. Of course, God, what a gold mine of such important data. I’ve asked you this before, are you guys going to dive into that? You need a post doc. Where are you at with actually writing that up?
Nick Ortner: There is one paper that’s been written. I’ll send it to you. It hasn’t been published yet, it’s been submitted to publication, but you can see that that analyzed about 300,000 sessions on stress. But I’ll also send you the whole data set. Maybe there’s someone listening that wants to crunch it and make sense of it. For the coronavirus specifically we unlocked, for example, the stop a panic attack one that I mentioned, that nurse from Yale did. We unlocked that for free so anyone can use that during this time, and we unlocked about ten others. We probably have a data set there of 20 to 30,000 completed sessions just on this topic.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: And can you track individual users and how they responded overall? Do you have that level of granular detail? Obviously, you de-identify, but are you able to-
Nick Ortner: It’s all deidentified. We haven’t looked at it, it must be there because we give people their progress. You can go back and see how you’ve done on sessions.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: What about age and sex?
Nick Ortner: No age and sex collected by the app itself.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Okay. All right. So anybody interested in doing a deep dive, if there’s a PhD student or somebody who’s a biostatistician hanging out for who this data would compel you to work on it, I will absolutely connect you with, Nick.
Nick Ortner: And you know what’s interesting too, just again, so I can look for now, for example, we just released, we unlocked the I’m stressed about uncertainty meditation that we already had in the app, but we put it in this collection, the starting anxiety point or how stressed are you about uncertainty is 7.15 out of ten on that. Most of them we see sitting in the six range, just on a regular old day when people are pulling up the app for tapping. It’s a big change to see like people are having a really hard time and we understand why.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Yes. And economic anxiety must be, is obviously seeping in extraordinarily as well.
Nick Ortner: My sister, Jessica, who you mentioned and know really well is working on an economic anxiety around the coronavirus meditation now. We’re looking at everything and we welcome, especially from practitioners and nurses, we welcome suggestions on what people are seeing. We’re doing some specifically for people working in hospitals and for letting go of the day. Because we got a lot of feedback that people are like, “Look, I’m coming home after the most difficult day that I’ve ever had and I’m just having trouble letting it go.” So we’re trying to be as responsive as we can, as you are as well, with your content to what people are actually feeling and needing out there.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Okay. And so that would be on the app, again, and available to healthcare providers?
Nick Ortner: Yeah. And in case people are in the car, let me give you the link for the health care providers, six months free. It’s pretty easy. It just TheTappingSolutionApp.com/responder. You just put in name, email where you’re working, what you’re up to and then get free six months in the app.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Well, is there anything else that you want to walk us through with tapping? Can you think of another exercise we might do as we sort of head into wrapping up? And I just want to mention this, I don’t want to forget. When I worked with Jessica, when she and I podcasted together, she did a really nice exercise for hypertension that I suggested to providers to just use in the office, get your baseline measurement from your patient and then do the tapping exercise and then recheck. And I’ve got some great feedback, like immediate feedback that it was very helpful. Do you want to just comment on that before we jump in?
Nick Ortner: Well, absolutely. I mean I think we don’t have a blood pressure one in the app and it’d be tough to measure that, but as we know, they’re just relaxing, letting go, releasing the stress. I think something relevant here that we can do that’s similar is to do one on the lungs and opening up the breath. I know people who don’t have COVID and are just struggling to breathe and then because they’re so anxious and then they think that they might have it, but they just have anxiety. Obviously go get a diagnosis, talk to your healthcare provider. This is not a substitute for knowing what you have and getting treated properly. But once you do, when you feel comfortable with that, maybe this can help you breathe a little better.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Let’s do it.
Nick Ortner: All right, in that same check-in, let’s check in on our breath. Go ahead and take a gentle breath in and let it go.
Nick Ortner: And we’ll do one more and I want you to measure again on that zero to ten scale. The ten in this case, we’re going to look at how constricted your breath is. Ten would be bad, it’s really hard to breathe and zero would be, “Oh, it’s wide open. I can breathe beautifully.” Take a breath in and just notice how constricted, how tight is your breath? Is it down in your belly or is it up in your chest? And just give it a number. Don’t worry about getting it right, just whatever feels good to you.
