The following is a guest post from Roxann Keyes of Center for Life Design.

Our lives are getting busier and busier, full of things to do, places to go and people to see. We often don’t have time for the fun stuff, let alone the stressful, hard stuff.

I find more and more that I am talking to many of my clients about the importance of the breath and breathing properly, because I can see they are holding their breath. It is the simplest way to keep yourself calm during stressful and traumatic times.

There is a saying: “Hold your breath, hold your pain.” The human body, as an organism, is always working toward homeostasis, or balance. When we don’t address the things we should, our body will. If we don’t manage our stress, our bodies will give us pain, either physically or emotionally, in the form of headaches, stomach aches, anxiety, depression, overwhelm, fatigue etc. as a way to make us slow down and pay attention.

When we hold our breath, our breath is shallow and we use our chests to breathe, actually also use our neck muscles to help us breath. This makes any neck, shoulder issues worse and creates even more tension.

Chest breathing keeps us in the sympathetic nervous system—the stress response fight, flight, freeze. Instead, breathing from our belly engages the parasympathetic nervous system—relax, digest, restore.

What is the proper way to breathe and why is it so important?

The proper way to breathe is to bring the breath all the way down into the belly. Rest your hand on your belly. Your hand should rise and fall with the breath, as if you were blowing up your belly like a balloon. It is easiest to practice this at night when you are laying down, before you go to sleep. Taking a full belly breath engages the diaphragm, which, when engaged, massages the internal organs and helps them do their job better. This allows the neck and shoulder muscles to relax and release their tension. Belly breathing also allows us to be calm and stay calm so we can make better decisions.

To create different patterns of thinking, behaving and produce different results, we need to go into the unknown, do something we haven’t done before. We must do what we are most likely afraid to do to make and have a change in our lives, only this will give you a different experience. A daily practice of proper breathing is the simplest way to start. A start to healing, a start to change.