Stress Management For Dummies
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Breath-counting meditation builds on controlled breathing techniques and exercises and can alleviate stress. Breath-counting meditation is one of the most basic and commonly used forms of meditation. Here’s what to do:

  1. Sit comfortably.

    You can position yourself on the floor or in a chair. Keep your back straight and your head up. Dress comfortably, as well — no tight shoes, belt, necktie, underpants, bra, or anything else that constricts you.

  2. Close your eyes and scan for tension.

    Scan your body for any tension by using the one-minute body-scan technique, and then let go of any tension that you find.

  3. Begin to breathe in a relaxed way.

    Relax by taking some abdominal breaths (breathing using your diaphragm). Breathe slowly and deeply through your nose.

    To help you breathe in a relaxing manner, imagine a small balloon just under your belly button. As you inhale through your nostrils, imagine that balloon gently inflating; as you exhale through your nostrils, imagine the balloon slowly deflating.

  4. Focus on your breathing.

    Your breathing now becomes the object of your focus. When you inhale, count this breath as “one.”

    The next time you inhale is two, and so forth until you reach ten. Then you start again at one. Count silently to yourself, and if you lose count, simply start back at one. If you lose count, don’t worry — the number is merely something to focus on. There’s no right or wrong number here.

  5. If you find a distracting thought or image intruding, let it go and return to your count.

    Continue this exercise for about 20 minutes, and — if you can — do this exercise twice a day.

Probably the most common complaint among beginning meditators is that their minds keep wandering off, especially at the beginning of a meditation. Even on those days when you face no major pressure or pending deadline, your mind can still come up with a million and one things to think about. That’s normal. Expect it, and don’t beat yourself up when it happens.

Don’t make this exercise into a test of your ability to concentrate. Getting good at focusing without undue distractions may take some time. Hang in there.

About This Article

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About the book author:

Allen Elkin, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and the director of The Stress Management & Counseling Center in New York City. Nationally known for his expertise in the field of stress and emotional disorders, he has appeared frequently on Today, Good Morning America, and Good Day New York.

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