New Method Taps Away Stress

Annie Fields

Relief from anxiety in less than a minute from simply tapping opposing sides of your body seems impossible. However, psychologists are finding that bilateral stimulation can be incredibly effective in calming the mind and body. 

Bilateral stimulation, or BLS, refers to any visual, auditory or tactile stimulus presented in a left-right motion (Rae Mazzei Psy.D., B.C.B.). Psychologists discovered the benefits of this simple movement by studying REM sleep and the impacts of rapid eye movements on the brain.

REM sleep is the stage in which we dream. Dreaming is the way that our brain processes the events of the day and past traumas. Studying sleep led many psychologists to wonder how we were able to process traumatic events in our sleep and still feel safe.

Mental health professionals wanted to find a way to mimic REM sleep in their treatments. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR, was the solution psychologists found. 

According to the National Library of Medicine, EMDR is, “the process of desensitizing traumatic memories and establishing positive cognition,”. 

Psychologists perform EMDR by having their client follow their finger side to side. However, EMDR is a service that only works under the supervision and with the help of a licensed professional. 

Fortunately, further research has shown that any bilateral stimulation to the brain can mimic REM and send signals to your brain that says you’re safe. 

Psychologists are finding that, “BLS decreases vividness, pleasantness, and experiences of strength of the intended quality or resource,” (National Library of Medicine). 

The purpose of BLS is to lessen intensity of emotions like anxiety in a situation where a large display of emotions is inappropriate. This being said, it is essential that you go back and process the emotions you were experiencing in a more appropriate environment. 

It is also important to note that while EMDR has established results, BLS is still somewhat experimental. Nonetheless, there is research that shows stimulating opposing sides of the body can relieve stress and lessen intense emotions. It is most effective right under your collarbone on either side of your chest, however doing something as discreet as putting your hands in your pockets and fastly tapping back and forth can be effective as well.