Work-related stress can get the best of us all. Feeling some tension is normal, especially if you’re facing a deadline or challenging assignment. But when work stress becomes chronic, it can end up affecting both your physical and emotional well-being.
During this year’s FIGT conference, I had the pleasure to listen to Eleni Vardaki insightful talk about self-soothing tapping skills, which help you to shift from surviving to thriving during difficult periods by keeping stress to a minimum.
How To Handle Stress At Work
Stressful work situations can sometimes be hard to handle. Even the thought of going to an interview, the work that’s piling up, or the big presentation you may have coming up can trigger the body’s stress response.There is a stress management technique you may not have tried yet that could help you handle these kinds of stressful situations at work more calmly. It’s a stress management technique that has been biologically proven to lower your cortisol levels (one of your main stress hormones). It’s called the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).
What is EFT Tapping?
EFT, also known as ‘tapping’, is a self-soothing stress management technique that allows us to calm our body’s stress response down. Tapping reduces our body’s stress response when we think about an upcoming stressful situation. Going for a walk or a run certainly helps to destress. However, if you come back to face the stressful challenge and your stress levels go up again, it means that it has not actually addressed the problem at its root; your body’s stress response may still get triggered at the thought of the stressful situation you have to handle.
EFT tapping helps you reduce the intensity of how triggered you feel when you think of a stressful work situation. As a result, you have the confidence to overcome your personal challenges and achieve your professional life goals quicker.
How can EFT Tapping help you handle stress at work?
I invite you to think about a stressful work situation you want to face right now. Below you will find a list of possible situations. If you are facing more than one stressful situation, just choose one for the purposes of this exercise:
- tired of your job application procrastination
- tired of having too much workload
- preparing for a job interview
- going to a networking event
- giving a presentation
- experiencing burnout from work
- experiencing concentration problems at work
Next, see if you can get specific about what it is that is stressing you out:
- Is it that a lot of negative thoughts, like ‘I can never find a job here, because I’m not skilled/experienced enough’ come up for you?
- Is it that you haven’t done an interview in a while?
- Do you feel a lot of anxiety, overwhelm, or panic when you think of this upcoming event?
- Do identity-related limiting beliefs like ‘I’m a shy person, I’m not good at networking – this is just who I am’ come up?
Now see if you can pick the negative thought/belief that bothers you the most, and give it a number on a scale of 0-10.
10/10 means ‘This negative thought or belief feels so true, it feels like a fact, 100%”.
0/10 means “This is not at all true; I’m ready to get on with it and take positive action right now”.
Next, notice what you feel in your body when you think of this stressful situation you have to handle. Do you notice your heart start to pound in your chest, or your throat closing up, making it feel like it’s hard to talk or breathe? Does your body feel a bit heavy, or numb? Try to bring a curious, mindful awareness to these uncomfortable body sensations, as you notice how triggering just thinking about this stressful situation is for your body’s stress response.
Stress isn’t just psychological – it’s not just ‘in our head’ – it’s biological. So, it makes sense that you are feeling the unpleasant physical sensations you are experiencing when your body’s stress response is triggered by the thought of a stressful work situation.
Adding tapping to your self-care practice helps you calm your body’s stress response to better handle a stressful situation, reducing the risk of getting triggered in situations where this has happened before in the past.
People who come to my workshops and presentations often say things like how “calm” I was when having to handle unexpected stresses that inevitably occur when you are presenting live, in person or online. I do a lot of tapping beforehand to psychologically prepare myself by calming my body’s stress response at the thought of doing that presentation or talk. If tapping can help me not only handle, but actually enjoy doing challenging work, why not try it to see if it can help you, too?
How to handle stress at work through a somatic approach
Sometimes we assume that trying to ‘think positive’ and telling ourselves that ‘everything will be okay’ is all that is needed to handle stress at work. The problem is that we are more than just thoughts. We have a ‘soma’, as we say in Greek – a body. We are human beings, in a human body.
Rene Descartes’ argument that “I think therefore I am” can sound true if you are comfortable living your life from the head up…but science has progressed since Descartes’ days. We now have brain scans that prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that “I am, therefore I think” is more accurate in terms of how our brain works best in times of stress.
If you are not present to help you manage your body’s stress response, your throat can shut down and make it hard to talk during a presentation. Your stomach can start to hurt, making it hard to concentrate and think during a job interview. You may procrastinate (the body’s flight response to stress) on studying for that yoga teacher certification exam you really want to pass.
Here’s a self-help EFT tapping exercise you can try to see if it helps you feel better:
1. Tapping on the side of your hand, repeat the following meditation statement 3 times, either in your head, or out loud:
Even though I feel this ____(fill in the gap, e.g. this stress in my body? some pain in my stomach? a heavy feeling in my body? ___ when I think of this stressful work situation, I love and accept myself anyway.
2. Next, see if you can give the stress-based tension/ache/pain in your body a number on the 0-10 scale of how distressing it feels for you, right now.
3. Tap through the following tapping sequence for a couple of minutes to simply acknowledge the uncomfortable body sensations and negative thoughts and that come up for you, when you think of this stressful situation at work:
- Top of the head
- Start of the eyebrow
- Side of the eye
- Under the eye
- Under the nose
- Under the mouth
- Under the arm
Next, notice how you feel after you tap through these points for a few minutes. Did your number go up or down?
If your initial number went up, the real number is the higher one. Be aware that if you have been numbing yourself by drinking too much alcohol or by stress eating, for example, your initial numbers may have to go up before they can go down.
To enjoy the benefits of tapping, it’s important to keep tapping until your numbers go down.
What I’ve noticed holds most people back from enjoying the benefits of EFT tapping is they procrastinate on their emotional or physical self-care, in general, always putting other people’s needs before their own.
If you want to be more consistent with your exercise or meditation practice for your self-care, you can check out this article I wrote called “EFT for Overcoming Self-Care Procrastination”
Eleni Vardaki is a qualified EFT therapist, certified and accredited by EFT International. She specializes in working with stress, anxiety, and academic success. She works with adults and kids online in her EFT therapy packages and services. You can connect with her on Instagram @vardakieleni or learn more about her offerings on her website https://elenivardaki.com/