So now we have our number and we’ll start tapping on the side of the hand again, the karate chop point. Repeat after me, either in your mind or out loud. “Even though I’m having trouble breathing, there’s so much anxiety in my chest. And with all of these feelings, I choose to feel safe now.” Still on the side of the hand. “Even though the situation is so overwhelming, I feel like I can’t breathe. But I choose to relax and feel safe now.” And one more time, still on the side of the hand. “Even though I have all the stress in my lungs, all this fear about what’s happening, I choose to relax and feel safe now.” Tapping through the points, eyebrow.
“All this stress in my lungs,” side of the eye, “This anxiety in my breath,” under the eye. “It’s safe to relax,” under the nose, “And release this stress,” under the mouth. “All this fear in my lungs,” collarbone, “All this grief in my lungs,” under the arm, “Around everything that’s happening,” top of the head. “It can be so overwhelming,” back to the eyebrow, “But I choose to relax.” Side of the eye, “To feel safe now,” under the eye, “To let go,” under the nose, “Breathing gently.” Under the mouth, “It’s safe to breathe,” collarbone, “I am safe.” Under the arm, “Letting go,” top of the head, “Right now.” And you can gently stop tapping and take a breath in and let it go. And now tune back in and let’s do another breath and tune into that constriction. Ten is the most constricted, zero wide open. Take a breath in and let it go. And just see how you feel. What shifted there for you? Kara, did your breath open up?
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Yeah it did, my breath was maybe about a seven when we started and through that journey, I would put it at a nine. It just feels really good. And that’s even with me as podcast host.
Nick Ortner: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Focusing on the podcast and what you’re doing. No, of course.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Thinking about my next question.
Nick Ortner: Yeah, of course.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: And I was actually aware of that. I was like, “Okay. I’m in the middle of recording a podcast.” I’m conscious of that, but I’m also able to surrender to this process where I can feel it. It’s just so simple and elegant.
Nick Ortner: It’s so simple. As I said, this isn’t a cure for anything, but shortness of breath is one of the symptoms of COVID. So, if we add in the symptoms of the actual virus and we put anxiety on top of it, what does it do? If we put stress on top of that, what does it do? And can we help people breathe better? Can we help them relax and let go? I mean, I believe deeply of course in this solution, that’s why we’re making so many things free on the app and free for six months for healthcare workers. There’s nurses using it right now in hospitals for themselves, for their patients. We’re getting great feedback and testimonials back. So, get the free months, the six free months. And if you know a nurse or a doctor or someone working hard on the front lines, make sure to share this with them because they really need it most right now.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: And this is just TappingSolution.com or TheTappingSolution.com?
Nick Ortner: Yeah, so TheTappingSolution.com or for the app itself is TheTappingSolutionApp.com. If you just search The Tapping Solution in on your app store, that’s the easiest way to find it there. And then that first responder healthcare worker, six months free is TheTappingSolutionApp.com/responder.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: We will again put all these links in the show notes, we’ll put the references on the show notes. They’ve got a treasure trove of data just waiting to be mined. If somebody’s serious, if somebody is open to or interested in doing some of the analysis, it would just be so rewarding for the right person or for the right people. Reach out to me and I can connect you with Nick.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Nick, stay in touch. This is so important and I, and you guys are getting really interesting feedback and I would just like to continue to maybe get updates from you that we can put on our COVID19 page or just put out to our social media folks so we can just tell them what kind of experience healthcare providers are having with it. Just put this ball in the air.
Nick Ortner: Absolutely. I’ll keep sharing what’s happening and what else we’re doing, for sure.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Perfect. All right. Thanks so much for joining me today and the tapping.
Nick Ortner: Thank you. When we get through this, we’ll have to have a nice lunch in Sandy Hook by the stream. I think we’re all looking forward, we never realize how much we enjoy a dinner out or the simple things in life, but we’re going to get there. We’re going to get through this.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Yeah, thanks. Thanks so much.
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